Welcome to a sneak peek of our UX Design Fundamentals course!
In this leaked module, we're going to look at how to pinpoint exactly what your users need. It's about asking the right questions and setting a clear goal for your design work.
So, let’s get to the heart of what your users are facing and learn how to start solving their challenges.
In this stage, your goal is to clearly define the problem you will solve for your users.
We do this by crafting a problem statement and then using the how-might-we (HMW) statement to make it more actionable.
The purpose of the first few steps of design thinking is to understand. Understand an initial problem, our users, and the context around how that problem affects them. When all of this research is complete, we reach a clearer picture of the true problem we wish to solve with our designs.
This is where problem statements come in:A problem statement, or “problem to solve”, is the focal point of the rest of our project. It’s the goal we strive for when conducting the rest of our design thinking process – it’s what we ideate around, what we design a solution towards, and what we reference as we deliver our product. Thus, problem statements are the pivotal point of our project. It’s where we go from research to exploration.
To make a problem statement, we can use a simple formula to start:
User + Need + Goal
If we express this formula as a written statement, we’d get:
“As a [user], I need/want [need] so that [goal].”
This will help us craft the first version of our problem statement.
Let’s say we were working on the solo traveller project. For this project, let’s assume that we did our research and interviewed a lot of solo travellers. We found that travellers feel nervous while travelling alone. They feel that they don’t have a lot of familiarity with their new surroundings, and feel that having some good resources around where they are would help them feel more safe. Seeing this problem, we want to write a problem statement that will help us design. Let’s give it a shot:
“As a [traveller], I want [information] so that [I can travel well].”
This problem statement could help us design something for our users. But it feels lacking in substance. We don’t have a lot of context about the user. Our user needs are quite broad. And the goal is too ambiguous. Let’s focus on how we can make this problem statement better.
With the last problem statement, we were too broad. We need some constraints to allow us to design better and to have a more impactful solution, we need to be a little more targeted. Let’s try again:
“As a [single female traveller], I want [to be informed about my safety] so that [I don’t have to worry about being in a bad situation].”
This allows us to be a lot more targeted. We are focusing on solo, female travellers with our solution. We need to provide them with safety information. We can empathize because we don’t want our solo travellers to be in a bad situation.
Note: Your affinity map and user persona will help you in this step.
We made some assumptions that would have constrained our design. We assumed our travellers were female – we spoke with a lot of female travellers in our user interviews, for example, so we brought that bias into our problem statement. We shouldn’t assume that for our design solution.
Why? Because we could we could overlook the needs of the majority of our users by focusing too hard on a small subsection.
Similarly, our need is very specific – for travel, it’s possible that people want more than just information about safety. We may want to broaden that aspect of the problem statement as well.
Let’s try again:
“As a [solo traveller], I want [a detailed country guide] so [I can travel well].”
We’re getting closer, but this problem statement still has its own problems.
In the last problem statement, we made an assumption about our solution. We broaden our user and our goal, but in doing so we assumed a product solution as a user need. Users might not want a detailed country guide.
That’s not a need, that’s an idea. Usually, you can tell if your problem statement assumes a solution by checking if your user need is a noun or a verb. A noun is usually a solution, while a need is more commonly expressed as a verb. Our problem statements should be problem-focused, not solution-focused.
Let’s try again:
“As a [solo traveller], I want [to feel informed and assured] so that [I can travel well].”
We’re getting closer! We don’t assume a solution – rather, we focus on the needs we heard in our research.
The goal of a problem statement is to align teams around what problem you are trying to solve. It’s an alignment tool, but also a tool to generate empathy. Being empathetic in the problem statement will help carry forward the user’s needs through the project and give us a higher chance of surfacing in your design solution.
Let’s try one more adjustment to our problem statement.
“As a [solo traveller], I want [to feel informed and assured] so that [I can feel comfortable on my trip].”
Here, we adjusted the goal. We had a good sense of our user and their needs in the last iteration, but for this one, we want to really amp up what good looks like for our user. This is the vision we have when making our product – this is how we can succeed, by delivering on this promise. If we are able to enable users to feel comfortable while travelling, then we’ll have created a great design solution.
The problem statement is usually half of the prompt used when headed into ideation. The other piece that’s commonly used with it is a “how might we” statement. This “how might we” statement helps uncover opportunities for design and adds more empathy to the ideation process. It’s more actionable than having just the problem statement, and it helps push our process along.
“As a solo traveller, I want to feel informed and assured so that I can feel comfortable on my trip.”
“How might we provide a way for our users to maximize their solo travel experience?”
Here, we take our problem statement and apply it to a design prompt by asking “how might we”. Now, the team will want our users to feel comfortable so that they can maximize their solo travel experiences.
To add additional focus and empathy, you can replace “our users” in the second statement with any personas you have generated during this process. That will link it back to your research, develop more focus on your specific users, and help to generate additional empathy for your users.
Crafting effective problem statements involves conducting thorough research, summarizing the findings, and carefully choosing the right words to identify a clear problem that is both relevant to your research and open enough to not assume a solution.
Write a how-might-we (HMW) problem statement for your product.
Solo travelers love the freedom and flexibility that travelling alone provides.However, to enhance their trip, they often want to connect with others todiscover new things, share experiences, and feel safer.
When travelling alone, Jay wants to connect with others to enrich her travelexperience.
How might we provide Jay with a dependable way to connect withothers as she travels alone?
💡 We are now entering the third stage of the design thinking process: Ideate.
Ideation happens here
The remainder of this module is all about generating as many ideas as possible for how to solve the problem you identified in the previous stage.
We will do the following:
Let’s get started.
📹 Video: Moving into Ideation
Some common ideation techniques:
There are countless ways you can go about generating ideas, and the above list includes the most commonly used methods.
Let’s start with lightning demos.
It is a form of ideation where you go and look at other comparable experiences and take inspiration so you can think of ideas to work on your problem to solve in your project.
Here’s a video to explain the process in detail:
📹 Video: Lightning Demos
By now, I hope you understood the usefulness of lightning demos and how to do one for your project.
Here’s a recap on how to do it:
We use Whimsical in the video for the process but you can do it on any tool of your choice. You can use Figjam, Google Slides, MS PowerPoint, Canva or even a Word Document. It simply involves pasting the screenshots and giving each piece a short caption. And you can export most of the files as a PDF for uploading below.
Spend around 20-30 minutes conducting a lightning demo for your product. Think and search for products that could inspire a solution to your problem statement.
Take screenshots, give them a caption and then share your ideas in a PDF below.
And that's it for this sneak peek. It’s just a taste of what we do – taking a close look at user issues and learning how to tackle them.
If you liked this and want to get the whole picture, check out our full UX Design Fundamentals course. ****There’s a whole universe of UX wisdom waiting for you, designed to turn your curiosity into expertise!
Enroll now and fully immerse yourself in the craft of creating experiences that users don't just use, but love: EntryLevel: UX Design Fundamentals