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What are the 4 Ws in the design problem statement?



The design problem statement is about framing a narrow user-centered problem to give the researcher a good focus and accommodate creativity on its path.

The goal of every problem statement is to explain a user’s need in view of its solution. Many times, users have a need they cannot vividly explain, which would take conversational interviews to observe what the root of the user’s dissatisfaction is.

No matter what a product does for a user, if it does not take away an unseen burden and replace it with a refreshing feeling of satisfaction, the product may not have met its purpose. A user’s uncovered needs are the purpose of a new product, and this gives the designer an opportunity to look through this problem with a creative lens. The design problem statement is a key part of interactive design.


The 4 Ws

The 4 Ws in the design problem statement help filter irrelevant ideas from the observed problem and make the problem worth solving. This makes every provided solution fulfilling for the target user.

The 4 Ws are as follows.

Who is affected?

The researcher and everyone taking part in the project evaluate who is affected by the problem. What part of the world are the affected persons from? What are the personalities of the affected persons? What is the age bracket of the affected persons? Are there possible likes and dislikes? Are there stand-out motivations for the affected persons? And for what reason do these people have this situation?

What is the problem?

Here, we uncover exactly what the problem is and what kind of task is involved. For instance, say we have a set of customers who are unhappy due to delays in deliveries of a logistics firm. We are able to understand that there is dissatisfaction derived from the inability of the logistics firm to meet the customer’s expectation, which is centered on Time wasting.

Where does it happen?

Now, we focus on the context of the problem. We find out if the dissatisfaction or problem comes from using a digital product or having a physical experience with something. The case of the logistics firm above is actually a physical experience and the parties connected to the event are observed. For the physical instance above, we observe if it is the dispatch team or the goods team that is responsible for the delay. Every involved party is identified and monitored.

In the case of a digital product, we ask if it is the service provider or the user device that is responsible for the dissatisfaction. We then identify the trigger to the event.

Why does it matter?

We finally decide if this problem is worth considering or if it is a seasonal occurrence. We also observe if the problem is recent or if it was caused by a new policy or by a body in authority.

We consider the following questions. If we handle this problem, will it help the user have a better experience? Will it affect the business for the better? Do we proceed to proffer a solution or should we wait for other triggers? After we ask these questions, we gain a clear focus and we can frame a problem statement. At this point, the designer can begin to see a solution through the lens of the framed problem statement.



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