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This content is taken from the University of Leeds & Institute of Coding's online course, Get Creative with People to Solve Problems. Join the course to learn more.


We have included this Glossary for reference – you are not expected to remember all the new terms.

You can refer to the Glossary throughout the course by returning to this step or by downloading the PDF version of the Glossary which is available in the Downloads section.

If you come across any other words that you would like us to add to the Glossary, please add them to the Comments section.

Select the pink hyperlink letters displayed below to jump to alphabetical sections of the Glossary.



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beginner’s mind

The idea that dropping our belief in our own expertise can help us see things with fresh eyes, and learn in the same way a beginner would. A concept borrowed from Zen Buddhism and known as Shoshin.

beta testing

Launching a functional version of a product or service to a limited number of real users in order to test it and spot problems ‘in the wild’ in order to improve it before a full launch.
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The process of creating products and services by collaborating with the people who will use them; involving workshops with real users to generate new and unexpected angles on the problem.

competitor analysis

A process of researching existing solutions in the market to help you design a new product or service. For instance, you could be making a new fitness app, so would carefully assess the strengths and weaknesses of other apps in the market to look for opportunities.
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The process of synthesising research in order to create a clear summary of the problem or question you need to solve.

design thinking

A process of approaching innovation and design work that puts a deep understanding of people, their needs and motivations at the heart of the design process. Design thinking is an approach invented and used by IDEO and Stanford d.school.

diary studies

A form of user research involving asking people to keep a diary of what they do each day, including pictures, to better understand their behaviours.

digital prototypes

Clickable interactive mock-ups of software, made to understand the experience of using it and improve designs by testing ideas.

Double Diamond model

A model of the design process created by the Design Council which emphasises two stages of divergent (broadening) thinking, then narrowing down to definitions and solutions. See What is the framework for innovation? Design Council’s evolved Double Diamond.
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empathy / empathise

Empathy is the ability to ‘put yourself in someone else’s shoes’: to understand the emotions and feelings that motivate someone in a certain situation, without judgement. ‘Empathise’ is the first stage of the human-centred design process, where you research a problem with the people who experience it in order to understand and internalise their experience.

empathy map

A process to create a representation of someone’s experience of using a product or service. The diagram created collects their needs, feelings, difficulties and actions as they try to accomplish a task or achieve a goal.

ethnographic research

Research that involves directly observing people’s behaviours in their normal environment.

experience maps

Experience maps are diagrams which summarise people’s experiences using a product or service over time. They show what people think, feel and do as they interact with a process over time.

expert reviews

Expert Reviews are when an experienced professional steps through a design and offers feedback based on their professional expertise. They are good for spotting common design problems and usability issues.
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The degree of detail and life-like completeness in a design. Rough and sketchy designs with a lot of simplification are low-fidelity.
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human-centred design, HCD

A design methodology or approach which emphasises understanding the needs and attitudes of the people who will be using your design in order to design the most appropriate solution to their problem.
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Ideation is the process of coming up with creative solutions to a problem. It is the third phase of the human-centred design process.

impact / effort matrix

A method of prioritising options by considering the effort each one will involve, and its potential impact, by plotting its position against two axes.


Inventing new products or services; creating new ways of doing things, particularly with a business.

iterate / iterative / iteration

To try again, or re-do steps in a process in order to improve the outcome. A process which repeats, one loop around that process.
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J - L

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Action taken to reduce the potential likelihood or negative effects of a risk. Washing your hands more frequently is a way of mitigating the risk of flu infection.
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N - O

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problem definition

A stage in the human-centred design process.


A model, mock up, initial or rough version of a design, product or service designed to help you understand if your design works, and how people will interact with it. Prototypes are experiments to help you think, communicate and make ideas tangible.
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Events that have the potential to occur, and that would affect your project negatively if they do.

ROI (Return on Investment)

A measure of how much additional value or profit a business will derive from the beneficial outcomes of an activity they spend money on.

role play

Acting out scenarios physically and verbally to encourage different ways of thinking about them.
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Precise descriptions of the qualities, dimensions and construction of a finished product. Plans for making a completed item.

stack ranking

A prioritisation method involving rating items against each other in pairs to organise them in priority order.


An individual who has a financial or tangible interest in the outcome of a project or business.
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test / testing

Testing ideas, designs and solutions means trying them out to see if they are successful at solving a problem. Tests work best when the criteria for a successful outcome is defined in advance.
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usability testing

A process for formally testing a piece of software, app or website to check that people can successfully complete tasks by using it.


How easy or intuitive a tool, system or piece of software is to use.


The person who uses a tool, system or piece of software. Roughly equivalent to talking about ‘The Audience’ of a television show.

user journey

A user journey is the sequence of interactions and actions a person takes when using a product or service. It is often expressed as a sequential diagram or narrative.

user research

The work and methods of finding out about people’s attitudes and behaviours in order to inform the design of products, services, software and apps.

user story

A formalised way of expressing what a person needs something to do in order to achieve a goal. Used in agile software development to define a function of the software. Expressed in the form ‘As a… (person) I need… (user need) So that… (goal).’
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Simple outline drawings of the layout of screens of a website or app, in order to show what content and functions appear on that screen. Often created as a kind of digital prototype to test the design of software.
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This article is from the free online course:

Get Creative with People to Solve Problems

University of Leeds