Framing the problem statement

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One of the foremost steps in design thinking is defining the problem statement because as Charles Kettering, Head of Research, General Motors, said, “ A problem well defined is a problem half solved.”

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For designers, a user need statement is the problem statement that summarizes what the user’s unmet needs are that “if met” can satisfy the user’s purpose.

What you seek is what you get. So efforts spent on defining the problem can help a team in creating great solutions to it.


  1. Avoid proposing solutions– A problem statement should not be suggesting solutions but lead to an understanding of the fundamental problem.
  2. Frame questions, not statements– Questions help in brainstorming and gathering ideas and lead to new insights. Instead of saying- our sales plummeted for this month, reframe it as- How can we improve sales for next month?
  3. Ask whys– Using the 5 Whys technique helps in deep diving into the problem and uncover the root cause of it.
  4. Define scope- The problem statement should neither be too broad nor too specific. Too broad can lead the members to chase too many paths leading to chaos, too specific can leave no room for exploration and creativity.
  5. Make it understandable- It should be stated in simple language such that every member can resonate with it, recall it and have the same understanding level. It should be devoid of jargon and multiple meanings.

The process of defining problem helps in collecting multiple perspectives and let the expectations and efforts of the team members be aligned.

It also helps in filtering out irrelevant ideas and retaining only the ones that meet the need.

After all, the right answer to the wrong question is a bugger to all.


Framing the problem statement was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.