Media product teams should be asking these 5 solutions-driven questions

By Jodie Hopperton

INMA

Los Angeles, California, United States

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Hi there. In my last newsletter, we looked at reframing no with a set of questions. So what happens if the answer isn’t no? The question has been fielded and it’s a yes. In fact, it’s a great idea that fits company goals and is worth pursuing. In this week’s newsletter, we look at how we can take an idea that’s already been thought through from a business perspective to look at it from a product stand point and how that may fit with the product experience as a whole.

I’d love to hear of any other frameworks you use. Message me at jodie.hopperton@INMA.org or on the Product Slack channel.

Best, Jodie.

Solutions frameworks

Using product thinking, we will always start with the problem and work through questions to understand for whom it is for, why it’s important, how we will build it, and when it needs to be built for. Thus, the WWWWH framework. Let’s look at this in more detail.

Five questions of the WWWWH framework.
Five questions of the WWWWH framework.

What is the problem you are looking to solve?  

The problem should be looked at from a user perspective. For example, in a company whose primary objective is engagement, which is measured by time spent, the problem should not be simply be articulated as “the Web site is old and clunky” or “it needs an upgrade.” The problems here should be articulated as user issues and associated business issues: e.g. users drop out before the page fully loads, which means low enagagement.  

Next we move on to the audience: Who are you are solving the problem for? 

A problem could be generic for all users, such as the example above. Or it may be a more specific segment of users, e.g. rural readers engage far less than city dwellers. There should be data to back up any statements.  

Once we have defined the problem and the audience that will benefit, we ask: Why is this important for users? And why is this important for the business?  

Here the reference should be back to user data/comments and to company objectives. For example, research shows that by increasing page load speed by 10%, reader engagement increases by 5%. Thus illustrating a reader problem and how it matches a company objective.  

How we will build it?

Once you have determined the problem and how it relates to both the user and company goals, it’s time to start looking at solutions. Perhaps the answer seems straightforward, but be careful to look at it from multiple angles. This is where a multi-disciplinary team really shines. The “how” will eventually need a detailed spec, something we will go into more later in the initiative.  

When does this need to be launched? Is there an urgency/time sensitivity of the problem?  

An idea or user problem may be time sensitive as it relates to an event (e.g. elections or COVID coverage). It could also be tied to an internal timeline such as an upcoming marketing campaign. Or it may need to be weighed with other items on the product roadmap, in which case the next step needs to be developed before this one can be answered. 

Here are a couple of other simple articulations of this framework that can be used as good starting statements to share internally. 

The Interaction Design Foundation formula:  

  • This product is for: (Your Audience).

  • It will help them solve this problem: (The Problem).

  • We will do this by: (The Strategy).

  • We expect a working product to: (The Objective).

Interaction Design Foundation formula.
Interaction Design Foundation formula.

The Jeff Gothelf Formula:

We believe [this outcome] will be achieved if [these users] attain [a benefit] with [this solution/feature/idea].

This is an oversimplified solution of course. This gives us a one- or two-page overview. Most of the time a full review and spec would need to be developed before something can be built out.  

Define the holistic perspective

Using these frameworks will help define features for users. These may be incredible in their own right and solve a specific problem. You’re using them? Excellent, give yourself a pat on the back. 

But nothing is ever that straightforward, right? 

In addition to designing for specific user needs, we need to think about how these fit in with the whole experience. If teams work in isolation to build features, it can lead to a fragmented product that doesn’t work together cohesively.

This image from Naren Katakam is a fantastic representation of this:

This image from Naren Katakam illustrates the perils of focusing on features instead of holistic problems.
This image from Naren Katakam illustrates the perils of focusing on features instead of holistic problems.

We need to be mindful not to get lost in specific user problems and solutions. We need to look at how it works with the entire product experience. And that is why we need oversight of products across the entire organisation. 

Date for the diary: October’s Product and Data Summit

We’ve announced speakers for our Product and Data Summit. Who will be sharing their words of wisdom you ask? Here are a just a few that we’ve announced: 

  • Gibson Biddle, former vice president of product at Netflix.

  • Caroline Carruthers, author of The Chief Data Officer’s Playbook

  • Lippe Oosterhof, head of product for News, Entertainment, and Lifestyle at Yahoo.

  • Taihei Shigamori, deputy general manager/digital fransformation office, at Nikkei.

  • Ruth Betz, director/digital news at Hamburger Abendblatt.

You can see more on the Summit Web site here. Plus INMA Researcher-in-Residence Grzegorz Piechota, the brains behind the INMA Readers First and Smart Data initiatives, will join me to share insights from the INMA initiatives.

Tweet of the week: User Experience vs. Design

The image says it all. This is why focusing on consumer needs and wants is more important that designing a solution first.

Recommended reading

If you want to go further into the frameworks mentioned above, here are three articles that may help:

And one last article that struck me this week:

What Makes Elon Musk Move So Fast? on Monday Note. Frederic Filloux pulls some Elon Musk product lessons from a recent documentary on SpaceX. If you don’t have the time or inclination to watch the documentary, this is an insightful read on how to apply the lessons to news media.  

About this newsletter 

Today’s newsletter is written by Jodie Hopperton, based in Los Angeles and lead for the INMA Product Initiative. Jodie will share research, case studies, and thought leadership on the topic of global news media product.

This newsletter is a public face of the Product Initiative by INMA, outlined here. E-mail Jodie at jodie.hopperton@inma.org with thoughts, suggestions, and questions. Sign up to our Slack channel.

About Jodie Hopperton

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