User interview questions

Writing Effective User Research Survey Questions in 2023

To get valuable customer data, you need to ask the right questions. Here are some tips on how to write the most effective user research survey questions.


To get the best data, you need to ask the right questions. What kinds of questions should you be focusing on? And how can you write the most effective research survey questions? A user research survey is a powerful tool for businesses to gain valuable insights into customer demographics, needs, habits, and experiences. Asking the right questions allows you to understand more about your customers and helps you develop better products, but sometimes it’s difficult to gather the right data. 

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What is the purpose of a research survey?

Before you run a survey, you may need to first screen potential participants through profile data and a screener questionnaire to make sure that your survey is sent to the right audience(s). Screening for research is a nuanced skill that researchers develop with experience, running a screener survey is a great idea to recruit the right participants.

To develop products that sell, you need to know a few things:

  • Is there a market for your product?
  • How should you design your product?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What are your target audience’s needs and habits?
  • Who are your potential competitors and how can you beat them?

These queries can be answered using research surveys. Surveys can help you identify market gaps, develop products people want, and analyze your target audience to design a product and marketing campaign that specifically sells to them. You can even use user research surveys to help you choose a suitable domain name or design your logo.

Data that comes directly from your customers can be the most high-quality, constructive, and actionable data there is. 

Tips for writing effective user research survey questions

Make a plan

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It’s no use starting user research if you’re not sure what your objectives are. So ask yourself: what outcome am I trying to achieve?

Here is an example:

Problem: You’ve developed a shopping app, but you’ve run into the issue of customers filling their carts but not checking out.

Survey objective: Find out why customers aren’t completing their sales. 

Solution: Figure out and fix checkout roadblocks. 

Now you have a starting point to craft questions that net you valuable answers. You can ask your customers what roadblocks they’re running into during the checkout process and what you could change to make that process smoother. Is entering billing information too complicated? Is your conversational AI platform doing a thorough job of providing customer service? 

You may also wish to look into using conversational AI for text messages. With more customers seeking quick and personalized interactions, the effectiveness of this technology directly impacts user satisfaction and ultimately, your product's success. By gathering feedback from users about their experience with conversational AI, you can identify strengths and areas for improvement.

But not all problems are so specific. Here’s another example:

Problem: You want to develop a shopping app, but you haven’t gotten off the ground yet. 

Survey objective: To find out if this app has demand, its potential target audience, and which direction to take development. 

Outcome: You have a better idea of how to move forwards.

In this scenario, your survey questions don’t need to be as tight. You’re really trying to get a general overview of your market so that you can find a strong starting point. 

Consider where you are in the development stage

Exploratory

This is usually the first stage of research. You have an idea for a product, but there are major questions that need to be answered first:

  • Will anyone even want your product?
  • How big is the market?
  • How should you price it?
  • Who is your target demographic?

Exploratory research seeks to understand the basics. The data collected through exploratory research helps you create more concrete research goals going forwards. 

Generative

Generative research aims to discover a deeper understanding of customers.

You’ve planned your product and its target demographic, but you need to know which direction to take things. Generative research produces data such as:

  • Customer needs
  • Customer pain points
  • Customer purchasing habits

This data is more holistic, offering a broader view of your customers and their needs. 

Evaluative

Evaluative research is conducted once you have a prototype of your product. It’s generally interactive, where you offer samples or trials of your product to prospective customers and ask for feedback. 

A fast food restaurant might conduct a focus group where people try a new dish; a tech company might give free software trials to industry experts; a domain seller might offer a domain to a web developer.

Essentially, this kind of research produces concrete data about your product in action

Depending on where you are in your product development, your questions will look different. 

Start with the customer

We tend to revolve our business around our product, so naturally it’s our number one priority. 

Customers don’t think like that. They’re people with complex lives, and our products are a small part of them. And businesses can make customers feel more valued by proving that their opinion and experience matters.

