Conducting user research is the most rewarding form of uncovering and capturing actionable insights for your product and service, but crafting quality interview questions can be challenging. So, how can you make sure you’re asking the right questions and getting the valuable information you need to make sure your product is a success?

Here are a few tips to help:

Start with a goal

Before you start creating specific research questions to ask users, you should collaborate with your team to clearly define and understand two basic questions:

  • Why you are doing research?
  • How will your research be used?

Knowing the answers to these questions (and more) helps you and the team create a solid foundation for a successful research effort. Here are a few examples of how these questions might be answered:

Why you are doing research?

  • Example: Our organization has a new product concept and needs to understand how appealing it is to our users before investing time and money into development.

How will your research be used?

  • Example: This information will be used by our product and marketing teams to help them define and prioritize development roadmaps and backlogs.

Pro Tip:

Include All Available Stakeholders

Developing your research goals and defining the information you need as a diverse team ensures everyone is heard, knows what to expect, and they are all on the same page.

 

Next, transform goals into research topics

Now that you’ve answered the most critical questions in preparing for your research study, you can transform the research goal into specific research topics and what you really want to learn or understand. These topics will ultimately inform the questions you might ask during the interview sessions.

Example research goal:

  • We want to understand why our customers are starting and then abandoning the shopping cart on our e-commerce website. Knowing this will help our product team identify ways to improve overall conversion rate.

Example goal transformed into potential research topic:

  • Customer interaction with our e-commerce website

Example research topic with what you might want to understand:

Topic:

  • Customer interaction with our e-commerce website

We want to understand:

  • How they use our current shopping cart
    • What path and buttons are they using
    • If they were successful or not, and why
  • How easy/difficult was the task
  • Identify what page/step are they experiencing issues leading to abandonment
  • How we could make the shopping experience better

Pro Tip:

Generate Lots & Lots of Topics

Explore and capture as many topics and sub topics with your team as you can. Once you have a good set to work from, narrow them down to the minimum set of topics and sub topics that will help achieve your goal.

 

Then, craft your valuable interview questions

Once you have broken your research goal into an agreed upon list of research topics and have identified what you want to learn or understand, you can now use this information to help craft the specific questions you might ask during the interview sessions. Here is a simple way to start crafting a valuable interview question:

Step 1: Select a research topic and single item you want to understand.

Step 2: Identify the type of question that can best inform what you are wanting to understand and how the data will be used.

Step 3: Form a few potential questions that allow the participant to respond in a focused and non-biased way.

Example:

Topic:

  • Customer interaction with our e-commerce website

We want to understand:

  • How they use our current shopping
    • What path and buttons are they using
    • If they were successful or not, and why

Question Type:

  • Task Success

Potential Questions:

  • Can you show me how you would find “x” using this website?
  • Can you show me how you would purchase “x” using this website?

Pro Tip:

Choose Wisely

There are many types of questions to choose from; open text, multiple choice, rating, task success, etc. Open ended questions are good for gathering details and understanding context, structured questions are better for measurement and testing.

 

General Tips When Creating Valuable Interview Questions

There are many things to think about when creating an interview question, but here are a few of the most important things to consider as you are crafting questions:

Keep a singular focus

Every interview question should be focused on gathering information to help inform a specific topic and what you are trying to learn. Adding an “and” or an “or” linking two questions can make it difficult for the participant to understand how to respond and even more difficult for you to figure out how to interpret their answer.

Linked question: “How would you use this feature in school or at work?”

Better Question: “Imagine you are at work. How might you use this feature?”

Use caution with binary and leading questions.

Although these are good questions for qualifying or screening, asking binary or leading questions tend to steer people to specific answers and may inadvertently close opportunities for other insightful responses they might have provided.

Leading question: “Wouldn’t it be better if we had this new feature?”

Non-leading question: “Can you think of anything that might improve this product?”

Be mindful when using (or omitting) specific terms, acronyms, or technical jargon.

Participants you are interviewing may have different levels of understanding and experience with your research topics. Make sure to use clear and relatable language in your question so it can be understood by each specific type of participant you interview.

Pro Tip:

Test, Iterate, and Refine Your Interview Questions

Questions that look good on paper might fail to work in a live interview. Run through a few mock interview sessions to identify which questions work, which ones that need to change, and which ones should be completely eliminated.

 

Example Question Templates

At Handrail, we support and encourage good user research habits. With that in mind, we’ve developed a Question Template Library to help user researchers ask valuable interview questions.

