Making Great Products by Solving User Problems

Many user experience (UX) designers get caught up in crafting features, forgetting the bigger picture. While features are important, they should serve a greater purpose: solving real-world problems for users.

Think of it this way: features are like pieces of a puzzle. But without the complete product picture, those features are meaningless. A smartphone, for instance, can run countless apps. But the core function of a phone is communication – making calls and sending texts. Apps can add value to communication, but without that core function, they’d be useless.

This is the essence of product thinking, a concept championed by Nikkel Blasse, a product and interaction designer. It emphasizes prioritizing the product itself, with features playing a supporting role.

1.Understanding the User’s Pain Point: The Cornerstone of Product Thinking

The Crucial Question: What Problem Does Your Product Solve?

Product thinking starts with a fundamental question: what real-world problem are you solving for your users? This is the core reason why they’ll choose your product. If you fail to address a genuine user need, or your solution misses the mark, your product has no value. Think of it this way: a product without a problem to solve ends up forgotten, gathering dust.

Focusing on Real Problems, Not Imaginary Ones

It’s tempting to rush into solutions. However, tackling a non-existent problem is a recipe for failure. While course correction is possible after launch, it’s much better to prioritize uncovering genuine user needs. This can be challenging – even thorough research might lead you down the wrong path.

The User at the Heart: Uncovering Hidden Needs

The best place to start is by talking to your target audience. However, remember, users might not articulate their problems perfectly (think of Steve Jobs’ famous quote!). Dig deeper: conduct user interviews, observe them in their natural environment, and go beyond surface-level conversations. By understanding the user’s pain points, you’ll be well on your way to developing a product with real value.

2.The User-Centric Roadmap: A Structured Approach to Product Thinking

Product thinking follows a clear structure that prioritizes the user experience (UX). Let’s break it down:

A.User Focus: The Heart of Product Thinking

Forget bells and whistles for a moment. Product thinking starts with a fundamental shift in perspective: the user. It’s all about understanding the challenges your target audience faces – their pain points, their struggles. This very problem becomes the core mission your product will tackle. But who exactly are these users? Defining your target audience is equally important. By understanding their needs, behaviors, and desires, you can ensure your product resonates with the right people. This initial user focus sets the stage for a product that truly solves problems, not just creates features

B.Unveiling the “Why” and “How

We’ve identified the user’s pain point, but product thinking delves deeper. Now, we explore the “why” behind their actions. What motivates them to seek solutions? What goal are they trying to achieve? Understanding this “job to be done” is crucial.

Next comes the “how.” This is your strategy – the approach you’ll take to address the user’s needs and fulfill your product vision. It’s the roadmap that translates your understanding of the user’s goal into a successful solution.

C. Goals First, Features Follow

Before diving into features, product thinking sets clear goals: what exactly do we want our product to achieve? These goals should be specific and measurable. Features then become the tools that help us reach those goals and solve the user’s problem. Remember, features are the “how,” not the “why.

Problem-Solving is Paramount:

The key takeaway? Solving the user’s problem comes first. Features can enhance the solution, but a product without a clear purpose is ultimately useless. Stunning visuals and interactivity are valuable tools, but without utility, they become meaningless.

Defining the Product through UX:

Once you’ve established these core elements, you can clearly define your product from a UX perspective:

  • Target Audience: Who is this product for?
  • Problem Addressed: What issue does it solve for them?
  • Solution Strategy: How will it achieve this?
  • Expected Outcomes: What are the desired results?

3.Bridging the Gap: How Product Thinking Informs Design Decisions

Product Thinking: A Designer’s Superpower

Product thinking equips designers to create features that truly matter to users. It shifts focus from isolated features and design elements to viewing the product as a cohesive whole, addressing a specific user need. This ensures design efforts tackle problems that are meaningful and reduces the risk of creating products that miss the mark.

Empowering Designers, Streamlining Design

Product thinking fosters a questioning approach. It empowers designers to ask critical questions during product development and have the confidence to reject features that don’t directly support the core solution. This leads to leaner, more effective products that prioritize user needs.

The Takeaway: Building Better Products Together

By examining every design decision through the lens of the user’s problem, product thinking enables designers to create truly impactful products. It also strengthens the collaboration between UX designers and product managers, fostering a shared understanding of user needs and goals.

Beyond Buzzwords: A Tool for Advocacy

While some may dismiss product thinking as a mere buzzword, its core principles can be a powerful advocacy tool. This framework might resonate more effectively with managers, clients, or teams compared to other design methodologies. Analyze your audience and choose the terminology that best conveys your ideas and achieves your goals.


Ultimately, the key takeaway is this: focus on the user. By understanding their pain points with a keen eye and crafting solutions that meticulously address them, you’ll create products that are not only successful, but also truly valuable. This user-centric approach ensures that, ultimately, your product solves real problems and resonates with the people who matter most: your users.

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