What Is User Problem Statement?

A problem statement sums up the user pain-point or problem you will seek to solve with your design. A problem statement is an actionable summary of your user, their goals, and what you need to solve to meet those goals. It sets the course for your project’s user experience; however, it should not include anything about the design elements or user functionality you might employ to solve the problem. Instead, it should provide insight into why you are designing the user experience to begin with. Moreover, a problem statement is a concise description of the problem or issues a project seeks to address. The problem statement identifies the current state, the desired future state and any gaps between the two. A problem statement is an important communication tool that can help ensure everyone working on a project knows what the problem they need to address is and why the project is important.

In other words, a user does not need to be able to use two-factor authentication to get into a banking app, they need to be able to access their banking information securely. The problem statement should lay out the user’s need (secure access) but leave out any possible solutions (two-factor authentication), which should not be considered until further along in the design process.

A problem statement is a concise description of the problem that needs to be solved. It is a helpful scoping device, focusing the team on the problem it needs to explore and subsequently solve. A problem statement makes clear what needs to be done in discovery and what is out of scope. Problem statements are also great communication tools; well-written ones can be used to gain buy-in from stakeholders on why it is important to explore and solve the problem.

Here are some examples of user problem statements:

Users of a newspaper app often export content from the app, rather than sharing content through the app. This is a problem because target audiences are less likely to know that the content came from the actual app, leading to lower conversion rates. This is also a problem for app users, as exporting content is time-consuming and could lead to a decrease in app usage.

Sales reps spend a long-time planning which leads to visit each month. Because planning is done manually — using Excel spreadsheets and printed paper lists—sales reps find it difficult to meet their targets. Many have complained that keeping track of which leads to visit takes away from the time they can spend with them. This is a problem because, when targets are not met, the business risks losing revenue.

Each year, many applicants call the contact center seeking an update on their application. Applicants often spend a long time waiting to speak to an agent. Because contact-center staff members lack access to case information, they are unable to answer queries from applicants. This situation causes frustration for both applicants and customer-contact staff and represents an avoidable cost to the department.

It is a good idea to write a problem statement as early as possible in your discovery, as it can help set discovery goals and objectives. Many teams will compose their problem statement in a discovery kick-off workshop.

What Is the Importance of User Problem Statement?

Your problem statement can be used as the starting point for structuring your discovery work. For example, if the problem statement was about improving the home-buying process, the goal for the discovery should be to learn about opportunities to make home buying quicker and easier. Once we have a discovery goal, it becomes easier to know what unknowns need research. For instance, in this case, we probably want to know things like:

As you begin discovery, you can return to your problem statement and refine it—particularly if you have learned root causes or how much a problem costs your organization. Another reason to update your problem statement is if the discovery changes direction—which can happen when new areas of interest are highlighted through exploratory research. Finally, at the end of the discovery process, the problem statement can be communicated alongside your findings and recommendations to provide the full narrative of the discovery process.

A problem statement is important to a process improvement project because it helps clearly identify the goals of the project and outline the scope of a project. It also helps guide the activities and decisions of the people who are working on the project. The problem statement can help a business or organization gain support and buy-in for a process improvement project.

What Are the Key Elements of a Problem Statement?

There are four key elements you should include when writing a problem statement:

Ideal Situation. The first thing your problem statement should describe is what the ideal situation would be if there wasn’t a problem you needed to address. This section identifies the goals and scope of the project are. This section should create a clear understanding of what the ideal environment will be once the issue has been resolved.Proposal. The proposal section of a problem statement may contain several possible solutions to the problem, but it is important to remember that it does not need to identify a specific solution. The purpose of the proposal section should be to guide the project team on how they can research, investigate and resolve the problem.Reality. The next section of your problem statement should describe what the current reality is for your company or organization. This section will identify what the problem is, state why it is a problem and identify who the problem is impacting. It will also describe when and where the problem was identified.Consequences. The next section of your problem statement should identify what the consequences of the problem are. This section describes the effects of the problem by describing how the people affected by the problem are being impacted and quantifying how much the problem is impacting them. Common consequences can include the loss of time, money, resources, competitive advantage, productivity and more.

