Jumping to Solutions

In design, you try to solve problems. I try to do this too when building products and features.

Solving problems can be hard because humans are naturally obsessed with solutions-so much so that they jump to solutions before problems are truly understood. A problem could be completely different in the context of other problems. A problem could also be misinterpreted or a symptom of another problem.

Example 1

Problem: Users aren’t using this feature

Solution: Tell them to use it. Have customer service remind them. Send out email campaigns about it. Put a million pop up reminders on the site! Go wild!

I’ve seen this solution many times. The assumption is that people are unaware that a solution exists. That’s why they’re not using the thing.

That could be the case. However there are a lot of other possibilities. Maybe we aren’t entering that persons life at the right time or in the right place so they don’t see us when they need us. Maybe the feature isn’t all that useful so people aren’t using it. Maybe the language in the feature is confusing so users don’t know how to use it. There could be a lot of ways to interpretation this problem.

Example 2

Problem: Users are underwhelmed by a reporting feature. They don’t think they should pay extra money for it.

Solution: Make it fancier. Shinier. Make a dashboard.

Hold on a second. What if users are underwhelmed because they don’t have the data points they need? Maybe they’re disappointed in how they have to export data to present it to their execs. How do users perceive value? Does it mainly have to do with aesthetics? How does a dashboard reflect more value?

The struggle is real. It’s hard to convince your CEO to invest time and resources into a squishy, undefined solution that will morph over time. It’s much easier to say-we’re going to invest in designing and building a “dashboard” or a “reskin” or a “drop down”.

In the spirit of this article, I will offer three squishy strategies to coming up with better solutions. If you have other recommendations-by all means, comment!

1. Find at least 5 examples of the problem and take a good, long look.

2. Get as many people into a room to interpret the problem. More brains/perspectives = less likelihood you’ll misinterpret something.

3. Try to recreate the problem. Walk customers through the problematic flow or ask them about a scenario in which the problem may exist.

4. Be open to discovering other related problems. Sometimes problems may be a symptom of other problems.

That’s all for now! Big shout out to my new, incredibly awesome company, IdeaScale. I’m the happiest camper.