Diving into the beginning of the design process means diving head first into consumer research. A common mistake is being too solution-focused in the earliest stages of design. Before you even contemplate your end product, you must first gather as much information as you can about your problem space. Prepare yourself now – this process can be very time consuming. You are not only thinking about your target user – who they are, what are their needs and behaviours – but also what these things mean in the context of their lives.
Dealing with this wealth of information can be overwhelming. If your project team is fragmented, it can seem like an impossible task to keep everyone up to date with the same information. It is also easy to get bogged down in the details of research, and lose sight of big picture observations. What you need is an exercise that will help you organise and communicate information as succinctly as possible—this is where mind mapping comes in.
Mind mapping is one of the best ways to visually capture and communicate information relationships and complex systems. It provides structure and organization to many streams of information, and can help you simplify your ideas and communicate them with others. If you are short on ideas, building a map can also be a useful exercise for idea generation.
We use mindmup.com, an easy to use digital mapping tool supported by Google Drive that allows us to create and save maps online and export them as images for sharing. Start with a question, or concept you are trying to unpick. Break it into categories, and then expand upon each category as much as you can. Repeat this strategy until you have mapped all the interactions that occur in your design space. Using smart art in Powerpoint or diagramming tools can also help communicate hierarchies and relationships. Your end goal is to develop a portfolio of eye catching visuals that can consolidate and communicate your research. Trust us; this will come in very handy for team brainstorming later on in the design process. Check back in next time, where we’ll share our best practices for iterative design.