Why Asking ‘Why?’ is Important for User Research

Light Bulb Ideas Creative Diagram Concept

WHY ASKING 'WHY?' IS IMPORTANT FOR USER RESEARCH

by Evan-Zane Green

Constant questioning is an important part of every designer’s process. This becomes especially evident when designing experiences to solve problems for people. This is where user research comes in. User research is the “methodic study of target users” (Unknown). To be effective in delivering a product that will satisfy as many people as possible you need to understand your users’ needs as well as what frustrates them about the solutions that are currently available. This is the basis of human-centred design.

It’s impossible to make a good solution to a problem if you do not care about the people who have the problem to begin with (the people who would become your users). That requires empathy. You need to be able to identify your users and relate to their goals and problems on a personal level. This means talking to them, watching them as they go through their daily activities or anything else that you can do to understand them better. So how does this relate to asking ‘why’? When you constantly and consistently ask why a problem needs to be solved, it helps to keep you as the designer and the other people you are working with (good design isn’t done alone) on target. Asking ‘why’ helps you figure out who your user is, recognise their goals, and notice issues in their current process. Make sure that what you create will help rather than make the problem worse.

To illustrate this point, let’s look at an example. The owners of a coffee shop come to your design team with this design problem: “Our small business, Kristen’s Coffeehouse, has an issue with customer retention. We have less customers each day and many of them leave disgruntled. As a result, our yearly profits are declining.” So your client has told you their issue and you hold your first meeting to address the issue. You grab a marker and a sticky note and put the current prompt on the whiteboard.

Prompt 1

At first glance, this seems like a perfectly good way to visualize the problem. However, while Kristen’s Coffeehouse will benefit from having this issue solved, the coffeehouse is not the individual who will be using the solution you are trying to design. Furthermore, the fact that their profits are dropping isn’t the problem, it is just a result of the problem. So, how do we get to the real problem? We ask why.

Prompt 2

After asking why, we see that their revenue is decreasing because customers can’t get the orders they want. But why?

Prompt 3

Okay, so now we know that there is an inventory shortage that needs to be addressed. Who is in charge of the inventory and why are they having an issue doing their job?

Prompt 4

The managers are having problems with keeping track of the inventory. That needs to be addressed but why is there this problem?

Prompt 5

So the managers have a problem using the old and hard to navigate inventory management system the Kristen’s Coffeehouse uses. This is what we are looking for. We have our user, the manager, and our problem, the inventory management system is difficult to use. With this revised design problem, all the teams have their marching orders and can get to work. It is important that teams regularly look back at this prompt to make sure that what they are creating still solves their users needs. This is an important part of the design process and must be done regularly.

It is important that designers always stay curious. Designers should always be questioning and be trying to push the boundaries of what can be done in any given problem. The perfect solution may not be reached the first, second or even the fifth time around. It is what makes design iterative but it is also what makes it fun.

Sources

  • “Design Thinking Courses and Certifications – Enterprise Design Thinking.” IBM, www.ibm.com/design/thinking/page/courses/Practitioner.
  • “Uncover the Problem.” IBM Watson Media, video.ibm.com/recorded/120135766.
  • Unknown. What Is User Research? www.interaction-design.org/literature/topics/user-research.
Light Bulb Ideas Creative Diagram Concept

WHY ASKING 'WHY?' IS IMPORTANT FOR USER RESEARCH

by Evan-Zane Green

Constant questioning is an important part of every designer’s process. This becomes especially evident when designing experiences to solve problems for people. This is where user research comes in. User research is the “methodic study of target users” (Unknown). To be effective in delivering a product that will satisfy as many people as possible you need to understand your users’ needs as well as what frustrates them about the solutions that are currently available. This is the basis of human-centred design.

It’s impossible to make a good solution to a problem if you do not care about the people who have the problem to begin with (the people who would become your users). That requires empathy. You need to be able to identify your users and relate to their goals and problems on a personal level. This means talking to them, watching them as they go through their daily activities or anything else that you can do to understand them better. So how does this relate to asking ‘why’? When you constantly and consistently ask why a problem needs to be solved, it helps to keep you as the designer and the other people you are working with (good design isn’t done alone) on target. Asking ‘why’ helps you figure out who your user is, recognise their goals, and notice issues in their current process. Make sure that what you create will help rather than make the problem worse.

