Do You Agree that Product Thinking Is the Next Big Thing in UX Design?

Published May 2, 2018 by Tom Jager in User Experience
⚡ Updated on October 3, 2023

UX designers often get caught up in trying to design the best possible interface or product which is both streamlined and easy to use. In addition to that, they work hard on providing users with a set of features which enables them to do things just a little bit easier. However, regardless of how important they might seem, features are only a fraction of the entire product. The reason why a solution exists in the first place is because there is a problem which needs to be solved.

And the very essence of great user experience is not the design nor the features. It is the product’s ability to solve the issue. For instance, when you order something on Amazon, there is a feature which allows you to track your product. It’s awesome, but it doesn’t mean a thing if the product never gets to your door.

On the other hand, Amazon delivery would still work just fine without it. Obviously, the product-feature relationship is not a two-way street. This is the reason why product thinking is the next big thing in UX design.

Focus on the Problem Your Product Is Used For

The main reason why your product or any other product has value is because it can solve an issue for those people which have purchased it. However, if you were to remove that issue altogether, your product, its design, and all its useful features would become worthless. For instance, tire manufacturers are always working on developing tires which are quieter and provide more grip. The tires at the solution. But, if flying vehicles were to become the next big thing, tires would become irrelevant.

Another example are professional writing services, which focus on helping students with their essay assignments. Of course, since most students hate writing essays, the issue is always going to be there, and writing services will provide a solution. But, there is an underlying issue there, as well. Most students wait until the very last day to start writing their papers, which is not enough time.

So they turn to these services for help, most of which are able to provide them with an essay in under 24 hours. Speed is crucial here, which means the ordering process need to be as streamlined as possible, which inevitably affects the UX design. However, most problems are much trickier to figure out, but we can reduce the amount of guesswork by actually talking to people and listening to their problems and pain points.

The Problem with Problem Thinking

Arguably, the biggest problem with product thinking is the fact that people don’t know what they want. Let’s consider an example by Clayton Christensen, a Harvard professor hired by McDonalds to boost their milkshake sales. He approached the problem by interviewing people. Most of them wanted their milkshakes to be sweeter, or bigger, or with more chocolate. Each of those changes were implemented by McDonalds, and their sales results remained pretty much the same.

Christensen then adopted a different approach. He focused on the customers and their reasons for buying a milkshake. About 40 percent of milkshake sales were made early in the morning. He then realized people were drinking them while driving to work. Milkshakes can be handled with one hand, they give people something to do during long drives, and they keep them full until lunch. McDonalds responded by making their milkshakes thicker, and the sales skyrocketed.

To solve the riddle of problem thinking, you need to talk to people and analyze their behavior in real life.

Product-Solution Match

With product thinking, you need to ask yourself a few questions:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Whose problem are we solving (this is your target audience)?
  3. Why (your company’s vision)?
  4. How are we going to achieve it (your approach/strategy)?

There are others, but these are essential. Only after you have tackled each one successfully can you start to think about specific features of your product.

Product thinking enables UX designers to create the right features for the right kind of audience. It allows you to focus on the entire user experience, and not just the design elements or user’s interaction with your product. When solving real problems for real people, you are reducing your chances of creating a product no one needs, or which solves a problem which doesn’t exist in the first place.

The biggest problem with product thinking is the fact that people don’t know what they want Click To Tweet

Product thinking focuses on the core user experience of your product, because that is what gives your product value and why buyers decide to purchase it in the first place. Features, beautiful interface, and ease of use can only improve upon that core experience, but they cannot replace it, nor can they stand alone.

By asking the right questions and providing a meaningful experience, you can create a product which is both effective and packed with great features. That way, it will become something people will want to buy.


Product thinking is set to become the essential approach, not just for UX designers, but for managers and companies alike. It allows you to make the right decisions, and solve real problems for real people, and as a result, you will have a superior product. Not to mention that you will save money by targeting the right people right from the beginning.

Tom Jager is professional blogger. He works at Awriter.  He has degree in Law and English literature. Tom has written numerous articles/online journals. You can reach him at G+  or  Facebook.

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