Designing with Purpose: Using ‘How Might We’ Questions to Design Better Products

HMW questions help frame issues in a way that encourages creative thinking and generates a wide range of potential solutions.


In the design world, finding innovative solutions to complex problems is critical. One effective technique that designers use is the "How Might We” (HMW) question. HMW questions help frame issues in a way that encourages creative thinking and generates a wide range of potential solutions.

What are HMW questions?

HMW questions are open-ended queries that challenge designers to think outside the box. These questions typically start with “How might we?" followed by a problem statement or challenge. The purpose of an HMW question is to inspire brainstorming and generate ideas that lead to innovative design solutions.

For example, let's say you're designing a mobile app for a ride-sharing service. A traditional problem statement might be, "How can we improve the user experience of our app?" While this statement is valid, it only provides a little direction for generating ideas.

By rephrasing the problem as an HMW question, such as "How might we make the app more intuitive for first-time users?" you open up the possibilities for creative solutions. This question encourages designers to think about onboarding processes, user interfaces, and other elements that enhance the user experience for new users.

Why are HMW questions effective?

HMW questions have several benefits that make them an effective tool in the design process:

  1. Encourages creativity: HMW questions challenge designers to think beyond conventional solutions and explore new possibilities. By framing problems in an open-ended way, designers are more likely to generate unique and innovative ideas.
  2. Focuses on user needs: HMW questions put the user at the center of the design process. By starting with "How might we,” designers are prompted to consider the users' needs, desires, and pain points. This user-centric approach leads to more empathetic and user-friendly designs.
  3. Generates diverse ideas: HMW questions encourage brainstorming and collaboration. When designers come together to answer these questions, they bring their unique perspectives and expertise, leading to various ideas. This diversity sparks creativity and results in more comprehensive design solutions.
  4. Provides a clear direction: HMW questions help designers narrow their focus and give a clear problem-solving direction. By framing problems as questions, designers have a specific problem to solve and will ideate more effectively.

How to use HMW questions in the design process

Here are some steps to help you effectively use HMW questions in your design process:

  1. Identify the problem: Identify the problem or challenge you want to address. Be specific and clear about what you want to achieve.
  2. Reframe the problem as an HMW question: Take the problem statement and rephrase it as an open-ended HMW question. This question should inspire creative thinking and exploration.
  3. Brainstorm ideas: Use the HMW question as a prompt for brainstorming ideas. Encourage team members or stakeholders to contribute their thoughts and suggestions. Capture all ideas, no matter how wild or unconventional they may seem.
  4. Evaluate and prioritize: Once you have a list of ideas, evaluate and prioritize them based on feasibility, impact, and alignment with your goals. This step will help you identify the most promising solutions.
  5. Prototype and test: Develop prototypes of your selected solutions and test them with users. Gather feedback and iterate on your designs based on the insights gained from testing.
  6. Iterate and refine: Use the feedback and insights from testing to refine your designs. Iterate on the solution until you achieve a design that effectively addresses the problem.

By following these steps, you’ll leverage the power of HMW questions to drive innovation and create user-centric designs.

Wrapping up

"How Might We" questions are a valuable tool in the design process. They foster creativity, focus on user needs, generate diverse ideas, and provide a clear direction for problem-solving. By incorporating HMW questions into your design process, you unlock innovative solutions and create designs that truly meet the needs of your users. So, the next time you face a design challenge, ask yourself, "How might we approach this problem differently?”

Not your average designer.

With over two decades of experience, I’ve not just designed products — I’ve generated record-high revenue for clients with designs that have reached millions of people.

My professional journey includes founding a 30-person design agency, creating and launching my own products, mentoring other designers, and having a long list of satisfied clients worldwide.

"Design isn't just a profession — it's my purpose-driven passion"

What I’ve done.

A few of my favorite projects from recent years.

“If you’re building a product, you must work with Tim.
We’re going to work with him on all our products.”

Mike Greene, CPO at SPL