YOU WANT UX RESEARCH SUCCESS? JUST ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS IN THE RIGHT WAY
Usability tests can be an integral step in understanding how a new feature or product works for your users. To make sure you get the most out of your research, it's important to understand what questions to ask to get those key insights.
Asking the right questions starts long before you’re “in the field”. It begins with defining your objectives, is the key to recruiting the right participants, and will determine if you get the answers you need from participants for an insightful and useful project.
ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS TO DETERMINE YOUR RESEARCH OBJECTIVES
Clearly defining your objective—what business problem you want to inform and what you want to learn is the foundation to rewarding user research. Without clarity and specificity in your objectives, you won’t know what you’re looking for in participants or what questions to ask them. Start with these questions to help you define your objectives:
- What do you hope to learn from doing this research that you don’t already know?
- What do you already know, or think you already know in terms of what you want to learn?
- Why do you want to learn this? What business decisions do you want to be able to make–or actions do you want to take–when this research is complete? In other words, what do you want to DO with the insights and learnings from the research after you have them?
ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS TO FIND, QUALIFY, AND RECRUIT PARTICIPANTS
For UX Research, participant requirements are many and often very specific
The first step in recruiting the right participants for your research is defining the characteristics of an ideal participant. This depends on the topic or focus of your research. Some questions to ask might include:
Is the product, design, or feature that is the subject of the research:
- Targeted to your current audience or a smaller more specific demographic within your current audience or is it meant for a broader audience or an entirely new and different audience?
- Used mostly or solely by people in a specific industry or business?
- Used mostly or solely by people in a specific occupation?
- Used mostly or solely by people at a certain professional level?
- Used only in certain geographic areas or is it used differently in different geographic areas?
Additional questions to determine participants could include:
- What behaviors or habits do your participants need to be familiar with?
- What is the frequency and recency of the behavior or habits your participants need to be familiar with?
- How familiar do participants need to be or not be with the type of product, design, or feature you’re testing?
- Do participants need to have a specific income level?
- What don’t you want in participants? Will experience in certain industries, positions or professional levels disqualify potential participants?
- Do participants need to be users or purchasing decision makers of certain products or features?
The answers to these questions will determine the questions you ask potential participants to qualify them for your research.
The steps to a successful recruit:
The Screener Survey: You’ll want to use a survey as a first step to filter out the most unqualified participants. Keep it short enough to assure completion, but exhaustive enough to address the most important participant criteria. You can consider including a decoy question and response choice that will filter out unqualified participants.
A survey may not give you enough information to determine the right participants. You may want to individually screen potential participants to make sure they fully qualify for specific behaviors or skill sets.
The Screener Interview: Screener questions should not be leading. They can be open-ended or multiple-choice. A mix of both can work well. With multiple-choice responses make sure not all answer choices qualify potential participants.
Along with asking the questions to determine the behaviors and psychographics of your participants, you’ll want to make sure that participants are articulate and comfortable speaking about your research topic. Include one or two questions related to your study that will require a thoughtful, well-articulated response. Here are examples:
- Will you explain how you decided where to travel the last time you went on vacation?
- Walk me through how you chose and purchased your last car.
- Will you tell me about the products you use daily to perform your job?
Where to Find Potential Participants
Now that you know what qualifies someone to be a participant, you’re likely asking yourself:
- Where will I find the right participants?
Great question and one that leads to a few more things to consider:
- Is the target audience solely your current audience?
- If the answer is yes then you can use your database to recruit.
- Is the target audience a combination of your current target audience and non-target audiences?
- Then you’ll need a second source of potential participants.
- Is the target audience professionals in specific fields and/or at specific professional levels?
- Your options include recruiting from professional social media sites like LinkedIn, professional associations, or working with a B2B recruiting platform. Some recruiting platforms like Respondent pre-qualify participants, make sure they have a valid work email, and offer extras like participant notification and incentive payment.
CONDUCTING YOUR RESEARCH: THE HOWS AND WHATS
Usability testing is a different kind of research
Show and Tell: When conducting a usability test, you will be asking participants to interact with a product, design, or feature. You then observe how they interact with it. But observation alone is not enough. You must ask questions that explore participants’ thoughts, strategies, and feelings as they interact with the product, design, or feature.
“Free Play” vs. Assigned Tasks: Participants can interact with your product, design, or feature in three ways;
- Participants can independently explore and interact without direction or requests from you.
- You can give participants direction, e.g., tasks to complete.
- You can do a mix.
The focus of your research—both the product design or feature and what you hope to learn will determine which method to use. In most cases using a mix is recommended. Start your session with independent exploration and follow with assigned tasks.
