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The Five Whys That Tell You Why

Five Whys

When you are a web design professional, you should be prepared for all sorts of topsy turvy questions, some of them good, some of them bad and some of them that won’t make that much of a difference to the client at the end of the day.

Life has given you lemons make some lemonade and tell the world that you are an expert in what you do.

This is the part where you use your Five Whys, to get a clear picture of what your client’s problem is and how you need to go about solving it.

Let’s take a look at how to make use of thee magic questions to get to the heart of the problem and have a happy customer at the end of it.

The two words no designer wants to hear, “I need”

Here are a few examples of the “I need” request.

More often than not some people come up to you and bluntly ask for a website that is just like another online shop in terms of design and functionality. If you’re having a good day they will go ahead and ask for a pretty basic feature such as social sharing, or features that won’t really prove helpful for bringing in conversions or enhance consumer experience (infinite scrolling), or even request for conversion blocking features such as extra required fields on the cart page, while a configuration change in the admin would have things working just fine.

Professionally speaking “I need” is not the ideal way to get talking with a client. A designer would want to speak to the client in detail and decipher what they really want so that he can put his skills to use and come up with suggestions and better options. Blindly doing what the client asks for would lead to a waste of time and money. Instead you can give them a solution that will actually help their cause.

The Five Whys

This is a great combat technique when it comes to addressing the ‘I need’ requests. With this you can figure out and pin point what exactly your client needs.

Let’s take a look at an example

Request – “I need to add five more slides to my slideshow.”

  1. Why? “Because I want all my products to be showcased.”
  2. Why? “Because I don’t customers to miss out on items they may like.”
  3. Why? “Because I want to every opportunity to make a sale.”
  4. Why? “Because I want to bring in more sales.”
  5. Why? “Because I want to get gold teeth and engrave my initials on the incisors.”

Within a minute you have an idea of what it’s going to take to accomplish the final goal. The more questions you ask the closer you get to the real reason behind the request and simultaneously get closer to the solution as well.

It’s time to look at every question and figure out how to address the client’s needs.

“Because I want all my products to be showcased.”

A slideshow wouldn’t serve best if you want to feature all your products, because let’s face it a viewer’s attention span ends with the first slide. Instead you can look for other means, like introducing a sub navigation page or taking better advantage of product tags. You can make better, the search function on the site. You can also put in the featured products and collections on the home page.

“Because I don’t customers to miss out on items they may like.”

It’s a sure fact that you can have a more targeted audience here. You can use options that will enable users to add related items to the cart like “You might also like” and “Customers who bought this also liked” sections. You can avail the services of some awesome apps that will help you deliver personalized recommendations all through your website so as to ensure that customers don’t miss out on content, particularly content that is relevant to them.

Now you may be worried about your abandoned cart notifications. Fret not, even that can be put to good use, by including product recommendations on your various shop notifications. You can also include personalized recommendations in newsletters that you send out. And what’s more, all of this is will prove more effective than having five slides in your slideshow.

“Because I want to every opportunity to make a sale.”

To start with, let’s take a look at your site analytics and user testing, so that we know where your customers are leaving the website before becoming a customer. The issue may not be whether they are seeing your content or not. The likely possibilities for this happening are, the way the site is displayed on the mobile, or shipping rates. In such cases you could try pricing strategies, sales and bundles.

“Because I want to bring in more sales.”

You have a bounty of options when it comes to increasing sales. You can work on the copy write, photography, SEO, increasing the speed of your website, making it more mobile friendly. You can take this opportunity to spruce up your marketing strategy as well.

“Because I want to get gold teeth and engrave my initials on the incisors.”

Ok nice may be taking the situation way over board, but hey it is a possibility!

Getting to the Root of the Problem

Every design team is different. You have two kinds of developers here, one that appreciates the directions given and follow them to the t and the other who actually want to understand why. Like every other problem, this request of ‘I need’ also has a root system of attendant design and development decisions. In such situations understanding why the client wants that particular change to be made will help make decisions that tend to those goals.

At this point of time it would be advisable for you to put in a word to client stating that you will not drop the ‘why bomb’ 5 times. It will be used only when in dire need of knowing the reason for change only for the sake of acting towards it effectively.

Try a different approach by explaining to the client the difference between communicating a good feedback and a bad feedback. For example

  • Bad feedback: “Move this to the top, make it bigger and brighter.”
  • Great Feedback: “We want our customers to see this as soon as they visit our page, would it be possible to highlight it in any way?”

Clients who ask these questions result in requests that can actually be fulfilled.


The five whys will help a designer solve real problems. This way you can work with your clients to achieve goals as opposed to typing out codes and invoicing for hours. You get an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and strengthen client relationships!

And Scene!