To illustrate this point, let’s look at an example. The owners of a coffee shop come to your design team with this design problem: “Our small business, Kristen’s Coffeehouse, has an issue with customer retention. We have less customers each day and many of them leave disgruntled. As a result, our yearly profits are declining.” So your client has told you their issue and you hold your first meeting to address the issue. You grab a marker and a sticky note and put the current prompt on the whiteboard.

Prompt 1

At first glance, this seems like a perfectly good way to visualize the problem. However, while Kristen’s Coffeehouse will benefit from having this issue solved, the coffeehouse is not the individual who will be using the solution you are trying to design. Furthermore, the fact that their profits are dropping isn’t the problem, it is just a result of the problem. So, how do we get to the real problem? We ask why.

Prompt 2

After asking why, we see that their revenue is decreasing because customers can’t get the orders they want. But why?

Prompt 3

Okay, so now we know that there is an inventory shortage that needs to be addressed. Who is in charge of the inventory and why are they having an issue doing their job?

Prompt 4

The managers are having problems with keeping track of the inventory. That needs to be addressed but why is there this problem?

Prompt 5

So the managers have a problem using the old and hard to navigate inventory management system the Kristen’s Coffeehouse uses. This is what we are looking for. We have our user, the manager, and our problem, the inventory management system is difficult to use. With this revised design problem, all the teams have their marching orders and can get to work. It is important that teams regularly look back at this prompt to make sure that what they are creating still solves their users needs. This is an important part of the design process and must be done regularly.

It is important that designers always stay curious. Designers should always be questioning and be trying to push the boundaries of what can be done in any given problem. The perfect solution may not be reached the first, second or even the fifth time around. It is what makes design iterative but it is also what makes it fun.

Sources

  • “Design Thinking Courses and Certifications – Enterprise Design Thinking.” IBM, www.ibm.com/design/thinking/page/courses/Practitioner.
  • “Uncover the Problem.” IBM Watson Media, video.ibm.com/recorded/120135766.
  • Unknown. What Is User Research? www.interaction-design.org/literature/topics/user-research.
Light Bulb Ideas Creative Diagram Concept

WHY ASKING 'WHY?' IS IMPORTANT FOR USER RESEARCH

by Evan-Zane Green

Constant questioning is an important part of every designer’s process. This becomes especially evident when designing experiences to solve problems for people. This is where user research comes in. User research is the “methodic study of target users” (Unknown). To be effective in delivering a product that will satisfy as many people as possible you need to understand your users’ needs as well as what frustrates them about the solutions that are currently available. This is the basis of human-centred design.

It’s impossible to make a good solution to a problem if you do not care about the people who have the problem to begin with (the people who would become your users). That requires empathy. You need to be able to identify your users and relate to their goals and problems on a personal level. This means talking to them, watching them as they go through their daily activities or anything else that you can do to understand them better. So how does this relate to asking ‘why’? When you constantly and consistently ask why a problem needs to be solved, it helps to keep you as the designer and the other people you are working with (good design isn’t done alone) on target. Asking ‘why’ helps you figure out who your user is, recognise their goals, and notice issues in their current process. Make sure that what you create will help rather than make the problem worse.

To illustrate this point, let’s look at an example. The owners of a coffee shop come to your design team with this design problem: “Our small business, Kristen’s Coffeehouse, has an issue with customer retention. We have less customers each day and many of them leave disgruntled. As a result, our yearly profits are declining.” So your client has told you their issue and you hold your first meeting to address the issue. You grab a marker and a sticky note and put the current prompt on the whiteboard.

Prompt 1

At first glance, this seems like a perfectly good way to visualize the problem. However, while Kristen’s Coffeehouse will benefit from having this issue solved, the coffeehouse is not the individual who will be using the solution you are trying to design. Furthermore, the fact that their profits are dropping isn’t the problem, it is just a result of the problem. So, how do we get to the real problem? We ask why.

Prompt 2

After asking why, we see that their revenue is decreasing because customers can’t get the orders they want. But why?

Prompt 3

Okay, so now we know that there is an inventory shortage that needs to be addressed. Who is in charge of the inventory and why are they having an issue doing their job?