It's not just what you ask but how you ask it: Ask This, Not That
How you phrase your questions can result in either honest or deceptive answers, rich and detailed responses, or short, uninformative responses. Use the chart below as a reference to help phrase questions that will elicit the responses you want.
|WAYS TO ASK QUESTIONS
|Open-ended vs. Closed Question
||What are your thoughts on the design?
||Do you like the design?
|Non-Leading vs. Leading
||Describe how that was for you.
||How easy was that for you?
|Neutral vs. Judgmental
||Walk me through your decision to do that.
||Why would you do that?
|Non-assuming vs. Assumptive
||Walk me through your thoughts on clicking there.
||Did you click that button because it’s red?
|Straightforward vs. Confusing
||What did you think of the navigation of the site?
||How hard or easy or in-between was navigating?
|Single-Focus vs. Multi-Focus
||What are your thoughts on the feature?
||What did you think of the feature, the navigation, and the look and feel?
A short warm-up leads to a successful session
Begin each session with a short warm-up. This will help participants feel comfortable and be more forthcoming during your session.
Start with a warm welcome and information about yourself. Then ask a few questions about the participants. Generally, describe what will happen in the session. Assure the participant that you had nothing to do with the product, design, or feature so that they will be candid in their responses to your questions. Now you’re ready to begin.
Questions by topic
Following are questions organized by research topic. They can be modified to fit specific needs as well as other research topics.
Questions for understanding participant’s past experiences related to what’s being tested:
- What are similar features or products you have used in the past?
- What was your need or goal for using those features or products?
- How well did those products meet or not meet your expectations? Why?
- What about those products or features was satisfactory/extraordinary/didn’t work? Why?
- If the product or feature didn’t meet your needs what were your steps in finding a solution?
- Describe your eventual solution and how well it worked.
- If it didn’t work well what were your next steps?
- How important was it to find a solution? Why?
Questions for first impressions and expectations pre-exploration and tasks:
- What are your first thoughts?
- What about it gives you that impression?
- What do you think of the look and feel? Why?
- What do you expect this to help you accomplish? What suggests that?
- How well do you expect it to accomplish that? What suggests that?
- Who would benefit from using this? Why?
- When would this be used? Why?
- How often would this be used?
- How would you begin using this product/feature? How do you know that?
- You look confused. Why?
- What aren’t you seeing that you’re looking for?
- Is this product/feature similar to other products/features you’ve used? Which ones? How so?
- How does it compare to those?
- How easy or difficult do you expect this feature to be to use? Why?
- How interested or not are you in trying this? Why?
Questions for independent exploration:
- What are your goals in using the product/feature?
- What is your strategy in accomplishing that?
- What made you start with that? What about the design suggested you start there?
- Walk me through your thoughts in the next steps you took.
- How intuitive or not are you finding this?
- How difficult or easy are you to finding this?
- I noticed you paused. Why?
- What are you looking for?
- How are you feeling?
- What are your thoughts as you are doing this?
- Is this taking the amount of time you expected? Why or why not?
Questions for assigned tasks:
- Walk me through how you would complete the task.
- What do you expect will happen if you do the task?
- How well or not did that task meet your expectations?
- What are some different ways to achieve that task?
- How do you know that?
- Were there any surprises during that task? What were they? Why did they surprise you?
- How do you feel when doing the task? Why?
- Walk me through your steps in getting this task done.
- What was the easiest task to accomplish? Why?
- What was the most difficult task to accomplish? Why?
- What was the most satisfying task to accomplish? Why?
- Were there tasks you were unable to complete? What? Why?
- What are other tasks you could accomplish with this product/feature?
Questions post exploration and tasks:
- How well or not did this meet your expectations?
- What are your thoughts on the look and design now?
- What are your thoughts on the navigation?
- What are your thoughts on the functionality?
- What did you like? What didn’t you like? Why?
- What goals would you use this to accomplish?
- What are the specific benefits?
- What are the problems/difficulties of using this?
- Would any of the problems/difficulties cause you not to use it? Which one(s)?
- Who (position/job) would benefit from using this?
- How likely would you be to use this?
- How often would you use this?
- How likely would you be to tell others about this?
- If you could add anything, what would it be?
- What would the result and benefit be of adding that?
- How important is it to have that addition?
- What would you change?
- What would the benefit be of changing that?
- How important is that change?
Questions for cost and purchase:
- How likely would you or your company be to purchase this?
- What would you expect the cost range to be?
- At what price would you or your company no longer purchase?
What’s Next? Just Ask the Right Questions
Not just UX research but all research depends on asking the right questions and asking them the right way. If you would like to explore using Respondent to recruit for your next usability test, book a demo to walk through the screening and recruiting process.
We’re here to help you with all your research needs! Here is list of Usability Testing tools and a complete guide to usability testing which can help you get started.