GuidesProduct development17 Essential Design Thinking Tools in 2024

17 Essential Design Thinking Tools in 2024

Last updated

12 March 2024

Author

Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Mary Mikhail

For businesses to create, innovate, and grow the right ideas have to bloom. 

Design thinking is an innovative process rooted in a set of skills. It can help you solve problems, brainstorm solutions, build prototypes, and better understand customer needs. 

Design thinking started gaining traction with businesses in the early 2000s. Experts employ it to develop, refine, and implement game-changing solutions.

You need the right set of tools to properly apply design thinking to your business. Design thinking tools can help you and your team stay organized and be better prepared to act on ideas. 

These tools facilitate the design thinking approach while promoting empathy, collaboration, and creativity in your team members. 

Ultimately, design thinking tools can empower employees to be innovative thinkers at every level. However, finding the right design thinking tools for your organization can be challenging. 

Deciding on the best design thinking tools requires research, planning, and a deep understanding of your and your team's needs.

What should you look for in a design thinking tool?

You should consider multiple factors when deciding on a design thinking tool. 

Knowing that the best design thinking tools foster collaboration and creativity, you'll need to create a list of key characteristics to guide you in the search. 

Consider these elements as you narrow down your list:

Documentation

Your team will need to track the projects and design ideas you're working on. Therefore, the design thinking tool you select should have features that allow you to store ideas, share comments, track progress, and update other team members.

Visualization

Knowing the desired result of a project can help motivate your team. Your design thinking tool should provide visualization features to guide you along the way and assist with various stages of development.

Customizability 

Every team works differently. You’ll need to be able to customize your design thinking tool to suit your organization's unique needs and specifications.

Automation

Automating various tasks keeps your team free to work on more complex assignments. Whenever possible, you should automate manual tasks using the design thinking tool of your choice.

Integration possibilities

Ideally, your design thinking tool should integrate with other online tools you use regularly. This streamlines product development, user research, and usability testing.

Collaboration

Sharing ideas, feedback, and tips can help any project move forward more productively and positively. When selecting a design thinking tool, opt for one with collaborative features so that those working on the project can easily communicate with each other.

Not every design thinking tool has all the above characteristics. Other tools might have all these features and still not be a good fit for your team. 

When possible, request demos of the design thinking tools you're considering so you can be better equipped to make a decision. 

Most companies have team members who can provide a demo within one or two business days. Ensure stakeholders are involved in the demo to make a quick decision.

The 17 best design thinking tools in 2024

With so many design thinking tools and techniques, it can be tricky to select the right one. 

Let’s review the 17 best design thinking tools for businesses in 2024. 

These design thinking tools are some of the best on the market, offering many intuitive features and opportunities for adaptation into nearly every type of workflow. 

1. Make My Persona

Buyer personas are fictional representations of a typical customer of your business. 

Businesses in all industries must better understand their target audience to tailor their sales and marketing strategies. Referencing buyer personas can increase engagement and enhance revenue. 

Make My Persona is a design thinking tool developed and managed by HubSpot. It generates a detailed persona report by asking questions about customer demographics, needs, interests, and goals.

Make My Persona offers a suite of features such as: 

  • Customizable persona templates and questionnaires

  • Unlimited online personas for user testing

  • Comprehensive collaboration tools for the design thinking process

If you use Make My Persona, you'll also enjoy access to HubSpot's marketing and sales resources. Beyond user persona creation, Make My Persona is relatively limited as a design thinking tool since it lacks design project management features for other development goals.

2. UserZoom

UserZoom is a cloud-based UX research platform with sophisticated insights for businesses of all sizes. It's perfect for conducting live interviews and other user research activities. 

Teams can conduct real-time or unmoderated sessions where users follow pre-selected tasks. UserZoom is incredibly versatile, allowing you to source participants or use UserZoom's custom recruitment engine.

UserZoom can be expensive, with custom pricing that depends on your team's needs. 

Since it’s a user research and experience tool, it has limited functionality for design thinking needs beyond these use cases.

3. Hotjar

Hotjar is a design thinking tool with a suite of tools for user research. It boasts a multitude of powerful features and benefits. 

The tool has many ways to collect user feedback, including surveys and polls. It also integrates with Google Analytics and Zapier. 

Hotjar's visitor recordings allow you to see exactly how users interact with your website or application. Its session replay is perfect for capturing granular details.