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To form good qualitative research survey questions, we need to focus on learning more about the customer. So consider:

  • Customer demographics
  • Customer needs and pain points
  • Customer purchasing habits
  • Customer turn-offs

Customers shop with the goal of fulfilling a need. Your product needs to fill that need by solving a problem, improving some aspect of your customer’s life, or being so appealing that your customer can’t resist. 

For effective planning and organization, it's crucial to build a master schedule that outlines the survey creation process and milestones. Depending on where you are in your product development, your questions will look different. Let's explore the various stages of user research and how crafting effective survey questions aligns with each stage.

Take a parent of two children, who has a full-time career, for example. They’re busy, they’re stressed, and they’re juggling a dozen tasks. 

You might design a calendar app that appeals to their demographic: busy working parents who need more organization in their lives. You consider your app the answer to all parents’ woes, but is it really? How do you know? How can you target your audience with features that solve their very specific problems?

Until you ask which pain points your customers are desperate to solve, all you have is a basic calendar app. You need to look deeper. 

Maybe your customers need the ability to differentiate tasks like important work meetings from kids’ doctor’s appointments. Maybe your customers need apps that have multiple users so that each parent can see each other’s schedules. 

Putting the customer’s needs at the forefront of your research survey allows you to develop your product with the customer in mind and create integrated marketing communication that delivers clear and concise messaging to your target demographics. 

Avoid leading questions

It’s difficult to admit, but all human beings are susceptible to being swayed by others. Our opinions can be influenced, and that’s the last thing you want when conducting market research. 

Leading questions are questions phrased to push the respondent into a predetermined outcome. They involve assumptions, implications, or coercion.

Here are some examples:

    • How excited are you about the recent updates? This implies the person is excited to begin with, leaving no room for those who aren’t. Instead, you might ask: Given the recent changes–how would you rate your interest on a scale of 1-10?
  • How much did you enjoy your experience? Again, the only data you gain from this is from satisfied customers. Those with complaints are left out. Instead, try: How was your experience?
  • You enjoyed your stay here, didn’t you? This question puts pressure on the respondent to provide positive feedback. Instead, ask: How would you describe your stay here?

Answers to leading questions become highly biased towards specific outcomes. They also represent the asker’s bias, leading to participants’ feeling pressured into certain answers. In these situations respondents are likely to answer how they think you want them to answer; not with their real thoughts and experiences. 

Your research survey will not gain new insights from leading questions. 

Don’t overcomplicate things

When you write a research survey question, think of how you would answer it. If it takes 30 minutes, a philosophical pondering, and an essay to answer, your survey respondents are going to struggle.

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This goes for multi-part questions, too. A question like “how did you find the design, usability, navigation, and prices of our website?” just burdens your respondent with too much information to consider. Instead, ask multiple questions:

  • Where do you usually buy domains? 
  • Was our website easy to navigate? 
  • How much are you willing to pay for your website domain names?

Aim for simplicity. Not only will this make answering easier for the respondents, it will make analyzing the data simpler for you.

Don’t be too vague

Following on from the above tip, it’s important to be specific when crafting research survey questions. To reiterate: the goal is to make answering as simple as possible for your respondents, and to gain insights that help you achieve specific goals. 

A vague question is difficult. Your respondents will struggle to a) figure out what the question is about and b) craft an answer that contains valuable data. 

For instance, you’re developing a remote desktop for Android phone app. Asking someone “what are your app purchasing habits?” is like asking them to describe their entire day to you. If someone asked you that question, where would you even begin to answer? 

Drilling down to specifics helps respondents focus:

  • How often do you shop for apps?
  • Do you only use free apps or are you willing to pay for them?
  • How often do you make in-app purchases?
  • Do you need remote desktop apps for work or personal usage?
  • How long do you research an app before making a purchase?

Ask yourself your own questions and consider how complicated or convoluted the answers might be. Aim for clear and concise questions that net you actionable data. 

In conclusion

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User research survey questions are a valuable tool. By using them, businesses can learn more about their target demographics, their customers’ needs and habits, and how they can better develop or improve their products. 

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