User research is one of the most valuable tools for understanding customer behaviors, needs, motivations, preferences, wants, and interactions with your products and brand.

Through a handful of market research techniques like observation, task analysis, and eliciting direct customer feedback through interviews, brands can glean valuable insights that help fine-tune their user experience.

While there are several different methodologies for capturing user insights, this article will review how to talk to users directly to effectively capture the most productive and telling data.

This post will cover:

  • How to create questions for your user interviews
  • Basic question format
  • User research question examples from Sarah Doody and the team at Fuel Cycle

If you’re looking to polish your user research interviewing techniques, read on.

Best practices for creating user research questions

Conducting an effective and thorough interview takes hard work and planning. Here’s the good news. When you know how to create your questions, you can rest assured your results will be beneficial.

Here’s a quick 5-step formula you can follow every time you need to create questions for UX research.

1. Start by defining broader themes

The first step is to identify what you want to learn from the interview. The best way to figure out what you want to know is to brainstorm themes of interest.

Since you will ultimately share your results with your market research, product, and marketing teams, it’s helpful to have a representative from each of these teams in the brainstorming session.

2. Break down your questions to make them answerable

Once you have identified possible and broad themes, it’s time to delve deeper. As you browse through your list of ideas, you’ll notice there are several differences between each one.

Break down each theme and identify questions that align with the overall goal of the research.

Write down any question that comes to mind, even if you don’t think it’s a good question.

3. Don’t ask questions that will influence the answer

The next step in the process is to take a closer look at your questions and throw out any questions that aren’t working.

It’s especially important to get rid of any questions that are biased or that influence the answer. Remember, you want to get raw and honest answers from your research participants, so don’t ask any leading questions.

For example, you may want to know how a customer felt when using a particular product or exploring an interface. A proper question would be, “how did you feel when adding items to your shopping cart?” An example of a leading question would be “how happy/anxious did you feel when adding items to your shopping cart?”

Good questions don’t make assumptions. They elicit honest answers.

4. Ask about specific examples

Sometimes it’s difficult for research participants to communicate how they feel about the usability of a product, service, or user interface.

Prepare a series of questions that will help you overcome this potential obstacle. Asking for participants to talk about a specific experience in the past that relates to your question will help them remember and provide more accurate answers to your questions.

5. Ask open-ended questions

When it comes to interviewing participants, it’s essential to remember that all customers’ opinions and experiences are valuable. But, not all customers are comfortable in an interview setting.

For some participants, you may ask a question. They will understand the general idea and offer a complete example. Other participants may be more comfortable with yes/no responses.

To avoid the yes/no responses, craft your questions so they are open-ended. Prepare a list of follow-up questions to open-ended answers that help guide less talkative respondents to open up more.

It doesn’t matter what you are trying to learn from your customers. If you follow this format when creating your questions, you’ll increase your chances of getting excellent customer feedback.

Basic question formats

A typical interview lasts between 30-60 minutes and consists of a series of different types of questions.

Here is an overview of the basic questions you should ask in your interviews as well as some on-point examples, many provided by research from Sarah Doody.

1. Customer introduction questions

You will probably already have the necessary demographic information on your participants, but that doesn’t mean you know everything you need to know about your customers. You’ll also want to ask questions that help you understand things you need to know that you didn’t get from the screening application.

Questions include:

  • What does your typical weekday look like?
  • When do you usually first use the (product/user interface in question) on a typical day?
  • Tell me about your role at your company? In your family? Etc.
  • How is this (product/user interface) relevant to your life daily?
  • Tell me about (any hobbies that may relate to your questions).
  • Any lifestyle questions that are related to your topic/product.

Asking customer introduction questions can help you further segment your customer responses and get a better idea of who your customers are. It can also help them open up and get more comfortable in the interview setting.

2. Topic-specific questions

These questions will take up the bulk of your interview. They will help you understand the motivations, needs, and wants of customers as well as learn more about the problem you are trying to solve.

Questions include:

  • What’s your relationship like with (topic)?
  • How do you currently go about (problem/task)?
  • How much time do you typically spend on (problem/task)?
  • How much time would you be willing to spend on (problem/task)?
  • How important is saving time to you on (problem/task)?
  • Do you experience any obstacles with (problem/task)? Tell me more.
  • Tell me about the last time you tried to (problem/task)?
  • Do you like anything about how you currently (problem/task)? If so, what? If not, why?
  • What are you currently doing to make this (problem/task) easier?
  • How does this (problem/task) impact other areas of your life/work?
  • What other products or tools have you tried out to help with (problem/task)?
  • Have you paid for any of these other products or tools?
  • How did you hear about these other products or tools?
  • What is the most significant pain point related to (problem/task)
  • Why do you keep doing (problem/task)?
  • Why is (problem/task) important to you?
  • Have you created any workarounds that have to help you? Tell me more.
  • What are the hardest and easiest parts about (problem/task)?
  • What do you like or dislike about these other products or tools?
  • Are you looking for a solution or alternative for (problem/task)? 

You don’t have to ask all of these questions, but ask the ones that will give you a better idea of how you can adjust your product or solution to meet user needs more effectively.

3. Product opportunity questions

Once you have an idea of how a customer interacts with your product or interface or what problems they are experiencing, it’s time to get more specific feedback. If you plan to demo a product or interface, these questions will help you understand user reactions.

Questions include:

  • What do you think of this product?
  • How do you think you would feel if you had to navigate this product alone?
  • What appeals and doesn’t appeal to you visually?
  • Do you notice any potential problems with this product? If so, what?
  • Do you think someone would use this product?
  • Why do you think someone would/would not use this product?
  • Can you see yourself ever using this product? If so, why? If not, why?
  • Do you think this product is going to help you? If so, how?
  • Would you use this product today?
  • Do you think you can trust this product? Why or why not?
  • What might keep people from using this product?
  • What’s the most you would be willing to pay for this product?
  • What do you think is a fair price for such a product?
  • Does this remind you of any other products? If so, which ones and why?

Don’t be afraid to ask respondents to elaborate on answers to these questions. Answers to these questions are the meat and bones of your research.

4. Product reaction questions

Sometimes it is valuable, even necessary, to have your respondents use your products and then ask questions after they have done some exploring.

Questions include:

  • What’s most appealing/least appealing about this product?
  • What’s the easiest/hardest part about using this product?
  • Was there anything surprising or unexpected about this product?
  • Was there anything missing from this product that you expected?
  • Would you keep using this product after what you saw today? If not, what would need to change so that you would use it?
  • How would you improve this product?

Again, don’t be afraid to ask to follow up questions until you have a clear understanding of what your customers think, value, and want.

Get help with organizing your user research!

Now that you know how to craft the perfect questions for your user research, it’s time to get started. For more information about how to create the ideal interview, and for a more in-depth look into a tool that will help you code, organize, and analyze all your quantitative and qualitative data, check out Fuel Cycle!