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Understand User



This tool applies a structured research method for gathering insights and data about customer identities, activities, and difficulties. PAIN stands for Person, Activities, Insights, and Needs – the four main research topics explored.

Session Length: 30+ minutes Group Size: 2-4+ people Prep Time: 10+ minutes


PAINstorming works at any point when we need to better understand customer identities, activities, and difficulties.


PAINstorming improves the team’s understanding of the customer’s behaviors, pain points, assumptions, and needs. This should help focus the team on addressing actual user preferences. By providing a focused method for collecting this information, PAINstorming helps increase the speed of delivering impactful solutions. It also encourages adaptability by helping the team explore its assumptions and identify the gaps in its knowledge. The Personas used in this activity should represent the diversity of the user community, in order to accurately guide the subsequent steps.


STEP 1: Identify an initial set of target customers or users (P), perhaps using the Personas tool as a source of inputs.

STEP 2: Observe and/or interview the users to answer the questions identified in the A, I, and N blocks in the PAINstorming table below.

STEP 3: Use this data to ensure that any proposed products, services, or interventions are aligned with actual user preferences.

PAINstorming |Worksheet

Download this tool to print out and start using with your team. Each download includes a tool description and if applicable, a template and example.