A framework and 32 examples of follow-up/probing questions.

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Moderating user interviews is an art. When you watch great researchers interviewing, it feels like a conversation. The session flows naturally without following a script. Most questions are phrased as follow-up questions based on something the participant has said. As the participant feels listened to, they engage and reveal insightful thoughts and stories.

Behind what may look effortless, the interviewer needs to juggle many things in their minds. They need to simultaneously listen and build rapport, keep track of time and research objectives, and make conscious choices of what to ask next and how to say it.

All of this can feel overwhelming for a beginner. This pressure leads to mistakes like asking close-ended and leading questions, not digging into details, or abruptly change the topic. …


5 storytelling tips to become more persuasive when showing your designs.

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Image by Raw Pixel

A couple of days ago, as I was walking into the subway station, it hit me that an enterprise product I was working on could become a platform for multiple processes in the future and my design was not ready to handle that. Why did this thought come to me at that moment? It’s because a year ago, a co-op student told me a story of how she learned to design for scalability while waiting on the jam-packed subway platform.

I certainly had learned about design for scalability in the past, but her story made the lesson stick in my mind several months after hearing it. …


10 lessons for facilitating user research and uncovering users’ true thoughts.

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Image by rawpixel.com

Five minutes before a research session, my heart started racing fast. Remember the questions. Read the script again. Oh god, I hope this person will talk. Breathe, breathe, drink some coffee. Wait that’s not my coffee…

As I gain experiences over time, I’ve stopped panicking and drinking other people’s coffee before a research session. I still get a rush of adrenaline every time. There’s an element of uncertainty and unpredictability in every research session that makes it exciting and challenging.

I recently listened to one of my research sessions from the early days. There was a stark difference in how I conducted research back then and now, and it had me reflect on the lessons I’ve learned about facilitating user research. …


Define success, measure baseline, and measure after design.

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Illustration by slidesgo on freepik

As part of a design thinking squad at my company, I jump in and out of products at different points in their life cycles. Within the span of a few weeks to months, I have to demonstrate the strategic value of design and research. That often requires showing the metrics that design has impacted in addition to its intangible values.

I follow a metric-driven framework to quantify the value of design and to evaluate project success objectively. This framework is inspired by Lean Six Sigma’s DMAIC methodology.

The nice thing about this framework is that it defines a general process that you can then combine with other resources like Google’s HEART framework or System Usability Scale (SUS) if you’ve already used them. …


Turn design research data into actionable insights in four steps.

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In design research, synthesis is where the magic happens. It’s the process of distilling data into insights. Someone could have attended all research sessions and still be surprised by the insights derived from synthesis. Like the saying, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, synthesis creates an understanding of users that go beyond all data points that have been collected.

As a user researcher, some of my most rewarding moments happened when I identified insights that can alter or guide the product strategy. Of all skills in design research, synthesis skills might be the most challenging one to teach and develop. …


Including essentials that need to be communicated about the research to set expectations and to keep yourself focused.

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Illustration by Katerina Limpitsouni

In my world of wealth management, it’s precious to get time with users as their every minute worth a hundred to thousands dollars. My stakeholders expect to hear a strong business case for every user we ask to have a research session with. Research objectives, expectations, and questions always need to be crystal clear and ready to share with anyone who asks about it.

A research plan communicates important information about the who, what, why, when of research. Together with the research roadmap and protocol, these documents ensure everyone is aligned and know their roles in the research.

To create research plans quickly, I have a master template to use as a starting point for every project. It comprises essentials that need to be communicated about the research. It makes planning and writing easier. …


How to ask questions that uncover deep insights about users’ behaviors without injecting personal biases.

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Illustration created by Katerina Limpitsouni

Most product teams I work with have done user interviewing in the past. They understand the importance of hearing from users. Where they have trouble with is how to run user interview sessions that uncover deep insights about users’ behaviors without injecting personal biases.

As a user researcher, I advise product managers, designers, and other roles supporting user experience on what questions to ask during user interviews. These are often the same questions they’ve been asking but with small tweaks to collect unbiased answers.

Following are the common user interview questions you can reframe to collect better insights.

1) What problems do you have?

People don’t always realize the problems they have. Just last week, I watched a user interacted with software. Despite having to go through several clicks and errors to complete the task, she said that the software was easy to use and user-friendly. …


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Illustration by Katerina Limpitsouni

Deciding the relevant information to display in a dashboard can be tricky. If you ask users what they would like to see, they will give you every metrics that has ever been produced in the organization and some more.

In dashboard design, it’s not enough to ask what users want. You must understand why these data are needed and how they would be used. Without proper user research, dashboard design runs the risk of creating fancy-looking charts and graphs that aren’t informative or actionable.

Below, I’m sharing a collection of questions I use in user research for dashboard design projects. …


Review of “Something like an autobiography” by Akira Kurosawa

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Picture of Akira Kurosawa

Books that made a lasting influence on me often come unplanned. When my ego was ruining my relationships and career without my awareness, I came across “The ego is the enemy”. When I felt discouraged about my career, “The war of art” and “Mastery” picked me up and got me going. Strangely, when I intentionally searched for more books of the same genre or author, the effect was never the same. It was as though particular books were meant to be there at just those very moments to guide me through my challenges.

Something like an autobiography” is one of the books with that effect on me. …


The best advice I got when started out in UX design

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Whenever someone asks how to become a UX designer, the actual question implied is how to get the first UX job. Because the assumption is anyone can be a designer.

Since the rise of design bootcamps in the early 2010s, the number of entry-level UX/UI designers has exploded. While being the number one sought-after creative role in 2018, the demand for UX designers has been skewed towards senior roles, with limited positions for the junior level.

About

Taylor Nguyen

Squarespace website designer at taylornguyen.ca. Previously UX Researcher at RBC.

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