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How to Analyze an Experience

When you start to identify your design requirements, you already know what problem you are trying to solve. But what does "solving" your problem really mean? Your design requirements are the specific needs that must be met in order to call your design a "solution."

For an experience, your problem is likely related to an event, an interaction, or a particular portion of time that you are trying to improve for a user or a group of users. An example is going to summer overnight camp for the first time. The problem statement is:

Kids who are going to overnight camp for the first time need to feel safe and at home, because being away from their parents can make them homesick and sad.
  1. From the problem statement, we can start asking ourselves the right questions to create a list of design requirements. Pull the major need or needs of your solution from your problem statement.

    Example: The major needs of the overnight camp experience are to make the campers feel:
    • Safe
    • Like they are at home
  2. For each need, ask yourself: "What is absolutely essential to satisfy this need?" Right now, do not brainstorm. Instead, figure out what must happen to meet the need in your future solution. Your answers to these questions are your first design requirements. (Note: if you can remove your answer to the question and still meet the need, then your answer is not a design requirement.) The "Needs" table illustrates how to find the first design requirements for the camp experience example.
Major Needs from Step 1
The camp experience needs to make the campers feel:
What is Essential to Meet the Need
(Possible Design Requirements)
  • Protection from danger
  • Being surrounded by other people
Like they are at home
  • Adults present
  • Some of their belongings from home

These answers are all design requirements because they must be a part of your solution in order to meet the need. When you take away "protection from danger," then it is impossible to meet the need for the campers to feel safe.

An answer to this same question that is not a design requirement is "steel locks on all of the windows and doors." Even though having steel locks at the camp might make the campers feel safe, you can take away this answer and still find a different way to make the campers feel safe. That is just one possible solution to the need, not a requirement of your design.

  1. What are the time and place requirements/limits of the specific experience you are designing? The answers to this question are your next design requirements.

    Example: What are the time and place requirements/limits of the overnight camp experience?
    • The experience must occur at the summer camp location.
    • The experience must take place during the first week of camp.
  2. What other experiences exist that are similar to the experience that you are designing?

    Example: Experiences similar to attending your first overnight camp include:
    • Leaving for college
    • Starting the first day at a new school
    • Going on vacation with a friend's family
  3. Go through each of these other experiences one at a time. If possible, talk to people who have been through these experiences in the past. Ask the people you are interviewing (or yourself if you don't know anyone to interview) the following questions:
    • What negative things happen during these experiences that are similar to the things you are trying to protect your user from?
    • What objects, people, or activities exist that protect people from the negative effects of the experience?
    • What positive things happen that are similar to the things you are trying to create for your user?
    • What are some objects, people, or activities that aid in creating the positive effects of the experience?
  4. Analyze your answers to the questions in Step 5. Look at your answers to part b and part d. If the objects, people, or activities must also exist in the experience you are designing (either to protect your user from something negative or to aid in creating a positive portion of the experience), then they are design requirements.
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