Students will develop the skills and understandings to get at some of the deeper insights and issues contributing to and issue
Why laddering is an exercise in helping students get to
the deeper insights and underlying issues of a given challenge.Students will meet with their subject,
take what they feel are their most valuable insights, and proceed to
continually ask why until they get to some deeper understandings….
As a general rule, asking ‘why’ tends to yield more abstract statements and asking ‘how’ gets you more specific ones. Often times abstract statements are more meaningful but not as directly actionable, and the opposite is true of more specific statements. That is why you ask ‘why?’ often during interviews – in order to get toward more meaningful feelings from users rather than specific likes and dislikes, and surface layer answers.
When you think about the needs of someone, you can use why-how laddering to flesh out a number of needs, and find a middle stratum of needs that are both meaningful and actionabl
When considering the needs of your user, start with one meaningful one.Write that need on the board and then ladder up from there by asking ‘why’. Ask why your user would have that need, and phrase the answer as a need. For example, “Why would she ‘need to see a link between a product and the natural process that created it’? Because she ‘needs to have confidence that something will not harm her health by understanding where it came from’.” Combine your observations and interviews with your intuition to identify that need. Then take that more abstract need and ask why again, to create another need.Write each on the board above the former. At a certain point you will reach a very abstract need, common to just about everyone, such as the ‘need to be healthy’. This is the top of that need hierarchy branch.
You can also ask ‘how’ to develop more specific needs. Climb up (‘why?’) and down (how?) in branches to flesh out a set of needs for your user. You might come up to one need and then come back down. In the previous example, you climbed up to the ‘need to understand where a product came from’. Then ask ‘how’ to identify the ‘need to participate in the process of creating a product’. There will also be multiple answers to your ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ – branch out and write those down.
The result (after some editing and refining) is needs hierarchy
that paints a full picture of your user or composite user. Alternatively, you can use this tool to
hone in on one or two particularly salient needs.