As UX designers, we have all heard our users or customers offer solutions to a problem.
- “Can I have a back button at the top left?”
- “Will you put these 4 item in the pull down too? I use them all of the time.”
- “I’d love it if I could have a widget to help me build my plan in to a nice organized package.
- “Can you put a button on the main page for me to easily access all of the uploaded files so I don’t have to click on the menu to go there?
Yes these might sound like good solutions on the surface. But it is more important to really find out what the user is having a problem with. That’s when you try to stay in the “Problem Space.”
The Problem Space is the portion of discovery where the UX designer really tries to understand the user’s problems. It’s good to hear the user out in this phase, even if he is proposing solutions to his problems. A good way to dig deeper, and to gain a better understanding of the problem is to keep asking the user “Why?” This is know as the “5 Whys” technique and is often used by UX designers to discover more information. When a user gives you an answer, ask him “Why.” And ask “Why” again. And again. This way, he will divulge more information than he might be providing to you. Get deeper in to the problem. Try to get a better understanding of what he is struggling with, what his pain points are. Maybe, when more information is revealed, you as the UX designer will come up with a better solution that the user is proposing. That is the goal anyways. Maybe you will also discover that this user’s problem persists in other areas of your site or application. And a more universal solution would not only solve this user’s problem, but many other problems too.
Albert Einstein put it perfectly when he said:
“If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.”
It pays off to devote more time to analyzing the problem than quickly jumping to a solution. If you jump too quickly to a solution, without really understanding the problem, you might not actually be providing the best fix for the problem.
I understand that it is easy to quickly jump to the Solution Phase. Especially if a solution, which seems like a good idea, has been proposed. But by refraining from taking the leap, which requires patience and discipline, it gives you an opportunity to really define the problem. And this is crucial to success.
Remember that residing in the Problem Phase should not express any solutions. Just focus on a complete understanding of the problem before proposing any solutions. Also, clearly defining the problem, can help eliminate ambiguous terms that might be used and to get the entire team on board with the project.