Customer Pain Points

Be Better At UX Design: Learn How To Identify Customer Pain Points (Updated 2021)
by Tim Moad
30 Nov 2020
11 min read
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Design thinking is a non-linear process of human-centred designing. It consists of multiple infinite loops, especially if you are designing a website over a period. This process comprises of 5 steps:

  1. Empathize
  2. Define
  3. Ideate
  4. Prototype
  5. Test

The Empathize stage of the process is to get to know the user that you will be designing for. It helps you to understand their problems and provide adequate solutions. In the Define stage, you will be forming a problem statement with the help of the results from the first step. Ideate stage of designing is about generating as many ideas as you can to solve the customer's problem. Prototyping, as the name suggests, is the phase where you will create a mock or a demo version of your design that you want to publish for the customer. The Test stage is for testing the product once it's ready.


In this blog, I will take a closer look at helping you understand your customer's pain points and defining their problems. Here's a quick video to warm you up for this blog. Be sure to read the entire blog to understand the proper technique of identifying your customers' pain points.


  1. Empathizing To Understand Customer Pain Points
  2. Defining A Problem Statement To Come Up With Solutions


Identifying your customer’s pain points is a mix of what is done in the first two stages of the design thinking process, i.e. Empathizing and Defining. While empathizing, you must attain qualitative and quantitative data from the user to identify the problem or pain points of your customer. An essential aspect to keep in mind while performing this step is to keep aside your biases, judgements and assumptions and to focus solely on the customer's point of view. To empathize is to understand and share the feelings of another person.

There are three types of empathy:

  1. Cognitive Empathy
  2.  Emotional Empathy
  3. Compassionate Empathy

Cognitive empathy is "putting yourself in someone else's shoes" and is often thought of as an under-emotional approach as it requires more feelings and less logical analysis. Emotional empathy is when you feel the other person's emotions more emotionally than logically. Compassionate empathy means feeling compassion for someone and taking further steps to solve the problem. While trying to understand your customer's pain points, it is compassionate empathy that you need to use and encourage amongst the UX designers of your company. Your users don't just want you to understand and know their problems; they also require you to take action and mitigate or eradicate their problems, thereby, increasing the quality of their experience with your product. 


In the Empathizing Stage, you can use different methods to acquire data.

  1. The most commonly used method is to observe your users in real-time. This helps in answering three questions:
  2. Conducting remote observations by recording the user as they use your product in their natural environment is another method of empathizing and can be achieved with the help of a design team and some consultants.
  3. Interviewing the user by asking the right set of questions is another way to be able to empathize with them. These set of questions should be prepared with the help of your project team in advance.
  4. The analogical approach will be able to provide you with a better understanding of the customer's problems. You might have already noticed in your daily life, using analogies can make things easier to understand, and you relate better to them. For example, suppose you are looking to improve an online shopping experience. In that case, you can look into critical aspects such as stating the pricing information clearly, displaying the exact product, having an efficient online customer service etc. Now you will take another example of an experience that has some of these aspects which enable you to understand the users' problem in a more personal manner. 
  5. Creating personas can help a designer to understand users' needs, expectations, behaviours and goals. Creating personas and brainstorming can be incorporated together for better results.
  6. By using empathy maps, a designer asks the following questions to the users :
    • WHO are we empathizing with? Who is the person we want to understand? What is the situation they are in? What is their role in the situation?
    • What do they NEED to DO? What do they need to do differently? What jobs do they want to or need to get done? What decisions are they taking? How will we know they were successful?
    • What do they SEE? In the marketplace, in their immediate environment. What are they watching and reading?
    • What do they say? What have we heard them say? What can we imagine them saying?
    • What do they do? What do they do currently? What behaviour do we observe? What can we predict them doing?
    • What do they HEAR? What do they hear from others? Friends, colleagues, relatives, etc.


Using any of the methods mentioned above, you can gain ample data from the users to be able to identify where they are facing the most problems. There is no specific method to improve empathizing with your customer. Still, what is important that is you keep doing this repeatedly to be able to deliver a refined and smooth product. In the next part of the blog, you will get an idea of how to identify the problem and choose an issue to work on using the data that you have collected in the first step of the design thinking process. This step is also known as the 'DEFINE' stage. 

In the define stage, you will be unpacking all the data that you have collected by various tools and methods. Then you need to synthesize it (synthesizing data is combining the data to draw conclusions based on evidence). Once the synthesizing is complete, you will look for insights and needs. It is also possible that the synthesis will not be comprehensive. You might realize that you need more data to be able to conclude. Again, the design thinking process is not linear. If you think you require more information, you will go back to step one and gather it first. The aspects that you need to take care of while defining an issue is ambiguity, uncertainty and lots of time and space. This stage is critical in the process because this is where it is ensured that you are aware of the final aim of your project. It is essential to find out if your team is working towards the right goals. Thus a problem statement needs to be defined to ensure it is the right thing you have chosen to work on. 

A purposeful and feasible problem statement will steer your project in the right direction. A good problem statement will include factors such as:

  1. Keeping it focused on the user
  2. Not having a very broad or very narrow scope.
  3. Focusing on a single problem at a time instead of multiple and providing context. 

After the application of these methods, you might notice that you need to redefine the problem. With the continuous refinement of the problem, it becomes possible to pinpoint and focus, leading to better solutions. It is essential to remember that the customer does not always know what exactly they want. If you wish you get a handle on your customers’ behaviour, be sure to check out my upcoming blogs. Make sure you follow me on Instagram to be notified when the new blog releases.


The Proto Process is my initiative to help people have a glorious career in the field of UX. UX Design is a rewarding career opportunity that offers satisfying work. A UX designer can impact businesses and their customers in the most significant way possible. If this is something that interests you and you wish to learn more about it, feel free to get in touch with me! I will be more than happy to help you with your UX journey. Don't hesitate from adding me to LinkedIn and following The Proto Process! I give daily UX related tips on Instagram and Twitter, making sure you are always learning. 

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