4 modern examples of design thinking in action

4 modern examples of design thinking in action

Have you ever wondered what goes into designing the computer applications you use on a daily basis? When it comes to ensuring that digital products are designed for human users, UX and UI designers are likely to use one design practice in particular. We are of course talking about the practice of design thinking.

Design thinking is a user-centric approach to designing products and services, whether you are designing software or hardware. This practice usually starts by identifying a common problem faced by users in order to design a solution specifically to solve the outlined problem.

If you want to learn more about design thinking, we strongly recommend signing up for one design thinking courses to help you better engage with the principles of design thinking and how they translate from theory to practice. Alongside studying the practice in depth and flexing your own design thinking skills, it is also well worth exploring strong examples of design thinking at work.

Today, we’ve gathered just 4 of the most impressive examples of design thinking in action in the form of popular mobile apps and digital technologies, all conscientiously designed to meet defined user needs.

Read on to uncover all the design secrets behind some of the world’s most popular user interfaces.

1. The evolution of Netflix

Generally speaking, the practice of design thinking consists of five different steps, these are:

  • Empathize – with your target user.
  • Defining – the user’s need or pain point.
  • Idea – brainstorm on how best to meet the defined user needs.
  • Prototype – build the solution thought in the idea phase.
  • Test – test your prototype and refine if necessary.

Since empathy with the target user is always the first step in the design thinking process, most UX/UI designers start with empathy mapping when they seek to identify and outline the user need they want their final product to fulfill.

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In the context of Netflix, the user problem was to address some of the most annoying inconveniences that came with traditional movie rental services available at the time (i.e. incurring late return fees, and having to physically visit movie rental providers to browse through which was only available on the shelves and nothing more). To circumvent these drawbacks to offer a more streamlined user experience, Netflix founders Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph decided instead to use the power of the internet to allow Netflix users to order movies on DVD and have them delivered directly to their homes. Netflix also provided subscription-based services with no due dates and thus no late fees, allowing users to take their time watching a movie with the assurance that their next movie would be delivered when the last one was returned.

20 extraordinary years after the company was founded in 1997, Netflix is ​​now the world’s leading streaming service. The company has been able to maintain its position as a leading provider of film and television entertainment by continuously practicing empathy mapping across the evolution of entertainment media to shape the company’s growth around the changing needs of its users.

2. Refreshing personal transportation with Uber

When it comes to addressing user pain points through the design of a product or even a user interface, comparisons between your prototype and its competitors can help identify a point of differentiation that will ensure your product comes out on top. This is exactly what Uber did when they developed their ride-sharing service and later their food delivery service.

At the time of Uber’s launch, taxi services still ruled urban streets, offering transport services at premium prices. This convenience came with some frustrating caveats, namely the lack of transparency in pricing models and the lack of accountability regarding driver and passenger behavior.

Uber effectively addressed both of these pressing pain points by providing fixed fare estimates based on the length of a given trip, as well as a rating system to ensure considerate behavior between passengers and drivers. With these design features in place, Uber was able to offer a safer transportation service than taxis, contributing to the company’s monumental success.

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That said, while Uber is a genuine improvement over traditional taxi services, it’s still by no means a perfect service in its own right. This is why there are alternatives to Uber that are just as valuable to some customers as the company that started it all. A particularly powerful alternative is Shebah, the ride-sharing service run exclusively by women, for women as well as parents and children who may feel more comfortable with a female driver.

3. Addressing payment issues with Venmo

A pain point that we’ve all probably experienced at one point or another in our lives is navigating shared bills or group payments during social gatherings like dinners or parties. Difficulties surrounding shared payments can often act as a deterrent for many when choosing places for a dinner out, or even just to organize another form of social gathering.

This is the primary pain point that Venmo sought to address through the development of their financial technology company. As a service in itself, Venmo is considered a P2P payment app that allows users to easily transfer money between each other without having to open their banking app to manually enter their PINs and account numbers.

The proof that design thinking is a key component in Venmo’s development can also be found in the app’s user interface alongside the service itself. The Venmo app’s streamlined user interface simplifies payment functions as well as providing additional options for interaction with payments, such as leaving comments to express appreciation or even reacting to payments with emojis. These additional features have proven highly attractive to the app’s target user market, which is mainly millennial and Gen Z users aged 18-34.

4. Adaptation of profiles for Google Home

Although the construction of the “smart home” has been around for decades now, this “future” technology was always perceived as more idealistic than practical. The idea of ​​the smart home came with some major concerns, namely what would happen if the technology were to be hacked or malfunction, as well as how smart home technology can best be used by individual residents of a shared household.

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Google’s own Nest Home technology and the Google Home app attempted to address these concerns in a number of ways. With the creation of Google profiles, Google Home technologies are now able to provide a highly tailored user experience for individuals, allowing users to establish their own “daily routines” consisting of personal wake-up calls, calendar settings, music playlists and other preset commands or prompts created straight from your smartphone.

Alongside this additional user-specific functionality, Google has also made careful investments in its own security offerings, developing the Titan M security chip for the Google Pixel smartphones and ensuring that all of its Nest Home products and virtually all compatible products are equipped with industry-leading encryption technology, which enables a consistently secure network connection.

It is this demonstrated dedication to addressing user pain points through the design of both physical products and digital offerings that has cemented Google’s own position in the global technology sector as a design-oriented company that practices design thinking as a key element in any product development process. .


As you can see, the final products that result from the design thinking process can vary greatly, and the process itself can take on a wide variety of uses. This versatility and the proven effectiveness of adopting a user-centric approach to design is what makes design thinking a very valuable skill for all digital and product designers working in the digital age.

Also read: Aesthetic Headphones Round-up: The Starting Guide for Vintage and Design Lovers

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