Validation is not just a checkpoint but a crucial phase that ensures your creative solutions truly resonate with users and meet business objectives. It’s the stage where you test the waters, measure the impact, and refine your ideas into actionable and successful outcomes. 

But how can you be certain that your design thinking solution is the right one? How do you evaluate its feasibility, viability, and desirability? 

In this guide, we will delve into the best practices for validation in design thinking, offering you a roadmap to confidently navigate through this essential process. From defining success criteria to engaging with users and stakeholders for feedback, we’ll explore the tools and metrics that can help you validate your solutions effectively. 

The Concept of Design Thinking

Design thinking is a user-centric methodology employed to solve complex problems and navigate the challenges of designing innovative solutions. It is characterized by a series of iterative stages: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and validate. Each phase plays an important role in understanding the user, challenging assumptions, redefining problems, and creating innovative solutions to prototype and test. 

A 2015 report by the Design Management Institute found that design-led companies maintained a significant stock market advantage, outperforming the S&P by 219% over 10 years. This approach is not strictly linear but rather a flexible and iterative cycle that encourages deep user understanding, creativity, and pragmatic problem-solving. 

At its heart, design thinking is about adopting a hands-on approach to innovation, grounded in understanding the people for whom products and services are being designed. It’s a mindset that prioritizes user needs above all else, promoting a culture of open collaboration, experimentation, and the willingness to fail and learn from mistakes. This philosophy is applicable across various disciplines and industries, making it a universal tool for addressing a wide range of challenges.

Understanding Validation in Design Thinking

Within the design thinking context, validation is the systematic evaluation of solutions to ascertain their effectiveness in fulfilling the intended user needs and business objectives. It seeks to answer several key questions: 

  • Does the solution fulfill the user’s needs? 
  • Is it feasible within the given constraints? 
  • Does it offer a viable business model? 
  • Is it desirable from a user’s perspective?

The validation process involves a series of activities aimed at testing the solutions with real users, gathering feedback, and iteratively refining the design. It’s about bringing the user back into the equation, ensuring that the solution is not only theoretically sound but also practically effective and emotionally resonant with the target audience. It serves as the bridge between theoretical design concepts and practical, impactful solutions. 

As validation is not a one-time activity but an ongoing process that extends beyond the initial launch of a solution, doing it continuously is essential for adapting to changing user needs, technological advancements, and market dynamics. Moving forward, we’ll explore specific best practices for conducting effective validation, methods and tools for gathering and analyzing user feedback, and strategies for integrating validation throughout the design thinking process. 

Best Practices for Conducting Validation

Effective validation confirms that the solution meets user needs while also ensuring it aligns with business objectives and constraints. Here, we expand upon the best practices for conducting validation, offering a comprehensive approach to this crucial phase.

Engaging with Users Early and Continuously

  • Inclusive User Recruitment: Engaging users from the beginning is crucial. Research McKinsey & Company shows that companies that involve users early are 50% more likely to see market share growth. This is why is important to ensure that the group of users involved in validation represents the diversity of your target audience, including varying demographics, abilities, and backgrounds. 
  • Continuous User Engagement: Validation should not be a one-off event but a continuous dialogue with users throughout the design process. Through ongoing engagement, you can receive real-time feedback and pivot quickly based on user feedback.
  • Empathetic Interaction: Approach user engagement with empathy, understanding, and respect. Creating a comfortable environment for users to share honest feedback is crucial for gaining true insights into the user experience.

Adopting an Iterative Approach to Testing

  • Rapid Prototyping: Utilize rapid prototyping techniques to turn ideas into testable artifacts quickly. It will allow you frequent testing and iteration, making it easier to refine solutions based on user feedback.
  • Iterative Feedback Loops: Establish feedback loops that allow for the iterative refinement of prototypes. This cyclical process of testing, learning, and refining ensures that the solution evolves in close alignment with user needs and expectations.
  • Fail Fast, Learn Quickly: Embrace the “fail fast, learn quickly” mentality. Validation is about learning from what doesn’t work as much as it is about confirming what does. Each iteration provides valuable lessons that drive the design forward.