While Hotjar is an excellent tool for capturing user feedback, it has some limitations. If you opt for the free or lower-tier plan, you might not have access to full filtering capabilities. Additionally, custom charts are only available for teams on the Scale plan.

4. Figma

Figma gives your team new ways to work together in real-time, providing searchable assets and shareable styles. 

Ideal for designers who want their creativity to have room to flourish, Figma offers: 

  • A centralized asset library

  • Cloud-based design collaboration and sharing

  • Team management tools and user permissions

  • A unique online whiteboard where everyone can collaborate

Figma integrates with popular tools like Slack. It features a robust selection of educational assets and articles. Even members of your team who aren't comfortable using new tools will find a lot to love with Figma. 

However, Figma is a cloud-based tool with limited offline functionality and no mobile application.

5. ClickUp

ClickUp offers end-to-end solutions for any team or product roadmap, from simple to deeply complex. It’s a productivity platform that integrates with thousands of other work tools.

ClickUp has hundreds of features for your team to explore, including an intuitive dashboard and insights, tasks, docs, spreadsheets, and resource enhancement.

It is designed to enhance productivity with flexibility that can effortlessly suit the needs of any team. 

The platform offers lots of features, like:

  • Collaborative whiteboards

  • Mind maps for developing ideas in real-time 

  • Multiple assignees on tasks for complete transparency

  • Workload optimization

Before you commit to ClickUp, know that not all views are available in the product's intuitive mobile app. With so many features to learn and explore, some users might experience a learning curve.

6. Balsamiq

Balsamiq is a wireframing software that helps you express your ideas quickly and clearly. It helps teams test and refine concepts before implementing them. 

Balsamiq guides you in communicating desired outcomes and clarifying vague ideas. It’s user-friendly, with drag-and-drop functionality ideal for teams with limited technical knowledge.

Balsamiq encourages real-time collaboration so every member of your team can stay on the same page. The tool has a host of pre-built templates for you to choose from, and any subscription model provides access to Balsamiq's support team. 

However, Balsamiq doesn't have a free plan. If you want to use it, you'll have to sign up for one of their pricing tiers. These are based on the number of projects that you need to create.

7. Optimizely

Knowing how to optimize your sales and marketing content can help you reach more customers and grow market share. 

Optimizely is a website optimization platform for businesses to test and enhance their website content. From A/B testing and experimentation to personalization tools for customized user experiences, Optimizely has comprehensive business solutions. It’s ideal for those looking to improve website performance and increase engagement.

Optimizely is cloud-based, making it accessible to all team members. It also has experiment analytics, reporting for usability testing, and a visual editor for experimentation purposes. 

However, Optimizely is primarily a development tool, which could overwhelm non-technical users.

8. SessionLab

Sometimes, the time spent scheduling and preparing events exceeds the time spent on the event itself. SessionLab circumvents this issue. 

This design thinking tool is advertised as an "easier way to design workshops," with facilitation methods and templates for any workshop. 

SessionLab also boasts customizable agenda templates to create a user research platform and private templates with a paid subscription. Many guides and planning tools are available to kickstart the creative process and assist you with workshop planning.

SessionLab started as a workshop planning tool, so it has limited functionality for other aspects of project management. It also has limited customization options, so its templates might not best meet your needs.

9. Stormboard

Stormboard is a cloud-based collaboration and brainstorming tool that helps teams work in real time. It is ideal for remote employees. 

Stormboard has dozens of integration options, a mobile app, and strong security features to protect user data. 

This design thinking tool enhances productivity and reduces meeting time so collaborators can focus on more quality ways to spend time.

Stormboard's best-in-class features include a voting tool, allowing team members to vote on ideas. It also boasts multiple export options, making it easier to share documents and photos with your team. 

Not everything about Stormboard is an immediate win, though. Users unfamiliar with digital design tools might struggle to understand Stormboard. It also has limited ability to create custom workflows.

10. Dovetail

Dovetail is an end-to-end solution for user research, usability testing, market research, and product development. 

With hundreds of customizable templates and plenty of educational solutions, Dovetail can give stakeholders, project managers, and designers everything they need for informed decisions.

Dovetail can help you work through data quickly, saving your team time while allowing you to uncover valuable information about customer needs and pain points. 

If you want to build products people love, manage and share insights, and help your team grow valuable connections, Dovetail is a great solution.

11. Miro

Miro provides product development workflows, diagramming and process mapping, content and data visualization, and much more. 

