How To Apply The Double Diamond To Any UX Project

Jack O'Donoghue Avatar


As fresh-faced UX designers graduate from their bootcamps and step into the professional world, they often face a reality check.

The industry operates differently from what they’ve learned in the classroom, and applying a one-size-fits-all process to real-world projects with unique challenges and limitations can be overwhelming.

To navigate this complex landscape, it’s essential to understand the various types of UX design projects and adapt your approach accordingly.

By evaluating a project’s needs upfront, you can develop an efficient, lean, and effective design strategy. This article offers a solid foundation for customizing your design approach to various project types, helping you overcome the hurdles many new UX designers encounter.

The UK Design Council spent thousands of hours interviewing top designers to distill their problem-solving processes into a simple, yet powerful framework. This four-phase framework is known as the Double Diamond.

The Double Diamond is a versatile tool that simplifies how designers unpack problems and create solutions. All other design processes, such as Design Thinking and The Design Sprint, can be mapped to these four phases, whether they’re explicitly stated or not.

Grasping how the Double Diamond applies to different types of UX Design projects will save you years of trial and error.

In this article, we’ll explore how to apply the Double Diamond to the UX design process, examining how its usage varies depending on the type of project you’re tackling.

A Recap of the Four Phases of the Double Diamond

Let’s take a moment to quickly recap the four phases of the double diamond:

  1. Discover – This is the exploration phase where you dive deep into research, conduct user interviews and observations, and truly grasp the problem that needs to be solved.
  2. Define – Now it’s time for the synthesis phase, where you analyze your findings from the Discover phase and distill them into a clear, concise statement of what needs to be addressed.
  3. Develop – Here comes the fun part: the ideation phase! This is where you let your creative juices flow and brainstorm innovative solutions to tackle the challenge at hand.
  4. Deliver – Last but not least, the execution phase is where you refine and iteratively create solutions to the challenge, ensuring they meet the needs of the users and the project goals.

You’re probably aware that each stage requires a different type of thought process, either divergent or convergent.

This simply means that sometimes we need to be expansive with our thinking and sometimes we need to be analytical and evaluative.

Diverge means to think expansively, converge means to evaluate and assess.

For example, when we’re coming up with ideas, we diverge, our thinking is expansive and creative and we explore lots of options. But when we’re defining a problem or assessing an idea, we converge, evaluate, analyze, and define.

As you become more experienced, you learn when to switch between these modes but often a good trigger is, if you’re stuck on a problem and at a loss for where to go, then doing some exploration and idea generation, or ‘diverging’ can help you overcome those blocks.

Whereas if you have heaps of data and you’re overwhelmed and don’t know what to do next, then it’s likely that you need to ‘converge’ organize your data, decide what’s important, and define what your focus needs to be.

The phases of the Double Diamond are shared across various design processes, such as Design Thinking and the Design Sprint, even if they’re not explicitly called out. So, no matter which method you choose, remember that the core essence of the Double Diamond is always there to guide you through your UX design journey.

A Quick Overview of The Different Types of UX Projects

While the Double Diamond framework can be applied to various UX design projects, the way you use it will depend on the specific project type you’re working on.

The most significant difference lies in the amount of time you dedicate to discovery and definition and what your objectives are for those parts of the process.

Here are a few different types of UX design projects:

  • Crafting a Comprehensive UX Strategy
  • Design a new digital product from scratch
  • Design a new feature for an established digital product
  • Design small enhancements and continuous improvements

When new UX designers graduate from their bootcamps, they often face a world of confusion and overwhelm when they realize that the industry doesn’t necessarily work the way they were taught.

Designers go wrong when they try to apply an ideal world process to a real world scenario.

One of the main reasons for this confusion is that they try to apply a specific process they learned in a classroom environment to real-world projects with a diverse mix of problems and constraints.

They might create personas when they’re not necessary, conduct research without understanding why, or attempt to define a problem that doesn’t seem to exist. This is mostly due to the designer’s inexperience in assessing the needs of a project before starting their design work.

Approaching every project, in the same way, can lead to frustration when the real world pushes back against the idealized UX-topia approach. We’ve all been there. The key to resolving this tension is understanding the different types of UX design projects and what each of them requires.

By assessing the needs of a project in advance, you can tailor your design approach so that it’s efficient, lean, and effective. It’ll take time and practice, but this article should give you a solid starting point.

Tailoring the Double Diamond Method UX to the 4 Key UX Project Types

With a solid grasp of the basics, it’s time to explore how to navigate the double diamond framework for each project type, focusing on the right tools and techniques to make your design process efficient and effective.

1. Crafting a Comprehensive UX Strategy

A UX Strategy serves as the blueprint for designing user experiences, guiding the choices we make throughout the project.

It typically consists of a vision statement, a clear articulation of the business objectives, and a plan to achieve those objectives by meeting customer needs and solving their problems.

A UX Strategy can take various forms, such as a document, a collection of documents, personas, journey maps, or storyboards.

By setting the project’s direction, a UX Strategy helps everyone understand the goals to be achieved and how to contribute towards bringing the vision to life.

UX Strategy requires a deep and extensive discovery and definition phase.

When designing a UX Strategy, the majority of your time is spent in the discovery and definition phase. Prototyping and ideation are used primarily to help visualize better futures and deepen your understanding of the problem.

The discovery phase is an intensive process that includes stakeholder interviews, user research, data analysis, and mapping current, future, and competitor experiences.

The define phase then distills this exploration into a concise and meaningful UX Strategy, articulating a vision for the user experience and outlining the steps to achieve it.

