How Design Thinking helped Improved an App Productivity by 2X

Design Thinking Meets Mobile Development

When Tim Brown, the pioneer of design thinking, first coined the term “design thinking” in terms of innovation and effective problem-solving, even he might not have envisioned the kind of enthusiasm organizations have shown. Over the past year, the concept of design thinking has gained ground in the software development industry and leaders have been quick to identify its business benefits.

As innovative problem solving has been at the core of Net Solutions, design thinking emerged as the right fit for us as well. This post will bring paint a picture of how effective design thinking can empower an existing development process, by simply altering the way a developer and an organization, should look at a problem.

While we had a fair idea of the problem we had to solve with a mobile app, the design thinking concepts involving: ethnographic mapping, customer journey maps and surveys, enabled us really delve into the problem and redefine the solution and guaranteed the desired results.

The story unfolds as follows: we used design thinking methodology to help a large FMCG player, develop a mobile app that increased its adoption rate and enhanced efficiency in their supply chain.

In 2001, our client started a project to financially empower rural Indian women by generating opportunities for them to sell products and earn a livelihood. The company also appointed rural sales coordinators to manage between these female entrepreneurs and the distributors for order collection and inventory management.

The client approached us with an ask to re-do their existing mobile app that would automate their supply chain and ordering process by joining the rural women and distributors onto a single digital platform.

The Problem Defined Originally

While the rural sales coordinators were already using the current app, it lacked the desired adoption rate, so they approached us to re-develop it. They wanted to add more features to not only improve the adoption rate but also digitally enable the entrepreneurs.

While discussing their required app features including integration with third-party suppliers, real-time stock updates and order placement, the client thought that these features would resolve the problems in the existing customer journey for the rural sales coordinators and be commensurate with the digital literacy levels of the entrepreneurs.

The Problem we Redefined using Design Thinking

Ecosystem Map

In our initial discussion with the client, we realized that unless we identify the issues in the existing customers’ journey and measure the digital literacy levels for these new app users, developing an app would be pointless.

To assess the digital readiness of the entrepreneurs and understand the gaps in the journey of the existing app’s users (the sales coordinators), we applied a design thinking approach and carried out ethnographic research.

We decided to go spend a day with all stakeholders and identify their issues. Using a design thinking approach, we were able to figure out what features should go in the new app.

The approach helped our client understand that the development should be carried out in a phased manner.

In Phase I, we built an app for the rural sales coordinators including features like real-time stock updates and order placement, updates on order deliveries and collection schedules as well as integration with third-party distributors. We also defined a roadmap for digital enablement of the entrepreneurs, recommending training and workshops.

For Phase II, we designed an app with tailor-made features for the entrepreneurs. Our research helped the client identify some vital features for the new app. This new app, originally derived from the app designed in Phase I, has a simpler interface specifically designed in view of the low digital literacy of the users. The user interface includes more graphics, bigger buttons, clear call to actions buttons, and regional language support.

Within our design thinking approach, we used ecosystem mapping to understand the context of the existing features of the apps. We then did some ethnographic research to understand the real pain points of the stakeholders.

These insights helped us build the customer journey map and identify the gaps within. We found that the process to place orders was manual in spite of the existence of the mobile app, and the sales coordinators had been struggling to keep track of their respective delivery statuses.

Our field trips helped us map the digital literacy level of the entrepreneurs. Through interviews, we were able to discover that these entrepreneurs were not yet trained enough to use the mobile app with the originally defined features.

How we Enhanced our Mobile Solution

The ethnographic research and journey mapping within our design thinking methodology, helped us build a new app with features designed for and validated by, the stakeholders who were ultimately going to be using it.

We not only created a better and more effective mobile app for their rural sales coordinators but also improved their original scope by redefining the problem for them. The teams at operational levels also created a future roadmap for “digital empowerment” of the entrepreneurs.

My Order

The features such as real-time stock updates, order placement, updates on order deliveries and collection schedules, and integration with third-party distributors, helped them automate the supply chain and significantly improve their sales and operations.

Design Thinking 4


Design thinking can magically add value to existing systems. Its unique concepts can influence and alter the way an organization looks at a business problem and strives to build the solution. We applied the principles to simple mobile app development and yielded incredible results. We think you should follow the same path and see the results for yourself.

If you are looking for any help on building any digital solution for better customer or employee engagement, or seeking guidance on design thinking processes, this is an area where we can help. Please contact us at [email protected].

Dheeraj Khindri

About the Author

Dheeraj Khindri is currently working as a Senior UX Analyst with Net Solutions. He started out as a Business Analyst and moved onto User Experience (UX) Design due to his bent towards interactive prototyping. Besides work, Dheeraj enjoys pragmatism in poetry, writing for social causes, exploring the connections between world politics and literature.

Leave a Comment


1:13 AM, Jun 19, 2018

Hi Mr.Khindri,

First of all, I really enjoyed your article and found it to be an informative & concise example of the design thinking.
I'm currently an undergrad pursuing Computer Science but want to approach it from more of a UI/UX standpoint. Issue is, it's a pretty expansive field and I don't really have an idea of where to start. I was therefore wondering whether you had any guidance or advice on the kinds of resources I should be looking at? As I said, I have no formal experience with regards to UI/UX design but would love to supplement my existing discipline with the principles of design thinking. Thank you for your time, hope to hear from you soon!

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