User Research: Asking Good Questions

Things to keep in mind for your next user interview

As a global design company, our clients often ask us to help them better understand their customers and make better product decisions. The best way to accomplish this is through user research, and anyone who conducts design research knows: user insights are only as good as the questions asked.

Here are our User Research team's tips for asking the right questions during your next user interview.

Preparing your user interview script 

Keep things open-ended 
Don't ask anything that can be answered with one word. It's a conversation, not a survey, so steer clear of any yes/no questions. The more thoughtful your question, the more reflective the response. 

An easy way to do this is to ask your participant to walk you through an entire experience. For example, if the goal is to understand someone’s daily hygiene habits, ask them to walk you through their morning routine. 

Stay in the present 
Avoid the hypotheticals. Human beings are terrible at predicting the future. Focus your questions on things that have actually happened and ask users to be specific: think back to the most recent event and describe it.

Beware of Bias  
In our day to day life, we unconsciously consider matters from our own perspective and process it subjectively. With this in mind, take care to remove any bias, assumption, and instances of "This is normal for me. Isn't it for you?" that may be buried in your interview script. For example, asking someone how much they like you assumes that they like you and doesn't provide space for the user to be apathetic or explain that they dislike you. 

Creating context in your user testing session

Ask the most important questions first. This way, if time gets cut short, you have the most important points covered. Keep in mind, however, that your priorities may be different for every interview. 

Start general... 
Your first questions should create the context for follow up questions and the rest of the interview. This is true for both you, the interviewer, and the participant. 

...then get specific 
Once you have your user thinking about a particular time, place or event, ask for more detail. For example, begin by asking the user to walk you through their day. Then ask about a specific moment or process from the day's afternoon. From here, you can go into greater detail: e.g. the why, how and what. 

Conclude the interview on a high note 

End on an opinion 
Sometimes, the business needs to hear a user's opinion of the experience overall. We ask these questions last, so the opinion (positive or negative) doesn't taint the rest of the interview. Even if the business hasn't explicitly requested a tester's opinion, it's always good to ask, "Is there anything else you would like to share?" before you officially end the interview. 

Ultimately, if you want the interview participant to open up to you, you first have to take the step. By being open, transparent, and adapting to the situation at hand, you can make sure your next user interview is enjoyable and worthwhile for everyone involved. #yougotthis

If you have any questions or comments about our user research practice or lab, don’t hesitate to reach out to our Berlin Studio Lead, Matthias:

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