News, Technology, UX Design

The Entanglement of Product Thinking and Problem Solving

Abhinav Raj

Abhinav Raj, Writer

Putting products first, and building meaningful solutions—is product thinking the essence of great UX design?

Products solve problems you knew you had; features solve the ones you didn’t. 

If product thinking is problem-solving, where does one begin putting the pieces of the puzzle together? 

According to the Interaction Design Foundation, effective product thinking begins with the identification of the audience’s problem. Along with this, must come the identification of the audience encountering the said problem. Identifying a problem that doesn’t exist, or designing a solution that doesn’t solve the problem, won’t provide value to the product; which is why identification can be tricky. In the words of Steve Jobs:  

“People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”

The next step in the cognitive process of product thinking is ratiocinating how the desired end result will be achieved, and the approach that leads to it. Here, it is imperative to ponder upon the achievements of the solution and its secondary features that complement it; the features must be in consonance with the product and only a small, yet significant fragment in the user experience. 

Over the years, WhatsApp messenger has accumulated a myriad useful features: calling, video conferencing, location tracking, voice messaging and even media sharing; but at its core, the application is what its name suggests: a messenger. The core user experience of WhatsApp is seamless, instantaneous text messaging, which is what caused the app to skyrocket to popularity in its early days. Take out the feature of messaging, and all of its features together couldn’t save its user base of 2 billion from dwindling.

“This is clearly a UI problem: It’s got more to do with you than I” (Image: Daniel Cheung on Unsplash)

The product is the boat, and features the oar; you can float on a stream upon the boat, but to navigate it, you use the oars. The oars help you give direction to your boat and let you reach where you want to be, and in doing so, give more value to the product; however, no one buys the boat just for the oars, and evidently, the oars without the boat are redundant.

In “Why product thinking is the next big thing in UX design”, Nikkel Blaase remarks: “Design with the product in mind, not its features.” 

The UX Connections View

Chris SainsburyChris Sainsbury
Managing Director

At UX Connections we use a combination of design thinking, technical requirements and product analysis, and advanced research techniques to deliver for our clients. Tried and tested approaches such as build-test-learn, and lean innovation sprints, allow us to bring validated product ideas to market with our clients in record time. By the time they are built, they have confidence they’ll be useful to users and monetised in the right way. Please get in touch if you’d like help in these areas.

The guiding philosophy behind product thinking is simple and unambiguous— putting products first. 

The product is a consonant system of solutions, intertwined by design. 

Blaase has observed, “Product thinking enables UX designers to ask the right questions.” When the right questions are asked, ideation takes a meaningful form; and products resonate with stakeholders. 

Besides, what better way is there to solve problems for someone, than asking questions?

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