Defining Clear Success Criteria

  • Objective Metrics: Use objective metrics like the System Usability Scale (SUS) to define success in a quantifiable way. It will help you to evaluate success consistently and objectively, leading to better decision-making.
  • Alignment with User Goals and Needs: Ensure that the success criteria are aligned with the user goals and needs identified during the empathy and define phases. This alignment guarantees that the solution’s success is measured by its impact on the user experience.
  • Business and Technical Feasibility: Incorporate criteria that assess the solution’s feasibility from both a business and technical standpoint. Taking this holistic approach ensures that the solution is viable in the broader context of implementation and scalability.

Utilizing a Mix of Validation Methods

  • Qualitative and Quantitative Methods: Research in the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies demonstrates that combining qualitative and quantitative methods leads to more robust and actionable insights in user experience research. Qualitative methods, like interviews and observation, provide depth and context, while quantitative methods, like surveys and analytics, offer measurable insights. 
  • Contextual Testing: Whenever possible, test the solution in the context in which it will be used. Contextual validation provides insights into how environmental factors, user behaviors, and other variables affect the solution’s performance and user experience.
  • Expert Reviews: In addition to user testing, consider expert reviews to assess the solution against best practices, industry standards, and technical requirements. This expert input can complement user feedback, providing a different perspective on the solution’s efficacy.

Leveraging Technology and Tools

  • Digital Prototyping Tools: Utilize digital prototyping tools that allow for quick adjustments and facilitate remote testing. Tools like Figma, Adobe XD, and InVision offer collaborative features that make it easy to iterate on designs based on user feedback.
  • Analytics and Heatmaps: Implement analytics and heatmap tools to gather quantitative data on how users interact with digital solutions. This data can reveal user behaviors, preferences, and pain points that might not be evident through qualitative methods alone.
  • Remote Testing Platforms: Leverage remote user testing platforms to conduct validation with users from diverse locations. This global perspective can enrich the validation process, bringing in a wider range of user experiences and insights.

Adopting these best practices empowers designers and innovators to approach the validation phase with assurance, guaranteeing that their solutions are not just imaginative and groundbreaking but also closely attuned to user requirements and feasible within their operational framework. The ultimate goal of validation is to refine solutions into effective, user-centered outcomes that stand the test of real-world application and usage.

Overcoming Challenges in Validation

While essential, validation in design thinking, while indispensable, comes with its share of challenges such as feedback biases, user diversity, and the analysis of extensive feedback. Tackling these challenges head-on is essential for the fruitful completion of the validation phase and, consequently, the entire design thinking journey.

Addressing Bias in Feedback

  • Triangulation of Data: Use multiple sources of data and validation methods to counteract the biases inherent in any single source. Triangulation helps in validating the findings across different methods, ensuring a more balanced and objective understanding of user feedback.
  • Blind Testing: Consider blind testing scenarios where users are not aware of the specific goals of the solution being tested. Google’s application of A/B testing serves as a prime example of how blind testing can be employed to evaluate new features impartially, ensuring that decisions are data-driven and free from preconceived notions.
  • Third-Party Facilitators: Engage neutral third-party facilitators for conducting user tests and interviews. Their detachment from the project ensures that they do not unconsciously lead users to provide responses that the design team hopes to hear.

Ensuring Diversity and Representation

  • Broad Recruitment Strategies: Adopt inclusive recruitment strategies that reach out to a diverse cross-section of the user base. That might mean partnering with community organizations, using diverse media channels for recruitment, or offering incentives that appeal to a broad audience. 
  • Accessibility Considerations: Make validation sessions accessible to people with disabilities by providing necessary accommodations and using inclusive design methodologies. This ensures that the solution is tested and validated across the full spectrum of users, including those with varying abilities.
  • Cultural Sensitivity: Be mindful of cultural differences that may influence user feedback. Tailor the validation process to be culturally sensitive, ensuring that it respects and accommodates the norms, languages, and preferences of diverse user groups.

Interpreting and Acting on Feedback

  • Structured Analysis Frameworks: Employ structured frameworks for analyzing feedback, such as affinity diagramming or thematic analysis. Using these frameworks makes feedback more actionable and prevents important observations from being overlooked.
  • Prioritization of Feedback: Not all feedback will be equally relevant or actionable. Use criteria such as impact, feasibility, and alignment with user needs to prioritize feedback, focusing on changes that will have the most significant positive effect on the solution.
  • Iterative Refinement: Use the feedback not just for immediate refinements but also as a source of insights for future iterations. The validation phase should inform not only the current design cycle but also future development and iteration cycles, ensuring continuous improvement.

