Defining the design challenge from a user’s perspective

The second stage of our design thinking project involved defining the problem or problems we were trying to solve. We used insights from the empathy stage to determine ways of looking at the problem from a human perspective, restating it as a design challenge that can be addressed in the ideation stage. In order to do this, we needed to synthesise insights and turn them into a more focused statement.

The table below takes two of the users I researched, and outlines a need and insight for each.

User Need Insight
Pound, a 22 year old design student who lives in central Brisbane To keep essential things with him and know that valuable items are safe He has an everyday wallet and keeps important stuff that’s not needed every day in a separate wallet at home
Mike, a 38 year old MA student who lives in Brisbane A way of keeping ID cards, memorabilia, notes and financial items safe and carrying them with him He keeps a lot of things in his wallet and may not remember what they are if he lost his wallet. He would be stressed by the hassle of replacing wallet contents.

Developing a persona

After conducting user interviews, observing users, analysing findings and discovering insights, the next stage was to create a persona, so we could concentrate our design efforts on addressing their needs. This persona was based on either a colleague/classmate or the person we interviewed during the empathy stage of our design thinking project. Usually a persona is an amalgam of different people who share similar characteristics (rather than a specific individual), but for this rather condensed project we focused on a real person in order to concentrate our efforts and make it easier to get user feedback.

Based on general research with classmates, observation of people in external environments and my interview with research subject Mike, I concluded that people could be grouped into three broad categories related to how they use their wallet: hoarders, organisers or minimalists. Of these, Mike fits into the ‘hoarder’ category. Here’s the persona I developed for Mike, which relates his personality, habits, lifestyle, technology awareness and pain points to the topic in question – his use of, and experiences with, his wallet.

Defining the problem to be addressed

After developing a persona and reviewing our findings from the empathy and define stage, we developed a problem statement, or Point of View (PoV). The aim was to create as simple a statement of possible to show who we are designing for, what they need, and why they need it. This statement is in the format “(User name/type) needs (something useful to them) because (reason why they need it)”.

We experimented with different PoVs and personas in order to determine which problem to focus on, under the overall umbrella of the project topic (personal experiences with wallets). For example, I also developed a PoV for my classmate Pound, which was “Pound needs a way to keep payment cards, IDs and memorabilia safe because he would be stressed and inconvenienced if he lost his wallet.”

Here is the final PoV statement I developed for Mike’s persona:

How might we… solve the problem?

Developing “how might we…” (HMW) questions is a way of focusing in specific questions that, if answered, could help to answer the stated problem. It involves breaking down the problem into manageable sub-tasks, and using these to trigger ideas during the ideation phase. Here are a few HMW questions I developed to help define the problem further:

How might we…

  • help Mike remember what’s in his wallet?
  • store a back-up copy of wallet contents?
  • track wallet contents at any given time?
  • make it easier to cancel or report items stolen or lost from a wallet?
  • track the location of a lost wallet?
  • design a wallet that is hard to steal or lose?
  • design a wallet that nobody would want to steal?
  • reduce the stress caused when a wallet is lost?
  • make it easy for someone to return a found wallet to its owner?

These questions will serve to act as prompts when generating ideas, which is the next stage of the process.


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