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How to Ask the Right Questions for Effective UX Research

Asking the right questions is crucial in UX research as it helps uncover valuable insights about user needs, preferences, and behaviors. By formulating well-crafted questions, researchers can gather the necessary data to inform user-centered design decisions and create meaningful experiences. According to research experts, such as Steve Portigal, author of “Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights,” and Jakob Nielsen, co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group, asking the right questions is a fundamental aspect of conducting successful UX research.

By asking specific and targeted questions, UX researchers can hope to understand user needs, uncover user behaviors, validate assumptions, and explore new opportunities. Well-crafted questions can help you delve deeper into user needs, and observe and understand user needs, pain points, and aspirations. It helps to gain a clearer understanding of what works and what needs improvement, and most importantly uncover unmet needs and identify trends and opportunities.

Asking the right questions also facilitates collaboration between researchers, designers, and stakeholders. By involving different perspectives and seeking input from various stakeholders, researchers can gather diverse insights that lead to more inclusive and well-rounded design solutions. It is however important to note that these different forms of research questions are not mutually exclusive and can often be combined to address complex research inquiries.

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Three categories of questions you have to ask for good UX research

Descriptive Questions: Unlocking the What, Who, and How of Research

Descriptive questions uncover the “what,” “who,” and “how” aspects of a subject, providing a comprehensive understanding of the characteristics, behaviors, and relationships involved. Their main aim is to obtain objective and measurable data. They deal with facts, properties, and observations, providing a clear framework for data collection and analysis. They are often open-ended in nature, allowing your respondents to provide detailed and nuanced responses.

Examples of descriptive questions

  • How does sleep duration vary among different age groups?
  • What factors influence consumers’ purchasing decisions when buying organic products?
  • What teaching strategies are commonly used in elementary school classrooms to promote reading comprehension?
  • How does the prevalence of chronic diseases differ between urban and rural populations?
Comparative Questions: Unveiling Differences and Similarities in Research

Comparative questions allows UX researchers to explore the relationships, patterns, and distinctions that exist within a specific context. By comparing and contrasting different elements, researchers can gain deeper insights and identify meaningful patterns. These questions go beyond describing individual characteristics and delve into understanding the relative nature of phenomena or factors of interest. They can be exploratory in nature, seeking to uncover new insights, or confirmatory, aiming to validate existing theories or hypotheses. They help identify connections, causality, or correlations among various factors and are tailored to the specific research context and objectives.

Examples of comparative questions:

  • What are the differences in customer satisfaction levels between Product A and Product B?
  • What are the similarities and differences in academic achievement between students who attend public schools and those who attend private schools?
  • What is the relationship between physical activity levels and obesity rates among different age groups?
Causal Questions: Unveiling Causes and Effects

Causal probing questions focus on understanding cause-and-effect relationships between variables or factors. They seek to uncover the reasons behind observed phenomena, examine the influences of specific variables, or explore the consequences of certain actions. They often involve examining multiple variables, their interactions, and potential confounding factors. Given the complexity of causal relationships, causal probing questions require robust research methodologies, including appropriate study designs, controls, and statistical analyses, to ensure validity.

Examples of Causal questions:

  • What are the potential psychological factors that contribute to higher stress levels among college students?
  • How does changes in interest rates impact consumer spending habits?
  • What are the long-term effects of childhood vaccination on disease prevalence in a population?

Other forms research questions can take include:

  1. Exploratory Questions: Exploratory questions are used when little is known about a particular topic or when researchers aim to gain a deeper understanding of a complex phenomenon. They allow researchers to explore new perspectives, generate hypotheses, or identify unexplored areas. Exploratory questions are open-ended and encourage diverse responses. e.g What are the emerging user needs and expectations regarding voice-controlled smart home devices? How do users interact with augmented reality interfaces and what are the potential applications beyond entertainment?
  2. Predictive Questions: Predictive questions focus on forecasting or predicting future outcomes or trends based on existing data or patterns. They aim to understand the relationships between variables and make informed projections or estimates. e.g Based on the current market trends and consumer preferences, how will the introduction of a new mobile app impact user adoption and engagement over the next six months?
  3. Feasibility Questions: Feasibility questions assess the practicality and viability of a research project. They explore factors such as resources, time constraints, ethical considerations, or potential limitations. Feasibility questions help researchers determine the scope and viability of their study.

In conclusion, asking the right questions is an essential component of UX research. It enables researchers to gather meaningful data, understand user needs, and inform the design process. By following best practices in questioning techniques, researchers can uncover valuable insights that drive the creation of user-centered and impactful experiences.

  • Portigal, S. (2013). Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights. Rosenfeld Media.
  • Nielsen, J. (n.d.). User Research Methods: From Strategy to Requirements to Design. Nielsen Norman Group.
  • Norman, D. (2013). The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition. Basic Books.
  • Creswell, J. W. (2013). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches. SAGE Publications.
  • Patten, M. L. (2017). Questionnaire Research: A Practical Guide. Routledge.
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