Managing Expectations and Scope

  • Clear Communication of Objectives: Ensure that all stakeholders, including the design team and users, understand the scope and objectives of the validation phase. This clarity helps in managing expectations and focusing efforts on what is most important.
  • Flexible Validation Plans: Be prepared to adapt your validation plan based on initial findings and logistical challenges. Flexibility allows you to explore unexpected insights and adapt to constraints without compromising the quality of validation.
  • Balancing Detail and Big Picture: While focusing on specific feedback and insights, do not lose sight of the overall goals and objectives of the solution. Maintain a balance between addressing detailed user feedback and ensuring that the solution remains aligned with the broader vision and user needs.

By addressing these challenges head-on, designers and innovators can ensure that the validation phase leads to meaningful improvements and refinements, ultimately resulting in solutions that are not only innovative but also deeply resonant with user needs and preferences. 


Along with the rapid technological advancement and shifts in societal needs, the principles of design thinking and the best practices for validation hold more relevance than ever. They remind us that at the heart of every successful innovation lies a deep understanding of the people it aims to serve. This user-centric approach, coupled with a flexible, iterative validation process, ensures that solutions are not only technologically sound but also meaningful and relevant to users’ lives. Moreover, the challenges inherent in the validation process highlight the importance of a nuanced, empathetic approach to design.

As we move forward, the principles of validation in design thinking serve as a beacon for innovators and creators worldwide. They encourage us to look beyond the surface, to question our assumptions, and to continually strive for solutions that are not just feasible and viable but also deeply desirable to our users. In this pursuit, we are reminded that the true measure of our success lies not in the elegance of our designs or the sophistication of our technologies but in the positive impact we make on human lives. It is a journey that challenges us to be not just creators but also listeners, learners, and, ultimately, champions of meaningful innovation.


  • How do you balance speed and thoroughness in validation?

Balancing speed and thoroughness in validation involves strategically prioritizing key aspects of the design that are most critical to user needs and business objectives for in-depth testing. Rapid prototyping and agile methodologies can be employed to quickly iterate on these aspects, allowing for immediate feedback and adjustments. Simultaneously, employing a mix of qualitative and quantitative validation methods ensures a comprehensive understanding of the design’s impact without compromising on speed. 

  • Can validation lead to significant changes in the design solution?

Absolutely. Validation can and often does lead to significant changes in the design solution. This phase is where real-world user feedback intersects with the theoretical underpinnings of the design, revealing discrepancies, unmet needs, or unforeseen usability issues. Such insights can necessitate revisions ranging from minor tweaks to major overhauls of the concept or functionality. 

  • How do you measure the success of a validation effort?

The success of a validation effort is measured against predefined success criteria, which typically encompass metrics related to user satisfaction, usability, and the degree to which the solution addresses the identified user needs. These criteria offer an objective framework for evaluating the effectiveness of the validation process.

  • What role does user feedback play in validation?

User feedback is the linchpin of the validation process, offering direct insights into the solution’s relevance, usability, and impact from the user’s perspective. It is this feedback that informs iterative improvements, ensuring the final design is genuinely user-centric.

  • How can designers mitigate biases during validation?

Designers can mitigate biases during validation by employing a diverse and representative sample of users to ensure a wide range of perspectives. Utilizing blind testing methods, where information about the design’s purpose or expected outcomes is withheld, can also help reduce confirmation bias. Additionally, involving third-party facilitators or unbiased observers to conduct testing sessions can help prevent the introduction of the designer’s own biases. Finally, triangulating data from various sources and validation methods can provide a more objective and comprehensive understanding of user feedback.

  • Is validation only necessary for new products or solutions?

Validation is essential not only for new products or solutions but also for existing ones undergoing significant updates or being introduced to new markets or user segments. This process ensures that modifications or expansions meet the evolving needs and expectations of users and remain relevant in changing contexts. Regular validation helps in identifying areas for improvement, adapting to user feedback, and staying ahead of market trends, thereby maintaining the product’s effectiveness and user satisfaction over time.