Blog Post The benefits of Design Thinking to app development

In our last blog we asked the question, what is Design Thinking and how does it work alongside no-code? Here we continue with the theme of Design Thinking, looking at the benefits of using this methodology when developing apps, and how we’ve used it with our customers.

Design Thinking is highly desired but can be difficult to achieve within organisations. At App Rail, we often have conversations with big organisations who love the concept, have invested in training staff in its principles, but are unsure how to take it any further.

How can they embed their learning in the project they’re working on? How can they implement the methods to their advantage?

These questions often stump organisations, so Design Thinking gets consigned to the shelf, but it doesn’t have to be that hard.

Design thinking is at the core of how we operate – its principles helped shape App Rail, and are seamlessly integrated into how it works. So, by the very act of developing in App Rail, you’re already embracing Design Thinking.

Top 5 benefits of using Design Thinking within App Rail

The benefits of App Rail’s approach to Design Thinking are wide and varied – here are five key reasons why it works so well.

1. It focuses on the user’s needs

This is one of the core principles of Design Thinking and it’s important because it means your end product is one that solves their problems.

On the other hand, traditional app development can lose sight of the end user and fail to deliver what they want.

This can lead to users:

With App Rail, we get the product into the hands of the user as quickly as possible to involve them in the process. When an app is easy to learn and use and responds to users’ needs in this way, it is used effectively and championed, which gets it in front of a wider audience.

2. It's easy and inexpensive to iterate

It’s often too late or too expensive to make major changes to an app once it’s built. But iteration is key to applying Design Thinking to your product development process, helping you avoid the need for big, costly changes later down the line.

App Rail enables you to ideate, build, test and iterate within hours, so ideas and iterations don’t get left until after the design phase is over. Your team’s ability to improve the product and introduce learnings from how it’s used is baked into how the tool works.

3. Anyone can use it

The people closest to the users are often those focussed on other jobs besides development. This distance from tech skills often shuts them out of the development process, to the detriment of users.

Using App Rail is so easy that apps can be built by people with no technical training or know how to write code. It’s also powerful enough to be used by developers. After all, it was built by some of the most experienced app developers around.

Not only does this make App Rail a more accessible platform, it also means that you can bring in the insights of people who previously weren't involved in the process. And these are often the ones who know the needs of the user the most.

Doing this enables you to save time on complicated development and spend time actually focusing on defining the value for your organisation.

4. It involves user feedback

Because building can take place concurrently with user research, teams can bring in insights about users into the product as it’s being built. Users can play with a prototype or even fully test the product in real life before it goes live, making it easy to get accurate feedback as you go.

End-users – and stakeholders – often have lots of feedback and suggestions when a product is in its final design and development stages. Unfortunately, this is the stage when it is most costly and most time-consuming to make changes. App Rail makes this easier to do.

App Rail empowers you to continuously improve the product based on user feedback, making Design Thinking truly possible.

5. It encourages innovation

You can easily and quickly respond both to the market and to what you learn from seeing the product being used. This means that innovation doesn't stop at the early stages – instead, it’s continuous throughout the product lifecycle.

Bringing diverse teams who can work together quickly and involve customers means Design Thinking goes from theory to reality.

How we applied Design Thinking to the development of the Welba app

Welba is a free app that helps create viral charity challenges. App Rail’s Senior Delivery Manager Francesca explains how Design Thinking was an integral part of the development process.

“Design thinking was never explicitly discussed with the client, and yet it naturally became part of the process. The methodology was embedded into the development, from determining customer needs and collaborative brainstorming at the outset through to prototyping for creating, iterating and testing solutions.

“It was an extremely collaborative relationship, where the client was heavily involved in the user experience and worked closely with us to identify customer pain points and satisfy customer needs. By having the client involved like this, it meant they were always clear about the status of delivery.

The app is complex with a lot of functionality, so it was vital to prepare prototypes of features. This meant we could validate the solutions with both users and our client before investing time and effort into building the features as a whole. The beauty of App Rail is that it's quick and simple to build prototypes, so we could get approval from our client in a timely manner which didn't then impact our delivery.

“Prototyping and sketching also allowed us to identify problems to our initial proposal early, and we were able to find alternative solutions before we'd invested too much time on it.

“The client was able to demonstrate the prototypes of the app to their prospective customers to get their buy-in on the platform and feedback as to whether it met their needs. We could then easily make small iterations to amend a feature or add something new until we were happy that it met both the client’s needs and the end user’s.”

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