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Design Thinking Tools


Many of you must have heard of design thinking. If not, think of design thinking as a human-centred approach focused on empathising with the user’s problems and challenges to create innovative solutions.

The five stages of design thinking, i.e. Discover, Define, Dream, Design and Dry Run make it an iterative process. Design thinking tools cater to each of these steps in design thinking, empowering the UX designer/team to design and iterate ideas efficiently than ever before. Many of these tools are taught in online boot camps and can vary in complexity.

Even while creating a strategy for design thinking, different design thinking tools can be lucrative in boosting the overall process’s performance and pace. Design Thinking tools helps UX designer/team to develop a reliable and effective way to solve a design problem at hand.

Design Thinking Methodology

The Design Thinking methodology, as mentioned earlier, has five stages. These stages were modified after consultation with educators and industry experts coming with the ImaginXP’s 5D framework. Keeping in mind the framework phases, I have researched and assembled a list of Design Thinking tools to help you produce real value for the users. What I would do ahead is tell you which design thinking tools to utilise while I explain the phases of design thinking methodology briefly – 


This phase is the beginning of the Design Thinking methodology as it is about understanding the users. The critical element here is to discover the emotions and experiences of the users by empathising with them. Understanding of the users is a crucial part to remember while creating an excellent UX. Without it, assumptions can only be based on the perspective(s) of the UX designer/team. By this point, the goals of the research have to be determined. And the focus should not deviate from the subject.

Discover is the most variable phase of a project and usually consists of interviews, focus group discussions (FHGs), online surveys, body storming, creating user journey maps, photo and video journals. Zoom, TypeForm and MakeMyPersona by Hubspot are some of the best design thinking tools in this stage.


Define is the second phase of the Design Thinking methodology. It is about combining and analysing the research conducted to draw useful insights from the researched data. In this phase, we define the problem statement as a human-centred issue over the business goal.

Again, persona and journey mapping come in play in this phase. Softwares like Smaply and UserForge are some design thinking tools that can be best utilised here.


Dream is the third phase of the Design Thinking methodology. After the problem statement is defined, the UX Designer/team will brainstorm ideas in a judgement-free zone. These ideas are later evaluated to come with an analytical thought process. Here, the focus is on the breath of the thought process rather than the depth of it. It allows for diverse ideas to be designed and tested later.

Dream phase begins by challenging the participants to go beyond general thinking and rational thought process. After good ideas are generated, those ideas can be sought and discussed more on the same. There are many ways to do that; the most common way is dot-voting, a method used to prioritise ideas to conclude in a group setting. It is considered to be a simplistic way to narrow down ideas. Stormboard, IdeaFlip and SessionLab are the preferred design thinking tools in this phase.


Design is the fourth phase of the Design Thinking methodology where the ideas, after rationalisation and clarification are given physical forms. The goal in this phase is to understand what the user requires by gaining feedback. To start with, a (low fidelity) preliminary version of the most appropriate solution to collect user feedback from iterating and improving accordingly upon it during the due course of time.

UX Designer/team can use various visualisation frameworks like sketches to analytic diagrams to support their work, even in the previous phases. Although each of the visualisation frameworks have its affordances that necessitate and facilitate specific questions like:

  • How can we describe and select the problem statement?
  • Which of the visualisation frameworks would support the problem statement?

Visualisation frameworks can also help enrich the storytelling factor used while designing the product or service. When a cheap, lightweight and realistic representation of the thought-out solution gains user feedback, UX designer/team can better understand what works and what doesn’t. It would lead to rapid conceptualisation/prototyping, which would help them identify an innovative solution to meet the user’s needs. Some of the preferred design thinking tools that can be used in this phase are Boords and Mockingbird.

Dry Run

As the fifth and last phase of the Design Thinking methodology, dry-run is an extension of the discover phase. After rapid conceptualisation/prototyping and user feedback, the final product helps the UX designer/team gain:

  • An in-depth understanding of the user’s pain points, 
  • An in-depth understanding of the user’s overall experience.

This data is considered as useful feedback, that can help improve the current prototype. This also allows the UX designer/team to revisit the problem statement created earlier. Thus, resetting the process, thereby providing the users with innovative solutions appropriately.

It also helps the UX designer/team to gain insight into the product and realise its impactfulness. Design thinking tools like UserTesting, PingPong and Hotjar are highly preferred in this phase.

Design thinking tools mentioned above are all standalone software for each phase. For the overall design thinking methodology, software(s) like Sprintbase, Mural, InVision, and Miro are better suited.


I hope this has been worthwhile read for you. The design thinking tools mentioned above highlights just a fraction of what is out there. To better understand design thinking, I would recommend books such as The Design Thinking Toolbox and Design, User Experience, and Usability: Design Discourse. And, if you require a course on design thinking, give us a shout.

In the end, the UX designer/team should understand that these phases are different conventions contributing to the entire project. The goal is to gain a proper understanding of the users to design an ideal solution. Design Thinking Methodology Book comes highly recommended for people who need further guidance in this endeavour. So which design thinking tools would you like to use for your projects?

ImaginXP is leading the HigherEd revolution offering some of the best future skills certification courses and full time degree programs in Business, design and Technology. We are pioneering the higher educational space with top-notch faculties and industry-led curriculum.

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