Lesson Two: Defining Your Problem Statement

Creating a meaningful and actionable problem statement is an important part of the app design process as it  helps you fully understand your goal and creates a clear-cut objective to work towards. It will also help you kick start your ideation process.

UX, or user experience design, is all about solving a user problem, so establishing a clear idea of exactly what problem your app will be solving for your ideal user is an important step in creating a great app. 

Once you have a firm understanding of this problem you’ll  shape it into a problem statement that will act as your north star throughout the design process. It should be actionable for designers and provide a clear description of the issue that the designer seeks to address.

When considering the problem your app will be solving It can be helpful to think of the problem as an unmet need - by designing a solution that meets this need, you’ll satisfy the user and ensure a great user experience.

Throughout this process keep in mind the following characteristics of a good problems statement 

  • It focuses on the user
  • It leaves room for innovation and creative freedom
  • It’s manageable and provides you with direction

There are a couple of methods you can use to condense everything you know about your user problem into a single, concise statement.

The Four W’s Method

Asking the right questions will help you put your finger on the right problem statement. With all your findings from the empathize phase in one place, ask yourself the four Ws: Who, what, where, and why?

  1. Who is experiencing the problem?: In other words, who is your target user?

    Example: People in small businesses running remotely.  Teams within a larger company. Remote software development teams. Younger managers within a technical profession -feel comfortable using software.
  2. What is the problem? Based on the observations you made during user interviews, what are the problems and pain-points that frequently came up? What task is the user trying to accomplish, and what’s standing in their way?

    Example: Businesses need a way to have a rhythm in their business and constant communication among staff especially when working remotely
  3. Where does the problem present itself? In what situation or context is the user when they face this problem?

    Example:  Remote Teams all over the world
  4. Why does it matter? Why is it important that this problem be solved? What value would a solution bring to the user, and to the business.

    Example: Businesses that are operating remotely need a central “water cooler” and way to keep their staff up to date, engaged and informed about what’s happening at the company

The Five Whys

Another question-based strategy, the five whys technique, can help you delve deeper into the problem and drill down to the root cause. Once you’ve identified the root cause, you have something that you can act upon; somewhere specific to focus your problem-solving efforts.

Using our daily huddle board project and the problems surrounding remote work as an example, here’s how you can use the five whys to break down the problem and understand how to create a solution.

Why are companies failing at remote work?
-> They aren’t communicating properly

Why are they not communicating properly? -> They don’t have the proper tools and practices

Why are their current tools and practices not working? -> They aren’t quick and easy to understand/utilize

Why aren’t the current tools easy to use? -> They don’t follow a quick and easy formula that helps with team alignment.

Why aren’t they able to get quick and easy alignment? -> They need to be guided in a simple, easy format

The root cause here is the need for a simple and easy format, so your solution might focus on this. Your problem statement could be:

“Small teams of young technologically savvy professionals need a quick, convenient, guided way of staying connected remotely”

You can state this problem in a number of different ways. For example, our problem can also be stated from the users perspective:

I am a manager of a small team, but I’m struggling because we are now working remotely and am hearing that people are not feeling connected. I need a way to communicate regularly with my team members, motivate them to complete their projects, and create a culture of openness and honesty.


I am an employee and I’m feeling disconnected from all the teams in my company. I’m working from home and don’t know what's going on within the company. 

Now that you’ve crafted your problem statement you’re  ready to move on to User Journey Mapping!

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