Defining the problem is an integral part of design thinking process. It requires the clear understanding of the user’s needs and it’s often the hardest part of the process. Follow these practical steps and look at how we defined the problem with a help of Space Saturate and KWL Chart. 

Making a Good Problem Definition


You need to frame a problem statement according to the specific user and his needs. The human is in the center of the problem, so avoid defining the problem around a technology or a product.

Broad enough to allow creativity

Don’t be too specific about the implementation of the solution of the problem. Of course, you can’t build a spaceship if you are an interior design company, but try not to focus on the specific solution. Give yourself a space for creativity and various designs.

Narrow enough to make it manageable

On the other hand, don’t be too broad with your statements. It will cause the confusion about the clear actions your team members need to take. There have to be some constraints that will show you the right direction of the next steps.

Design thinking problem definition

A Problem Definition Process

I’m gonna guide you through the problem definition process that we have made in AWW app. The goal was to find out which functional and user experience problems are users facing while using different visual collaboration tools.

We decided that testing out tools ourselves will bring the best results. Firstly, we have defined the most common use cases with the help of our customers. Then, we have selected few most popular visual collaboration tools. We have rolled up our sleeves and tested three collaboration whiteboard tools during a three-day period.

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Since we got very broad results, we decided to focus on one specific use case. So, we selected visual concept building for developers. Then, we picked another three tools to test out. This time tools were more specific as well.

We picked up the list of online concept mapping and workflow visualization tools that were ranked as most used and best one. That enabled us to see and feel the same worries that users are facing when using certain tools every day. So, we ended up with the list of observations and suggestions from the user point of view. 

Space Saturate and Group

Space saturate and group is a method of bundling ideas, observations and experiences that you have gained in the first phase of design thinking process. It is a collage of findings from entire team gathered in one place.

Design thinking , Space Saturate
Space Saturate and Group. Courtesy of The Interaction Design Foundation.

We have made our space saturation on a separate Trello board. But then we realized that’s not visual enough, so we copied all our observations on a clear AWW board. Then, we grouped the observations and synthesized them in clusters. The result was a clear vision of the problem users are facing when using visual collaboration tools.

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KWL Chart

To visualize the path of our learning, we made a KWL chart inside AWW board.

Design thinking , KWL Chart
KWL Chart in Design Thinking: Visualization of the Problem Defining Process

The above KWL chart shows what we had known, what we wanted to know and what we have learned. So, our testing process resulted in these facts:

  • there are a lot of specialized tools for concept mapping and workflow visualization on the market
  • most of them are not user-friendly in terms of accessibility and intuitiveness
  • you need to go through several steps of the registration process before starting using them
  • tools offer a limited set of highly specialized features
  • they are not flexible enough on the things you can do in your own style
  • tools are overpacked with the pre-made assets, so it’s hard to make a way
    through them
  • there are the limited number of users with whom you can share the concepts

Here is the interactive KWL chart that you can edit with your own findings and observations. You can even invite other team members and colleagues to take part in brainstorming and knowledge sharing. After you’re done, you can save the board in your repository to review the chart with new findings, as you learn more.

A Point of View = A Problem Statement

Having all these facts in mind, we have structured a meaningful and actionable problem statement. In other words, we have formed our POV – a point of view.

Define your point of view with this easy guideClick To Tweet

Design thinking POV
Defining the Point of View. Courtesy of:


POV: Developers need a flexible, easy-to-use visualization tool which they can access immidiately because they need to visualize their concepts.

With the clearly defined POV, we can proceed with further steps of the design thinking process. How are your experiences? Do you have something to add? Please let me know at

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Author: Dorotea Knezevic

Head of Marketing at AWW. Google certified specialist, content creator and social media enthusiast