Do you understand the art and science of asking the best questions in your user interviews? Here at Respondent, we will be more than happy to assist you with asking the right and best questions along with all aspects of your user recruiting and research.
Though there are several options for eliciting these user insights, the primary focus of this article is how to interact directly with your users to garner the most helpful information. We will explore:
- Creating effective user interview questions
- The basic format for user interview questions
- Examples of user interview questions
How to Create Effective User Interview Questions
To conduct a user interview that is both thorough and effective, you must plan ahead. The good news is, once you have learned how to create effective user interview questions, you can be sure that the responses you’ve elicited will be useful. We’ve outlined a 5-step formula that you can use to structure your UX research questions.
1. Identify Relevant Broader Themes
The first step in this process is to decide exactly what you hope to learn from this research. The best way to do this is to hold a brainstorming session to develop some themes of interest.
At the end of your UX research, you will likely be sharing your findings with several departments within your company—R & D, product development, marketing, etc. So, include team members from each relevant department in your brainstorming session. This will not only help in identifying themes of interest but will encourage buy-in throughout your company as well.
2. Create Questions that are Answerable
Once you have identified some broad themes to focus on, you can go a step further. Go through your list of ideas and note that there are a few differences between each of them.
Take each theme and break it down. Create questions that are related to the overall objectives of your research. Write down each and every question that you can think of for that idea, even if you don’t feel like it’s a good one. The point right now is to come up with all possible questions.
Your next step will be to cull and refine questions by holding them up to the final themes of interest you choose as the objectives of your research. If the question doesn’t reflect or explore the objective, get rid of it.
3. Don’t Ask Leading Questions
Keep in mind that the overall goal of the questions is to get honest answers from your users. Therefore, you don't want the questions to suggest how they should answer. You especially want to throw out or refine any questions that are leading or biased towards a certain answer.
For example, you might be interested in learning how a customer feels when using a certain product or exploring a particular interface. In this case, a leading or biased question would be:
“How happy did you feel when you added items to your shopping cart?”
Instead, the more appropriate question, in this case, would be:
“How do you feel when you added items to your shopping cart?”
When it comes to user research, your questions should never be stated in a way that assumes anything. They should always be crafted to allow participants to provide their own honest answers.
Ask Users to Provide Examples or Walk You Through Processes
In some cases, your research participants may have difficulty explaining how they feel about the usability of a particular interface, product, or service. Therefore, you’ll want to have some questions that can help you get past this obstacle.
One way is asking your participants to provide specific examples from their experiences related to your questions. This can help them provide more precise answers.
Another method is to ask them to walk you through the process and then, as they go step-by-step you can probe on the “why”, what they were thinking and how they were feeling.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Questions that elicit only a “yes” or “no” do not spark responses that provide any useful information or insights. Therefore, though it’s not always easy, avoid yes/no questions.
To avoid getting these yes/no responses from your users, you'll want to make sure that your questions are open-ended. For many questions you’ll want to create follow up probes. These could be as simple as “why/why not” but will help you draw out more detailed and deeper responses especially from shy or stubborn participants
For example, if exploring how a user felt during the purchase process instead of asking:
“Were you satisfied with the purchase process?
You might ask:
“How satisfied were you with the purchase process?
While open-ended the above question still assumes some level of satisfaction. A still better choice of question is:
“Describe how you felt during the purchase process? Why?
This question is completely open and will allow for an un-biased, honest response.
Regardless of what exactly you want to learn from your customers, it’s a good idea to follow these five steps when creating your questions. This will help to increase the possibility of getting some valuable feedback from your users.
Basic Format & Examples of User Interview Questions
Typically, your user interview comprises a series of various types of questions. This includes:
- Customer intro questions
- Product/Feature/Service issue questions
- Product/Feature/Service reaction questions
- Product/Feature/Service opportunity questions
Below, we’ll take a closer look at each one of these and provide you with some examples for each.
Customer Intro Questions
Chances are, you gathered the necessary demographic information from your participants during the screening process. However, you still would want them to repeat the basics as part of a warmup and to have that information handy on the recording of the session. The introduction or warmup is also an opportunity to learn anything additional about your participants that wasn’t included in the screening interview.
This includes questions such as:
- What is your occupation?
- How long have you been in that occupation?
- Explain your role in your company.
- On a typical day, when do you use the product/service/user interface?
- How often do you use the product/service/user interface?