How to Write a User Problem Statement?

A good problem statement can be created by identifying and answering several questions related to the problem. The process used to write a problem statement should involve answering questions using a method commonly known as 5W2H. This process involves identifying what the problem is, why it is a problem, when and where the problem was identified, who the problem impacts, how they are impacted by the problem and how much of an impact the problem has. You can use the following process to craft a problem statement that addresses the following:

Step 1: Identify the Problem

Before you can begin writing your problem statement, you first need to identify what the problem is.

Step 2: Start the Statement with the Ideal Situation

You can begin writing your problem statement by describing what the ideal environment would look like if your problem did not exist. This section should try to describe what your company hopes to accomplish as a result of the process improvement project.

Step 3: Describe Current Gaps

Write the reality section of your problem statement. Your goal in this section should be to clearly identify what the current environment looks like. In this section, you should identify what the problem is, what is causing the problem and why it is an issue. You should also describe when, where and how you were able to identify the problem.

Step 4: State the Consequences of the Problem

Write the consequences section of your problem statement. This section is used to quantify and support the claim of what the problem is. You can use this section to identify specific numbers such as the amount of time or revenue being lost or the number of resources being wasted. It is important to include concrete numbers that support your claims in this section.

Step 5: Propose Addressing the Problem

Finally, end your statement with a proposal section. In this section, you should try to identify how your company will make progress toward reaching your goals and accomplishing your ideal environment. While you may choose to identify several possible solutions in this section, it is more important to focus on identifying how your company will find those solutions than it is to identify the specific solution that will be used.

It is important that problem statements are written well to serve their purpose. A problem statement should:

Not be a long list of unrelated problems. A discovery effort should have one problem statement, and the problem statement should be focused on one problem. Of course, a single problem could cause further problems, and those related problems can be added to your problem statement. But listing many unrelated problems is a sign that you’re tackling too much.

Not contain a solution. Leave solutions out of your problem statement. At the beginning of discovery, there are too many unknowns, so the best solution is not obvious. At the end of your discovery, you’ll be in a good position to confidently put forward solution ideas that address the problem and take into account what you’ve learned.

Be brief. Problem statements are effective when they are concise. If you can condense your problem statement down to a few sentences, others will quickly understand what you focus on and why, and what’s out of scope. Spend some time to draft and redraft the problem statement with your team.


What Are Four Important Things to Include in a Problem Statement?

It should put the problem in context like what do we know; describe the precise issue that the research will address; show the relevance of the problem; and set the objectives of the research.

At Which Stage the Problem Statement Is Made?

This happens during the define stage when we organize, interpret, and make sense of the data we have gathered to create a problem statement. Although analysis takes place during the empathize stage and synthesis takes place during the define stage, they do not only happen in the distinct stages of design thinking.

What Can Effective Problem Statements Help UX Designers Do?

Problem statements help us understand constraints. We want to know what’s keeping users from getting their needs met. An effective problem statement tells you what the user really needs. By defining the goal clearly and concisely, it gets all members of the design team involved and focused on the same thing.

What Comes After a Problem Statement?

This is a time that you can revise, modify or clarify them because you now have more background understanding about the problem and needs of your particular research study. After you construct this problem statement, then you should re-evaluate your research title, research question and sub questions.

What Are the Benefits of Answering the Five W-Questions When Crafting a Problem Statement?

In a business context, this notion of project management helps you ask the right questions to understand a specific problem and answer it more efficiently. It also allows teams to identify several factors, share the same vision of a situation and not go off-topic.

What Is the Difference Between Background and Problem Statement?

The problem statement though is a brief explanation of an issue, a condition, or a situation that is going to be studied. The background provides the context of a study and establishes its significance. It introduces the research topic and leads the readers to the gaps in knowledge that have remained unaddressed.

A problem statement is a concrete and well-defined description of the problem to be solved. Writing problem statements at the beginning of the discovery process can create alignment and buy-in around the problem to be solved and provide direction in subsequent discovery activities. To construct problem statements, focus on who the problem affects, how it does so, and why it is highly important to solve the problem.