Define phase

Use why-how laddering to flesh out varying user needs and find a middle ground that’s both meaningful and actionable. 

As a general rule, asking “why” yields abstract statements and asking “how” yields specific statements. Often times abstract statements are more meaningful, but not as actionable. The opposite is true of more specific statements. 

How to why-how ladder

  1. Step Identify a few meaningful user needs and write them at the bottom of a piece of paper. 
  2. Step Ladder up from that need, asking “why?” For example, why would a user “need to see a link between a product and the process that creates it?” because the user, “needs confidence that it won’t harm their health by understanding its origin.”
  3. Step Ask why again, and continue to ladder from that same need. At a certain point, you’ll reach a very common, abstract need such as, “the need to be healthy.” This is the top of the ladder.
  4. Step Climb back down the ladder asking “how?” This will give you ideas for how to address the needs.


design thinking bootleg by at Stanford University