Problem statements to define user needs

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    Problem statements, also known as user need statements or point-of-view statements, are an essential tool in the Define stage of design thinking.¬†They are used to summarize who a particular user is, the user’s need, and why the need is important to that user. A good problem statement should be actionable, concise, and user-focused. It should provide an overview of the user’s problem or pain point that needs to be addressed and set the course for the design of the project’s user experience.

    To create a problem statement, several UX professionals have created simple fill-in-the-blank formulas and templates that can be used when writing problem statements. The most common framework used to create problem statements is the 5 Ws and H framework, which involves answering the following questions:

    • Who is affected by the problem?
    • What is the problem?
    • Where does this problem occur?
    • When does the problem occur?
    • Why does the problem occur? Why is the problem important?

    A user need statement should have three components: the user, the need, and the why. The user should describe a specific persona or customer group, and the need should be real and representative of specific persona’s or customer group’s needs. It should never be stated as a solution, and it should not include features, interface components, or specific technology.

    Overall, problem statements are a critical component of the design thinking process, as they help align different points of view before moving forward into ideating and provide a metric for success to be used throughout the design thinking process.

     

    Steps:

    • Identify the user: Start by identifying the user or persona that you are designing for. This should be a specific group of people with similar needs and characteristics.

     

    • Define the user’s need: Clearly describe the user’s need or pain point that needs to be addressed. This should be a real and representative need that the user has.

     

    • Explain why the need is important: Provide insight into why the user has that need and why it is important to them. This should be a brief explanation of the user’s motivation for needing the solution.

     

    • Use the 5 Ws and H framework: Answer the questions of who, what, when, where, why, and how – to create a problem statement that is actionable, concise, and user-focused.

     

    • Avoid solutions: Do not include features, interface components, or specific technology in the problem statement. Instead, focus on the user’s need and motivation.

     

    • Use a template: Consider using a template or formula to structure your problem statement. For example, the Nielsen Norman Group’s Sarah Gibbons provides a simple structure for a problem statement that includes three components: a user, a need, and an insight.

    Advantages

    • Aligning different points of view: Problem statements help align different points of view before moving forward into ideating. They ensure that everyone on the team has a clear understanding of the user’s needs and motivations.

     

    • Providing a metric for success: Provide a metric for success to be used throughout the design thinking process. They define what needs to be solved before moving on to generating potential solutions.

     

    • Encouraging user-focused design: Encourage user-focused design by capturing what needs to be achieved with the design, not how. They help advance presumptive solutions from specific features towards deep insights about the problem that the user needs to solve.

     

    • Setting clear goals: Help set clear goals for the design team. They provide a clear description of the user’s needs that should be addressed and ensure that all members of the design team are focused on the same thing.

     

    • Providing clarity: Provide clarity about the user’s goals and help UX designers identify constraints that prevent users from achieving those goals. They ensure that the problem statement is insightful, pertinent, and directed.

    Disadvantages

    • Limiting creativity: Can be too narrow and limit creativity. They may not allow for exploration of new ideas or solutions that fall outside the scope of the problem statement.

     

    • Overemphasizing user needs: While user needs are important, overemphasizing them can lead to a lack of consideration for other factors, such as business goals or technical constraints.

     

    • Difficulty in defining the problem: Defining the problem can be challenging, and it may be difficult to create a problem statement that accurately captures the user’s needs and motivations.

     

    • Lack of flexibility: Once a problem statement is created, it can be challenging to change it. This lack of flexibility can be problematic if new information or insights emerge during the design thinking process.
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