This online collaborative whiteboard integrates with popular tools like Jira, Slack, and Google Drive. It offers a full range of templates for teams to quickly start projects. 

With user-friendly features, Miro is ideal for teams that include non-technical employees.

Miro provides real-time collaboration and shared spaces that are ideal for remote teams. It also boasts the ability to easily upload and share files, videos, and images. 

While Miro is a solid starting option for teams that need to get and stay on the same page, its pricing can be prohibitive.

12. Google Marketing Platform

Optimizing your website content is key to creating better user experiences. Google Marketing Platform, formerly Google Optimize, is a website experimentation platform focused on developing integrated solutions for all businesses. 

One of the benefits of Google Marketing Platform is that anyone with a Google account can use the service for free. It also doesn't require any special coding knowledge or technical training.

Google Marketing Platform also offers a full suite of training tools and information to guide your team through various experiments. 

One main feature is Campaign Manager 360, which provides a complete view of all your digital marketing campaigns. 

While the basic Google Marketing Platform is fairly comprehensive, more advanced options are available for businesses looking to drive results and grow revenue by a specific amount.

13. Mural

Mural offers a structured approach to design thinking. From problem-solving and visualization to brainstorming, you'll likely find a solution with Mural.

The canvas templates and advanced integration features support real-time communication and collaboration, while the frameworks help with organization and pattern identification.

Mural tends to be expensive compared to other design thinking tools. It also lacks options for creating interactive charts, reports, or tables, which can be a limitation depending on the nature of your project.

14. EnjoyHQ

EnjoyHQ, a product of UserTesting, is a tool for the definition stage of design thinking. 

It’s a centralized repository for UX research that can help product teams and researchers efficiently sort through vast amounts of data. 

With features like auto-transcription for audio and video, data segmentation, and keyword search, EnjoyHQ is a great tool for anyone who wants to get granular with their data. 

There is a free plan and paid options, depending on the needs of your business.

15. Typeform

Collecting data from your target customers can refine sales and marketing campaigns, better understand their needs, and enhance your products and services. 

However, collecting data is a time-intensive endeavor that can consume resources and take days or weeks to fully collect and sort.  

Typeform is an online surveying design thinking tool that can help you reach that goal. It allows you to easily design survey forms. 

With a full library of templates and the ability to customize a feedback form, Typeform works with your existing workflow, including more than 100 integrations.

Typeform is user-friendly, with simple-to-use tools and an appealing interface. Most teams can start using Typeform in just a few minutes, with no learning curve. 

While the paid subscriptions offer the greatest customization, the free plan allows you to create unlimited forms and access several thousand templates.

16. MindMeister

A mind map is a part of the creative process teams can use when brainstorming ideas and evaluating solutions. 

Collaborative mind mapping is the goal of MindMeister, a cloud-based collaborative mind mapping and brainstorming tool. 

In MindMeister, you can invite members of your team to view, comment on, and expand on shared ideas. You can also share attachments and embedded media to projects to add context to ideas.

MindMeister has a mobile app that is perfect for teams on the go. It also integrates with the Meister Suite, which is ideal for more comprehensive workflow management. 

However, MindMeister has relatively limited integration potential beyond Meister Suite. It also offers very basic functionality in the free plan.

17. UserTesting

Businesses need to conduct testing and research to know what users really want. 

UserTesting is an insight platform for remote user research that helps you easily gather feedback without the time and resources required for manual data collection. 

With UserTesting, you can target diverse audiences, learn about user experiences, validate findings, and identify areas for opportunity.

UserTesting recruits test participants, so you can count on unbiased accounts. The tool also offers solutions for teams of all sizes, from start-ups to mid-market and beyond. 

With an entire library of learning resources, your team has plenty of opportunities to learn about target personas and customer journeys. 

UserTesting features custom pricing plans and a free trial to test the service.

FAQs

What is the difference between a user and a customer in design thinking?

While both users and customers are important in design thinking, there are differences between the two. 

In design thinking, a user is using your product or service. A customer is purchasing the product or service. Not every customer is also a user, although they can be. 

Before starting any new development project, it's crucial to define and differentiate between your users and your customers.

What are the analytical tools of design thinking?

Design thinking involves many different types of tools, from problem-solving to analytical. 

Analytical tools capture data, which teams can use to refine and enhance the user experience, creating more effective approaches to user needs and pain points. 

Analytical tools can also help your team members better understand your project's goals, eliminating confusion and helping everyone get on the same page.

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