Prompt 4

The managers are having problems with keeping track of the inventory. That needs to be addressed but why is there this problem?

Prompt 5

So the managers have a problem using the old and hard to navigate inventory management system the Kristen’s Coffeehouse uses. This is what we are looking for. We have our user, the manager, and our problem, the inventory management system is difficult to use. With this revised design problem, all the teams have their marching orders and can get to work. It is important that teams regularly look back at this prompt to make sure that what they are creating still solves their users needs. This is an important part of the design process and must be done regularly.

It is important that designers always stay curious. Designers should always be questioning and be trying to push the boundaries of what can be done in any given problem. The perfect solution may not be reached the first, second or even the fifth time around. It is what makes design iterative but it is also what makes it fun.

Sources

  • “Design Thinking Courses and Certifications – Enterprise Design Thinking.” IBM, www.ibm.com/design/thinking/page/courses/Practitioner.
  • “Uncover the Problem.” IBM Watson Media, video.ibm.com/recorded/120135766.
  • Unknown. What Is User Research? www.interaction-design.org/literature/topics/user-research.
Light Bulb Ideas Creative Diagram Concept

WHY ASKING 'WHY?' IS IMPORTANT FOR USER RESEARCH

by Evan-Zane Green

Constant questioning is an important part of every designer’s process. This becomes especially evident when designing experiences to solve problems for people. This is where user research comes in. User research is the “methodic study of target users” (Unknown). To be effective in delivering a product that will satisfy as many people as possible you need to understand your users’ needs as well as what frustrates them about the solutions that are currently available. This is the basis of human-centred design.

It’s impossible to make a good solution to a problem if you do not care about the people who have the problem to begin with (the people who would become your users). That requires empathy. You need to be able to identify your users and relate to their goals and problems on a personal level. This means talking to them, watching them as they go through their daily activities or anything else that you can do to understand them better. So how does this relate to asking ‘why’? When you constantly and consistently ask why a problem needs to be solved, it helps to keep you as the designer and the other people you are working with (good design isn’t done alone) on target. Asking ‘why’ helps you figure out who your user is, recognise their goals, and notice issues in their current process. Make sure that what you create will help rather than make the problem worse.

To illustrate this point, let’s look at an example. The owners of a coffee shop come to your design team with this design problem: “Our small business, Kristen’s Coffeehouse, has an issue with customer retention. We have less customers each day and many of them leave disgruntled. As a result, our yearly profits are declining.” So your client has told you their issue and you hold your first meeting to address the issue. You grab a marker and a sticky note and put the current prompt on the whiteboard.

Prompt 1

At first glance, this seems like a perfectly good way to visualize the problem. However, while Kristen’s Coffeehouse will benefit from having this issue solved, the coffeehouse is not the individual who will be using the solution you are trying to design. Furthermore, the fact that their profits are dropping isn’t the problem, it is just a result of the problem. So, how do we get to the real problem? We ask why.

Prompt 2

After asking why, we see that their revenue is decreasing because customers can’t get the orders they want. But why?

Prompt 3

Okay, so now we know that there is an inventory shortage that needs to be addressed. Who is in charge of the inventory and why are they having an issue doing their job?

Prompt 4

The managers are having problems with keeping track of the inventory. That needs to be addressed but why is there this problem?

Prompt 5

So the managers have a problem using the old and hard to navigate inventory management system the Kristen’s Coffeehouse uses. This is what we are looking for. We have our user, the manager, and our problem, the inventory management system is difficult to use. With this revised design problem, all the teams have their marching orders and can get to work. It is important that teams regularly look back at this prompt to make sure that what they are creating still solves their users needs. This is an important part of the design process and must be done regularly.

It is important that designers always stay curious. Designers should always be questioning and be trying to push the boundaries of what can be done in any given problem. The perfect solution may not be reached the first, second or even the fifth time around. It is what makes design iterative but it is also what makes it fun.

Sources

  • “Design Thinking Courses and Certifications – Enterprise Design Thinking.” IBM, www.ibm.com/design/thinking/page/courses/Practitioner.
  • “Uncover the Problem.” IBM Watson Media, video.ibm.com/recorded/120135766.
  • Unknown. What Is User Research? www.interaction-design.org/literature/topics/user-research.