We’ve segmented these questions into seven types:

  • Participant Background
  • Identifying Opportunities
  • Solution Ideation
  • Solution Validation
  • Solution Optimization
  • Closing Questions

In Handrail, we provide more than 100 template questions and we have listed a few examples below.

(Note that these are examples which should be modified and adjusted to meet your research goals, topics, and what you want to understand.)

Participant Background

Asking participant background interview questions can help you gather deep insights and understand the level of experience your research participant may have.

We recommend using caution when asking these types of questions since they may illicit responses that provide personally identifiable information. Make sure you absolutely need the information, the participant has consented to providing the information, and you follow proper procedures when collecting and storing any and all personally identifiable or sensitive information.

Examples of Participant Background Questions:

  • Tell me a little about you…
  • Tell me about your interest in [topic].
  • What do you do professionally?
  • How long have you been in [role/industry]?
  • What is your role in [company/organization]?
  • Tell me about your role in [company/organization].
  • How would you describe yourself?
  • How many [something] do you have?
  • How familiar are you with [something]?
  • Would you consider yourself an expert, novice or beginner at [something]?

Identifying Opportunities

Asking opportunity-based interview questions can help you identify behaviors, wants, needs, desired outcomes, and pain points participants are experiencing with their current products and services.

Whether you’ve been working on a product for a while or if you’re just getting started, identifying opportunities can breathe new life into your business model and fill your backlog for future discovery.

Examples of Identifying Opportunities Questions:

  • Do you [do something]?
  • What is it like to [do something]?
  • Why do [group of people] do [something]?
  • Tell me about the last time you [did something].
  • How many times in the last [time period] have you done [something]?
  • Could you walk me through how you currently do [something]?
  • Where do you typically go to [do something]?
  • Could you show me how you [do something]?
  • What are some frustrating parts of doing [something]?
  • Tell me about what you do to make [something] easier.

Solution Ideation

Asking solution ideation interview questions brings your research participant into the innovation process and can potentially uncover new insights that expand the potential of your product or service.

Examples of Solution Ideation Questions

  • What do you think could be done to help you with [problem]?
  • What would your ideal solution to this problem look like?
  • How would you handle solving [problem]?
  • If you could wave a magic wand and instantly have any imaginable solution to this problem, what would it look like?
  • If one thing could be improved about [problem], what would that be?
  • What’s the hardest part about [process you’re improving]?
  • What do you like and dislike about [competing product or solution]?
  • What are you currently doing to solve this problem/get this value?

Solution Validation

Solution validation questions tend to be more structured and help you collect measurable and actionable information. Ultimately, they can help you understand how useful, usable, desirable, and valuable your concepts and solutions might be to your research participants.

Examples of Solution Validation Questions

  • What is the first thing you notice when looking at [solution]?
  • Without interacting with it, what do you think you can do with [solution]?
  • Can you describe to me what you think is happening?
  • Can you show me how you would [task] with [solution]?
  • Is this what you expected to happen when doing [task]?
  • On a scale from [preferred scale start] to [preferred scale end], how easy was it to [task]?
  • Was there anything unclear or confusing about [feature/task]?
  • Was there a standout moment for you when doing [task]?
  • How would this solve your problem?
  • What might prevent you from using this?

Solution Optimization

Solution optimization questions are closely related to solution validation questions. The biggest difference is this type of question can help you identify opportunities to refine or improve your product concept or current solution.

Examples of Solution Optimization Questions

  • What could be done to improve [solution]?
  • What is the one thing that stands out as missing from [solution]?
  • What would make you want to tell your friends about [solution]?
  • What’s most appealing to you about [solution]?
  • What might improve your experience using [solution]?
  • What motivates you to continue using [solution]?
  • What’s the hardest part about using [solution]?
  • What do you wish [solution] could help you with?

Ending Interview

Asking quality interview questions at the end of the participant research session is one of the best ways to gather additional insights, identify or validate interest in your product or service, and provide an opportunity for additional research.

Examples of Ending Interview Questions

  • Is there anything else you think I should know that I didn’t ask?
  • What else would you add that you feel might be relevant to our discussion?
  • What additional comments do you have about [solution/problem]?
  • Do you know anyone else who might also have [problem] that I could ask similar questions?
  • Can I keep you in the loop on how [solution] develops?
  • Can I follow up with you if I have more questions?

And if you need more help, let us know!

 

About Handrail

We built Handrail to help teams collaborate throughout the entire user research process. Plan, collect, analyze, store, and share your research all in one location. Sign up for a free 30-day trial today.

 

Mat Winegarden

Product manager at Handrail. Sometimes I have ideas...other times I am brilliantly late to the party.

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