3 questions you should never ask in a user interview

User interviews are an important part of the design cycle. The interviews should take place in the beginning of the process and should lay the foundation for great design. The interview should focus on a user’s goals, motivations, and pain points. A good interviewer is a good listener, and has the ability to ask open-ended questions that reveal insights that could not be discovered by asking direct questions.

It is easy to jeopardize an interview by asking the wrong questions. Below is a list of questions you should avoid.

1. Would you use X feature?

This is commonly asked by inexperienced designers and overeager entrepreneurs. It is a bad question because it is typically answered with a yes or no. People are typically bad predictors of their future behavior. Also, many interviewees will agree to avoid conflict. This question is bad even if the interviewer shows a prototype of the feature. It is better to ask questions that pertain to the problem or need this feature addresses.

2. What would you need in X app?

Avoid “what” questions. People will usually ask for the wrong thing, especially when their need is abstract. Focus on “why” questions instead. “What feature would solve this problem,” should be phrased as “tell me more about this problem.” It is the designer’s role to extract insights from the interviewee.

3. What are your goals, motivations, and pain points?

The purpose of a user interview is to derive a user’s goals, motivations, and pain points, but you should never ask this directly. A user’s true goals, motivations, and pain points lay beneath the surface of a person’s consciousness. Start with the obvious and ask questions to discover the root. It is surprising what you can find.

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