- How is this particular product/service/user interface relevant to your daily life?
- How would it change your work habits if you no longer could use the particular product/service/user interface?
This is also where you can include any lifestyle questions relevant to the topic at hand or the product/service/user interface.
By asking these customer intro questions, you can categorize the responses even further to better understand who your customers are. Additionally, it can help the more reserved participants relax and get comfortable in the interview setting, so they are more forthcoming.
The questions in the following categories will make up most of the interview. They will be useful in helping you understand the needs, wants, and motivations of your customers in relation to the objectives of your research.
Feature/Service/Product Issue Identification and Solutions
Here are some questions for exploring issues around a task/product/service and how those issues might be improved to better the user experience.
- What if any issues do you have with (issue/task)?
- How do you currently deal with (issue/task)?
- How much of your time is typically spent dealing with (issue/task)?
- How much time would you like to spend dealing with (issue/task)?
- How important is saving time on (issue/task) important to you?
- Are there any obstacles you must overcome when dealing with (issue/task)? Tell me about those.
- Walk me through the last time you did this (issue/task).
- What do you like, if anything, about how you are currently dealing with (issue/task)? If yes- what is it? If no- why not?
- What other methods, if any, have you tried for dealing with this (issue/task)? If so, what are those? How well did they work/not work?
- What is your primary pain point related to (issue/task)?
- Why is this (issue/task) important to do?
- What are the most difficult parts of (issue/task)? Why?
- Do you have any workarounds for this (issue/task)? Tell me about those.
- What are the easiest parts of (issue/task)? Why?
- What would an alternative solution to this task look like (issue/task)?
- What do you like/dislike about other methods for dealing with (issue/task)?
Product Reaction Questions
The following questions would be asked to assess the overall affinity for and identify any issues when introducing a new product/service/interface.
- How likely/unlikely are you to use this product/service/interface? Why or why not?
- Do you feel this product/service/interface would be useful for you? Why or why not?
- In what ways would this product/service/interface be useful for you?
- In what ways would you use this product/service/interface? Why?
- How often do you imagine you would use this product/service/interface?
- What are reasons you might not use this product/service/interface?
- Do you see any potential issues with this product/service/interface? What are those issues? Why?
- How likely would you be to use this product/service/interface today? Why or why not?
- How much do you feel you can trust this product/service/interface? Why or why not?
- What would you be willing to pay for this product/service/interface?
- Does this remind you of other products/services/interfaces on the market? If so, what are they, and why are they similar?
- In what ways is this product/service/interface better or worse than those you felt were similar? Why?
- What are your thoughts on the look and feel of this product/service/interface?
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Product Opportunity Questions
The following questions are used to explore other or additional uses for a particular product/service/interface—what are the opportunities for more use and additional users.
- What are your thoughts on this product/service/interface?
- How often do you currently use this product/service/interface?
- When do you use this product/service/interface?
- For what do you use this product/service/interface?
- What other product/service/interfaces have you used or tried to accomplish the same goals?
- How successful were those in comparison to this product/service/interface? Why/Why not?
- For what else do you imagine you could use this product/service/interface for?
- What’s stopping you from using product/service/interface for that?
- What product/service/interface have you used for that?
- Describe your experience(s) with using that/those product/service/interface.
- If you could improve this this product/service/interface, what would you change?
- How would those changes effect your use of it?
- How valuable would the product/service/interface be to you if you enacted those changes?
In some cases, you'll find that it's useful (and sometimes even necessary) to allow research participants to use your product/service/interface and ask them questions as and after they've done so.
In this scenario have participants walk you through what they are doing as they are doing it. As they describe their actions you can probe on the why—the reasons behind their actions as well as their reactions to the results of their activities.
Once again, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or more details on their answers. This will help you gain an understanding of exactly what your customers needs, wants, wishes, thinks and feels.
One of the best ways to gain insights into your customer base is through user research interviews. However, it can be challenging to come up with appropriate questions to ask during this process. In this article, we’ve explained the steps in creating effective interview questions. Then, we took you through the basic format of these questions and provided you with some examples.
If you need to find participants for research or use a platform to schedule and pay participants, use Respondent for free today. We will be happy to help ensure that your UX research is thorough and to conduct effective user interviews to get the answers you need.
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Asking the right questions in the right way is the key to research success. That’s true for not just the discussion guide but for every step of a research project. Following are 100+ questions that will take you from defining your research objective through screening and participant discussions.
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