How to ask good questions and level-up your user research skills

Katie Riley
Aug 2, 2018 · 6 min read

Learn how to ask good questions.

When you talk to users, your goal is to learn about them and their problems; to do that, all you have to do is ask! I’ve put together my favorite question-asking techniques below to hopefully kick-start your ability to do more user research.

“Curious commands”

This is my number one secret to asking good questions:

  • Describe a time…
  • Share with me…
  • Talk some more about…
  • Help me to understand how…
  • Explain what you’re seeing here…
  • Show me what you would do next…
  • Share with me what you were thinking…

Storytelling prompts

Asking questions that get the participant to tell you a story is a great way to learn how users think from start to finish.

  • Tell me how you would work with your hiring team on this job?
  • Can you demonstrate how you use this website to check the performance of your job post?
  • When you [are in this situation], how do you get started?
  • When you planned your last vacation, how did you get started?
  • Walk me through a normal day at work, from when you arrive to when you leave.

Follow-up questions

Using storytelling prompts or curious commands is a great way to start a conversation. As you listen to the participant talk, note the statements that catch your interest, then ask for more details!

  • When did you notice that?
  • How do you do that?
  • How come you feel that way?
  • What’s an example of that?
  • What’s the reason for that?
  • That’s interesting. Tell me more.

If you take nothing else away from this article, I want you to understand the power of “tell me more about that.”

In the course of a research conversation, the participate will talk about any number of their behaviors or opinions (I never use that feature or these settings are really confusing.)

Neutral and open-ended questions

Open-ended questions begin with words like Where, What, When, Why, or How. Avoid starting questions with words like Did or Was that will result in a yes or no answer.

Just kidding :) Ask me all the questions!

Envoy Design

Stories and ideas from designers that challenge the workplace status quo.

Katie Riley

Written by

Product Designer with serious opinions about things.

Envoy Design

Stories and ideas from designers that challenge the workplace status quo.