- Stage 2, Define: Define user needs, create a problem statement
- Next time: explanation of a design problem statement and how to create one
In the previous article, I showed how to research user needs in the “Empathize” stage of Design Thinking. The research method of choice was user interviews. With our user research data ready, we will move onto the next stage in Design Thinking, “Define”.
Stage 2, Define: Define user needs, create a problem statement
The next step is to define the user needs and problems to create a problem statement to use as a starting point for the ideation stage. We do this by analyzing and synthesizing the user research data for opportunities, insights, themes and patterns. In this case, we are synthesizing interview data. How do you get insights from research data? There are various ways to synthesize research data for insights. I’ve listed a few below.
Common synthesis methods
About UX methods and techniques
It should be noted that not all synthesis methods are required. The same is true for research methods or any UX deliverable. Methods and techniques should only be used as necessary to help you progress through the process.
If user interviews provide enough research data, you can stop there. If the synthesis methods provided enough insights to understand the user and their needs, you can stop there. Methods and techniques are not requirements, they are tools to help you understand the user and their needs.
That being said, I must also make the point that “required” is different from “helpful”. Although you may only need one or two methods to proceed to the next stage, it is always helpful to use more than one method. The more research methods used, the greater the variety of data gathered. The more synthesis methods used, the greater the clarity of insights gained.
In summary, additional data helps reveal a more holistic understanding of users and their needs as each method works within a particular dimension or perspective.
Choosing synthesis methods
Similarly to choosing research methods, you should choose the synthesis method that helps you understand the user and their needs. Synthesis methods are tools to analyze research data for opportunities, insights, themes and patterns regarding our users and their needs.
Always helpful. Helps you make connections between groups of information. The connections spark insights. Insights help you create problem statements.
Helpful when you have a lot of data from various methods and sources. Helps you get a holistic view of the user.
Helpful when a journey has multiple stages and types of product interactions. Helps you understand opportunities and pain points within a journey.
Always helpful. Helps you come up with ideas, think, and design from the perspective of the user. Keeps you focused on the user and their needs.
Always helpful. Helps designers understand the users, their needs and purpose early on in the design process. Final stories help designers and developers align on key areas to focus on for design and development.
As a[persona], I want[goal], so that[reason]
As an [aspiring writer], I want [a better way to keep all my ideas in one place], so that [I can focus on writing and not organization].
Helpful in large or complex situations where context is critical. Scenarios provide context to user stories by showing how personas function within specific situations.
Scenarios are created late in the define stage after personas, user stories, and other deliverables are created.
Scenarios are short stories that contain the following:
- Background: who (persona details)
- Goals: what goals do they want to achieve? (persona, user stories)
- Tasks: what do they have to do to reach their goals?
- Where will they use the design? (environment)
- When will they use the design?
- What might prevent them from reaching their goal? (obstacles)?
- Why do they want to perform the tasks?
For Stormie, the first step in the Define stage was to create an affinity diagram of the research data for themes, patterns, and insights.
Stormie affinity diagram
Affinity diagrams, also known as the “space saturate and group” method, is a way to gather all your research findings into one place for deeper analysis. A common approach is to write down one piece of information per sticky-note and place it on a wall or board. You should end up with a wall filled with research data: key facts, experiences, interview quotes, insights, observations, stories. Perform this as a team if possible.
The next step is to group relevant information together. Once grouped, name and rank the groups. Write the names of the groups on a new sticky note and place it above each group. With the groups named, rank them by priority for the user. Is the group critical for the user and their needs or nice to know?
The last step is to draw connections between the groups and items to identify opportunities, themes, patterns, and deeper insights. Every new connection and insight will get you closer to defining the problem.
The following was revealed from affinity diagramming.
- Integrated writing best practices
- Writing structures to speed up the writing process
- Better ways to organize their ideas
Themes and patterns
- Not enough time/too busy to write
- Need something quick and easy
- Spend too much time researching how to write
- Lots of good, unorganized ideas
- Ideas are saved in various forms, offline and online
- Often forget or lose old ideas
- Have trouble turning ideas into a full story
- Aspiring writers need a quick and easy way to save their story ideas because they are busy during the day.
- Aspiring writers need something simple they can use to record ideas when they get inspired during work or throughout the day.
- Aspiring writers need a best practices and writing framework to help them create story structure because they are not professional writers.
- Many aspiring writers are busy with a full-time job and other responsibilities and don’t have time to sit down and write for long periods of time.
- Many of them haven’t published their writing before and are working on their first book which is taking longer than expected.
- They spend more time researching story structure and how to write than on writing their story.
With these insights a persona was created to visualize the core user.
Personas are fictional representations of actual users based on user research. Personas provide designers and stakeholders with a concrete visual of the core users, their needs, experiences and goals. Personas give the designer a way to step inside the mind of the user when coming up with potential solutions. Being able to think from the mind of the user allows you to create truly innovative solutions.
Use and update personas through the lifespan of the product to keep designs aligned to user needs. The world is an ever-evolving ecosystem of experiences and our products need to reflect an understanding of current user needs. In order to do this, we need to constantly update our personas based on user testing, feedback, and research.
The personas used when the product was created were helpful to launch the product, but are not accurate enough to use long-term after launch. Post-launch customer feedback and testing insights should be integrated back into the personas for a current visualization of the users.
Primary Persona – Whitney Writer
For demonstration purposes, I chose these two methods. In a real project, I may have needed more.
Next time: explanation of a design problem statement and how to create one
In the next article, I will cover the second half of the Define stage. I will explain in detail what a design problem statement is, how to create one, and tips to keep in mind when creating one. Stay tuned for the final article before we start coming up with design ideas in the “Ideate” stage.
↓ Japanese translation of this article