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Design Methods Step 3: Develop

18 March 2015

This four-part guide is for anyone who wants to understand the methods designers use and try them out for themselves.

We’ve grouped 25 design methods into four steps – Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver – based on the stages of the Double Diamond, the Design Council’s simple way of mapping the design process

From rapid prototyping to personas and surveys, methods like these are used all the time in our work with partners. Browse through our case studies to see how they have been instrumental in bringing about dramatic improvements to products, services and environments, ensuring they are clearly focused on the needs of users.

Character profiles

What is it?

A way to create simple character sketches and visual representations of the most important categories of user you are designing for.

What is it useful for?

Having character profiles visible and to hand during the design process stimulates ideas and aids decision making. They can also help justify innovations to stakeholders in the project.

How can I do it?

Based on research of your user groups or a brainstorm, identify the key characters that you are going to design for. You can give the characters names and visually represent how they look and dress, their aspirations, behaviours, lifestyles and any challenging peculiarities. It is important to create profiles of extreme users as well as typical ones. It can also be useful to write 'stories' about a typical day in their life.

Display the profiles prominently. They will help you to stay on course and stop you designing for yourself. At decision points, ask yourself, "What would Mary or John think of this?"

You could also make composite profiles by merging the characteristics of real users you have met.


What is it?

Detailed accounts of situations in which your users will interact with your product, service or environment over a period of time.

What is it useful for?

Gaining an understanding of the context in which users may be interacting with your product, service or environment in order to refine it. It’s particularly useful when a series of interactions are necessary from the user.

How can I do it?

Define a set of characters who will use what you are designing. Consider the details of their lives – their jobs, their regular activities and their attitudes. Identify key moments where these users interact with your project, then realise them as scenes in a short text or a storyboard.

Test the scenario on users or yourself. Use what you learn to improve the design further.

To investigate the full scope of user interactions, you may need to construct three or four scenarios around the needs of a different character and improve them with each iteration.


What is it?

Role-playing means physically acting out what happens when users interact with products, services or environments.

What is it useful for?

Taking the role of the user and acting out their interactions can prompt more intuitive responses and help you to refine your design. Role-playing is particularly useful for prototyping interactions between people, for example in a service context.

How can I do it?

Define a character or characters who will use or deliver the end product, service or environment you are designing. Isolate key moments where these users interact with it, and then act them out – with or without props.

Use your intuitive responses prompted by the enactment of the scenario to refine your design. You can also use role-play as a method to test physical prototypes.

Service blueprints

What is it?

A service blueprint is a detailed visual representation of the total service over time – showing the user’s journey, all the different touchpoints and channels, as well as the behind the scenes parts of a service that make it work.

What is it useful for?

Helping everyone involved in delivering the service understand their role and ensure the user has a coherent experience.

How can I do it?

Initially map a user’s progress through different service stages, ranging from awareness, to use, through to leaving the service. In doing this identify touchpoint encountered. These touchpoints each can be segmented into different channels such as face-to-face or web.

The customer-oriented elements of a service are known as the ‘front stage’. Identify and map touchpoints and processes that need to happen behind the scenes for the ‘front stage’ part to work. These might include back office staff, logistics systems, or IT infrastructure. This is known as the ‘back stage’ part of the service. A service blueprint allows you to see the interaction between the front and back stages, ensuring links and dependencies between different service elements are coherent.

Some services might have a range of different offerings and require multiple blueprints. In developing a service blueprint it can be useful to work in teams, and carry out an initial pass before developing in detail.

Physical prototyping

What is it?

Building a model of your idea. An early model can be very simple to test underlying principles; when it comes to the later stage of the design process, a more accurate model is required to refine details of form and function.

What is it useful for?

Physical prototypes help iron out any unanticipated problems with your creative ideas. Prototypes give you insight into how your design will be used, before you create a finished version.

Physical prototypes are also particularly effective in communicating design ideas to diverse groups of stakeholders.

How can I do it?

First decide which aspect of the user experience you want to test, and build an appropriate model to test it. This will vary according to the stage of development your project is at.

At an early stage a 'quick and dirty' prototype that people are not afraid to criticise is best for testing principles.

At a later stage a you may want to create 'works-like' prototypes to detail aspects of build and functionality and a (possibly separate) 'looks like' prototype to test response to form.

For example, you might first test the principles of a new office workstation by building it in foamboard using hot glue. In later stages you may test a detail of a mechanism by building a 'works-like' mechanical prototype.

Build your prototypes using available material and test them with end users, or role play how you might use the designs yourself. Use what you learn to improve the prototype designs further.

Next steps

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