Research & understanding

Framing the problem

Colton Schweitzer
October 14, 2020

Before designing anything, you need to have a solid understanding of the problem that you’re solving. To get to that understanding, you need to truly define the problem. What is it that you’re solving exactly? 

Imagine if you were flying from New York to Warsaw. If the plane was aimed even 1 degree off course, you could end up in Romania getting eaten by vampires. 

In UX, the same thing happens if you don’t frame the problem correctly. If you don’t truly understand the problem, you could end up building the wrong solution. 

At the start of many UX projects, UX designers conduct what’s called a stakeholder interview. These are one-on-one interviews with people such as the product manager, developers, UX manager, and any other stakeholder who has a vested interest in the project’s outcome. In each interview, you record their beliefs, assumptions, and questions to get clarity on the direction you’ll take to solve the problem. 

Stakeholder interviews are super helpful. However, we prefer framing the problem to accomplish this. Framing the problem is a document we create at the beginning of a project with the project stakeholders. It gathers stakeholder opinions, assumptions, and questions with everyone in the room, instead of the time-consuming one-on-ones. 

Framing the problem has 6 parts:

1. The general problem you’re solving.

2. “How might we” question.

3. The impact you hope to have on the business.

4. Your assumptions about the problem.

5. The questions you need to answer to solve the problem.

6. The constraints associated with the project.

Sometimes the insights you gain from your research will indicate that you actually framed the wrong problem. At that point, you’ll come back to the document and rewrite it to reflect the problem that you're now trying to solve. 

Framing the problem is a living document that might change along the way as you gain a deeper understanding of the user.

We see framing the problem as one of the only mandatory parts of the UX process. It’s the primary document that we use as a north star throughout the UX process to provide clarity and focus on what we actually need to solve.

Use the framing the problem document to:

Understand the problem you’re tackling in a general sense and from the business and user perspectives. 

Build team camaraderie around solving the problem together.

Determine the impact you’d like to have by solving the problem.

State all assumptions you believe to be true or not about the problem.

List out your research questions.

State the project constraints.

Back to vault

108

Back to vault

108

What is UX?

2
Getting started

Why is UX important?

3
Getting started

What is the UX process?

4
Getting started

What is design thinking?

5
Getting started

What do UX designers do?

6
Getting started

UX vs UI

7
Getting started

Do UX designers need to know how to code?

8
Getting started

Recommended UX books

9
Getting started

UX university programs: Pros & cons

12
Getting started

UX bootcamps: Pros & cons

13
Getting started

6 brutal truths aspiring UX designers don't want to hear

14
Getting started

Difference Between Graphic Designer vs UX Designer vs UI Designer

15
Getting started

Intro to research & understanding

101
Research & understanding

Finding a problem to solve

102
Research & understanding

SWOT analysis

103
Research & understanding

Competitive analysis

104
Research & understanding

Heuristic evaluation (usability evaluation)

105
Research & understanding

Task analysis

106
Research & understanding

Stakeholder interview

107
Research & understanding

Framing the problem

108
Research & understanding

Research plan

109
Research & understanding

Survey

110
Research & understanding

User interview

111
Research & understanding

Card sorting

112
Research & understanding

Customer journey map

113
Research & understanding

Empathy map

114
Research & understanding

Affinity diagram

115
Research & understanding

Personas

116
Research & understanding

Contextual inquiry

117
Research & understanding

Diary study

120
Research & understanding

Eye tracking

121
Research & understanding

Intro to IA

201
IA & wireframing

Layout + CRAP

203
IA & wireframing

Site map

204
IA & wireframing

Scenarios

205
IA & wireframing

Storyboards

206
IA & wireframing

Low vs high-fidelity

207
IA & wireframing

Sketching

208
IA & wireframing

Wireframes

209
IA & wireframing

User flows

210
IA & wireframing

Intro to usability testing

301
Prototyping & usability testing

Usability testing plan

302
Prototyping & usability testing

Prototypes

304
Prototyping & usability testing

Research report

305
Prototyping & usability testing

Typography basics

401
Visual design & handoff

Color basics

402
Visual design & handoff

Color accessibility

403
Visual design & handoff

Pixels vs points

404
Visual design & handoff

Layout + 8pt grid system

405
Visual design & handoff

Design system

406
Visual design & handoff

UX writing

408
Visual design & handoff

"Final" usability test

409
Visual design & handoff

UX portfolio basics

501
UX portfolio

Your portfolio is just another UX project

502
UX portfolio

Choosing a site builder for your UX portfolio

503
UX portfolio

UX portfolio inspiration

504
UX portfolio

5 tips for junior UXers asking for portfolio feedback

505
UX portfolio