UX Titbits: How to Ask the Right UX Research Questions

 

Image illustrating the idea "what research questions to ask?"

Prepping research questions for a UX study takes more than a solid understanding of the subject you are going to ask your users: it’s quite literally an art. Think about it: it’s your chance to learn about your users and their needs! Therefore, you want to be not just as exhaustive as possible with your questions, but you also want to keep your users engaged from start to finish and get the biggest bang-for-buck out of your questions. In other words, you want your questions to lead to the right answers.

Let’s have a look at these two questions: 

“Do you think this check out page is useful?”

“What do you think about this check out page?”

Sound similar, right? After all, they’re both asking to provide feedback on one specific feature. Yet, the way these two questions are phrased is substantially different and will lead to two wildly different answers. Let’s cut to the chase – how can you ask the right research questions to maximise the value of your UX study findings? Below, we’ve made a small checklist of question-asking techniques you can use to power up your user research.

 


Choose the Study Objectives

Break Study Themes down into Questions

Ask Open-ended Questions

Ask Neutral Questions


1. Determine the Main Objectives of Your Study

It may sound like a no brainer, but the first thing you need to do is to sit down and define the objectives – or themes, of your study. These are generic research areas phrased in the form of questions that will cover the entire scope of your inquiry. 

Suppose you want to find the pain points in your users’ online shopping experience. Rather than saying “I am going to study what to improve on my e-store”, focus on why and how people shop online, what are the differences between e-shopping and physical shopping, and who’s buying the most of the product you are selling online.

 

2. Break Themes Down into Focused Queries

Image illustrating how to break down themes into questions

Once you have ironed out the themes, it’s time to break them down into questions. Simply asking your users “Why do you shop online?” will lead to overly generic and poor answers. By breaking the themes down, you can channel your users on specific tracks and get thematically consistent answers. 

Let’s take the previous question, and see how we can break it down. Instead of adding “Why do people shop online” to your questionnaire, try to imagine the purchase flow and ask questions at each specific stage:

“What do/don’t you buy online?”

“Where do you usually make your online purchases?”

“Is there anything in particular you like about this e-store?”

One great titbit at this stage is to start structuring your line of questions as you would in an open dialogue. This will help you map the interview process, highlighting potential deepening or missing areas in your interview. It will also make you anticipate different replies, leaving you with the option to create interview patterns based on the answer given by your users. 

Define the key questions in each theme, and subdivide them even further with subquestions or follow up questions; remember, you want to understand your users as much as possible, so having a “tell me more” question up your sleeve is a surefire hit to dig deeper into your users’ needs.

3. Ask Open-ended Questions

 

You have got your themes; you have got your questions and subquestions; now, you need to check how these sound. 

The first thing you want to check is the kind of answer you’ll receive from your question. If you think your question can be answered with a Yes/No answer, then it’s likely you will get precisely that. Let’s go back to the first two questions we posed at the beginning of this piece:

“Do you think this check out page is useful?”

“What do you think about this check out page?”

While these two questions share the same intent – getting customer feedback on a feature, the first question is phrased in a closed-ended manner, whereas the second leaves room for the user to flesh out his or her thoughts; and that’s exactly what you should be aiming for!

 

WH Queries

 

Open-ended questions are a great way to let your users speak and provide you with elaborated answers, which will help you analyse the pain points in your solutions. The easiest way to craft open-ended questions is through WH-questions, or generally speaking, by avoiding questions starting with “Do you/Don’t you/Are you/Aren’t you”

You can play around with WH questions, calibrating the tone based on the type of answers you are looking for. For example, a smart way to get more open-ended and qualitative answers is by asking Who, What and How questions

Instead of asking “Was this page easy to navigate?” try with “How did you find this feature?”.

 

Storytelling and Command Prompts

 

Another great technique to get qualitative bang for your buck is to probe users with storytelling prompts – that is, asking users to recall previous experiences or potential scenarios they might find themselves in. The perk of these prompts is that you can discover how your users think from start to finish during specific moments in time or plausible scenarios. 

You can kick off storytelling prompts with simple “When” questions. Alternatively, you can forgo the question structure and ask your users about past or potential events, using conversation starters like: 

Tell me more about…

Imagine you find yourself in…

followed by a qualitative WH question – you’ll see a healthy stream of lengthy answers coming your way. 

Storytelling prompts are part of the larger command prompts group – another essential tool in the belt of experienced UX’ers. Command prompts usually require users to perform a task: for instance, to describe what they see on the screen or to flesh out a concept. Spicing up non-verbal command prompts while asking the user to think aloud is a tried and tested formula that will guarantee tons of unfiltered user feedback.

4. Ask Neutral Questions

 

A common mistake in UX research is to ask questions with an inherent bias or opinion. If you asked the user:

How did our online purchase journey benefit your overall experience?

you are already implying the user had a positive experience with the solution – which might not be the case, and you are binding potential answers to one track only. 

Instead, you should aim at asking neutral questions and leave the door open to any kind of reply. Looking at the example above, a nice way to phrase your question would be 

“How did you find our online purchasing experience?” 

“How was your experience using our ecommerce store?”

Use Sonar to Nail Your Study Questions – and More!

 

Is there anything else you can do to polish up your question and inch your way toward great UX study designs? 

Yes, there is! By using Sonar, you can set up study design from scratch or go for one of our templates, carefully designed by our team of UX’ers after countless qualitative studies to yield the maximum results from your studies. Furthermore, leverage our AI to get even more accurate questions. Fire up a new study template, type your questions and see our AI suggesting several ways to fine-tune them with the scope of your study. 

Our Study Builder in action

Writer’s block? Looking for some gaps? Don’t worry! Our platform can support your study by suggesting several different questions to continue with your study building.

Curious to see other powerful features to boost your research? Just click on the button below!

 

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UX titbits: How to Ask the Right UX Research Questions

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