Once the UX Strategy is established, the UX strategist often takes on a mentorship and coaching role, guiding the design team as they develop and deliver products and features aligned with the strategy.

This approach ensures a cohesive user experience that meets both user needs and business objectives while staying true to the overarching vision.

2. Creating a New Digital Product from Scratch

When working at a startup, assisting a business with a complete website or app redesign, or building a new digital product from scratch, the Double Diamond framework is applied differently compared to designing smaller feature enhancements.

Creating a new digital product requires an in-depth discovery phase, involving extensive user research, requirements gathering, journey mapping, and data analysis.

The define phase follows, where essential UX artifacts such as personas, journey maps, and storyboards are documented.

Building a new project requires a comprehensive discovery phase that happens in advance of development (ideally).

These two phases typically occur a couple of months before development begins, setting the UX strategy, identifying key problems to solve, and defining primary users.

Development then takes place on a larger scale, often divided into multiple work streams, with different groups focusing on distinct parts of the product.

By the time you reach the delivery phase, there should be multiple teams collaborating on detailed design and supporting developers in delivering the solutions.

This comprehensive approach ensures that the final product meets user needs and expectations while aligning with the established UX strategy.

3. Crafting a New Feature for an Existing Digital Product

When designing a new feature for an established digital product, the discovery phase is often shorter and more straightforward.

Since you’re working with a known product, you’ll likely have a clearer understanding of your users, their problems, and potential solutions. In this context, the discovery phase usually involves reviewing existing research and conducting additional research to address any critical knowledge gaps.

Designing a new feature has a shorter discover phase and usually places emphasis on the deliver phase.

Working on an established product means you’ll encounter numerous stakeholders who “already know the users” and have plenty of ideas to meet their needs.

In such situations, the designer’s role goes beyond just creating; it’s essential to demonstrate strong facilitation and stakeholder management skills.

By effectively drawing knowledge from subject matter experts and managing their expectations, designers can ensure that a user-centered approach is maintained while addressing stakeholders’ demands.

4. Designing Small Enhancements and Continuous Improvements

For many UX designers, especially up to the senior level, a significant portion of their work involves making small enhancements and continuous improvements to existing experiences.

In a mature organization, much of the discovery work should be already done by this stage. However, in reality, that’s often not the case.

Ideally, designers should have access to a well-thought-out UX and product strategy, along with extensive UX research on customers, their goals, and the problems they encounter.

But as design teams move fast, scale quickly, and personnel changes occur, you might find yourself working with outdated personas or a product roadmap instead of a comprehensive UX strategy.

Most Designers up to senior level will spend their time on small enhancements that don’t require much discovery or definition at all. In a mature design team a lot of this work will have already been done.

When working on small enhancements, stakeholders may perceive them as “quick wins” and may not see UX research as a worthwhile investment at this stage.

As a UX designer, this means you need to be agile, lean, and creative in your discovery process.

This could involve creating proto-personas from existing data, reviewing analytics to understand customer behavior, examining customer feedback, or speaking with customer service operators to grasp customer problems.

This phase can be challenging for more junior designers, as the design process becomes less linear and requires juggling multiple tasks simultaneously.

Building a knowledge base becomes an iterative approach that happens on the fly rather than at the start of the project.

Moreover, you’ll often need to do all these things while the development team is already building the solution. Being adaptable and resourceful is key in successfully navigating this stage of UX design.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q) What is the Double Diamond Model, and how does it relate to the Design Thinking process?

A) The Double Diamond Model is a problem-solving framework used in UX design. It consists of four phases: discover, define, develop, and deliver. This method aligns with design thinking principles by focusing on user needs, iterative processes, the creative process, and complex problem solving.

Q) How does UX design benefit from using the Double Diamond approach?

A) The Double Diamond process helps UX designers identify user needs, create effective solutions, and validate their ideas through usability testing. It promotes collaboration between design teams and encourages a user-centered approach, ultimately leading to better product design and user experiences.

Q) How does the Lean UX process fit into the Double Diamond process?

A) The Lean UX process complements the Double Diamond model by emphasizing rapid iteration, validating assumptions, and reducing waste. It can be integrated into the develop and deliver phases, where designers build and test prototypes quickly to gather user feedback and refine their solutions.

Q) What role does the UK Design Council play in the development of the Double Diamond?

A) The British Design Council developed the Double Diamond design process as a visual representation of the problem-solving journey. It highlights the importance of divergent and convergent thinking in the UX design process, influencing how UX professionals approach complex problems.

Q) How important is user research in the Double Diamond process?

A) UX research is crucial in the Double Diamond, particularly in the discover phase. It helps designers understand user needs, identify pain points, and uncover opportunities for improvement. This information informs the subsequent phases, ensuring solutions are tailored to users’ requirements.

Q) What are convergent and divergent thinking in the context of the Double Diamond approach?

A) Divergent thinking involves generating multiple ideas and exploring various possibilities, while convergent thinking focuses on narrowing down and selecting the best solution. In the Double Diamond, divergent thinking occurs in the discover and develop phases, while convergent thinking is applied in the define and deliver phases.

Q) How do UX designers collaborate with design teams using the Double Diamond?

A) UX designers work closely with design teams throughout the Double Diamond process, sharing insights from user research, ideating together, and refining solutions based on feedback. This collaboration ensures that the final product aligns with user needs and meets project goals.

Q) What is the role of user feedback and user interviews in the Double Diamond?

A) User feedback and user interviews play a vital role in the discover and develop phases of the Double Diamond. They provide valuable insights into user needs, preferences, and pain points, helping designers tailor their solutions to address users’ requirements effectively.

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Jack O'Donoghue Avatar