23th of February, 2024

Enabling Agile Development With The Double Diamond Approach

Collaboration using the Double Diamond approachCollaboration using the Double Diamond process (Image: Adomas Aleno, Unsplash)

Misconceived or sometimes misunderstood, the Double Diamond approach is still a powerful tool utilised by designers across the globe to structure their design workflow.

For software development using Agile methodologies, the Double Diamond process is often deemed incompatible and not usable. Its reputation among developers (if they have even heard of it) is marred by misconceptions and underestimations.

In an industry where design is frequently relegated to a post-development polish, the benefits and power of the Double Diamond approach remain underestimated and often neglected.

Differences in comparison with Design Thinking

The Double Diamond is often directly compared to Design Thinking. And at its core, the Double Diamond approach indeed echoes the values of Design Thinking.

The basic structure is very similar, and principles such as testing and revision are reminiscent of steps taken in the Double Diamond process. But where Design Thinking is more about principles and directive, the Double Diamond is a framework with stages, starting with research and resulting in concrete output.

The Double Diamond Design Process

The Double Diamond employs four stages:

1. Discovery

The initial phase, Discovery, is about finding out what we don’t know. It is comparable to Design Thinking’s “Understanding the problem”. Solution thinking isn’t part of this process; it is focused on identifying stakeholder expectations and conducting user research. We are gathering insights, trying to recognise user needs, identify desires, and explore aspirations.

2. Definition

With all the information we gathered, the Definition stage revolves around distilling the information into cohesive ideas and narratives. This is where the threads of stakeholder expectations and user insights are joined and compared, which helps revealing patterns, correlations, and potential contradictions. Clarifying different sets of expectations and grouping expected outcomes helps us to formulate clear needs and stipulate goals.

3. Development

“Development” in “software development” refers to the overarching idea of creating software and implementing features. “Development” within the Double Diamond refers to the sculpting of ideas and concepts. Drawing from the insights of Discovery and the clarity of Definition, this stage gives shape to user stories, delineates user flows, and helps us craft tangible prototypes for validation. In this phase, we translate learned factors into the features we want to build. Repeated testing and improvement are crucial parts of this process.

4. Delivery

In the Delivery stage we combine our concepts, our experiences we gained with wireframes, sketches and interviews, and we finalise user flows, refine the prototypes and prepare our UIs for integration into the software development lifecycle. It’s also a handover phase that usually takes a couple of meetings to convey concepts and the implementation of features the developers have prepared from the backend side. When everything is aligned, the stories can be added to the backlog and selected for implementation sprints.

The potentially high cost of neglecting the design process

A common fallacy in application development is presumptions and omniscience. Developer teams, fuelled by technical expertise and familiarity with system architectures, often bypass critical design stages under the assumption of already possessing everything they need to begin their work.

This bias proves costly, introducing unforeseen hurdles, misaligned functionalities, and user dissatisfaction often recognised too late in the production process. By neglecting a worthwhile, structured design approach, projects take a lot of risk, which may ultimately result in increased time, effort, and resources spent on course corrections.

Benefits of a thorough design process

For many agile teams, embracing the Double Diamond process represents a paradigm shift. It’s an acknowledgment that design is not an impediment to progress but a catalyst for success. By adhering to the four-stage process, Agile teams add power to their process, resulting in more coherent, less problem-driven development cycles.

The true advantage lies in the ability to preemptively address challenges before they materialise into obstacles. Through the filtering of a structured design process, we are joining forces proactively, aligning stakeholder visions with user needs, streamlining development cycles, and ultimately fostering a culture of innovation and efficiency.

The Double Diamond approach offers more than a methodology; it embodies a mindset—a commitment to thorough exploration and intentional execution. That’s by purpose: It doesn’t just help designers, it helps the entire development team.

By integrating this structured approach into Agile development practices, teams unlock the potential for seamless collaboration, informed decision-making, and the creation of user-centric solutions that transcend expectations.

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