4 questions come back in almost every UX Research interview. These questions are usually the part that I look forward to, my favorite part of every interview. Not coincidentally they are also the type of questions that many talk show hosts typically use a lot. Why? Because they directly focus on the extremes of a personal experience and stimulate storytelling. Let me share those 4 favorite questions and explain why these questions are so extremely powerful in user research.
1. What made you start to use X? (& how did you deal with [topic] before)
The beginning, the tipping point, an important moment of truth. The moment in which someone decides to start using a certain product, service, and brand. Understanding what started their experience helps get to know how people make decisions related to the topic you are looking into.
How do they make the decision? What started it? What is important to them? What were their expectations? On what kind of information do they make a decision?
Since this question is so open, the answers people give can vary a lot. It could be a certain story they heard, a feature they liked, a special offer, a disappointment with there previous situation, an impulse at a certain moment, a life event — it can be all kinds of things. Understanding their expectations upfront is also important to know because the result of how an experience is valued roughly follows this equation:
Experience = Reality — Expectations
Having low expectations is a good strategy to end up with a positive experience, and vice versa; high expectations can be hard to meet.
By asking how they previously dealt with this topic you will learn what alternatives they have experienced and what the trade-off to start with X has been for them.
Sometimes an experience can simply be improved by adjusting expectations instead of changing the product or service itself.
2. Could you tell me about your best experience with X?
By asking the question in this way the interviewee will feel free to answer whatever they will like best about their experiences. It can be related to the main purpose of the product or service itself, to their (perceived) USP, or something in the marketing campaign, but very often it is something small or thoughtful that happened in the interaction with a store clerk or someone from customer service.
The ‘Peak-end-rule’ an important principle in behavioral psychology: People remember experiences mostly by its peak and its end — so understanding these is essential to understanding an experience.
By understanding what their best experience was you will also learn what matters to them most and how (un)important it is in their life. What makes or breaks their experience? What does it mean to them?
3. Could you tell me about your worst experience with X?
The worst experience someone had will also tell you a lot about what the experience means to them. Sometimes a story can seem rather small, but those are the opportunities for you to understand why this was so bad for them.
Interestingly, very often people’s worst experience is directly linked to and followed by their best experience. If someone had a bad experience which is handled well and with care it will be remembered mostly as a positive experience in the end.
Because people tend to remember an experience more with peaks and ends it can help to actively think of ways to bring in ‘peaks’ so that people will remember them better.
4. Could you tell me about your last experience with X? (& how that was different from your first experience?)
People learn over time, discover new features, get more used to it, and develop strategies to cope with the flaws of a product or service. (At least, if the product or service is important enough for them and the alternatives are not that obvious or easy to reach).
Having an idea of the learning curve the users’ experience, how those differ per motivations that users have, and also what the most common growth paths looks like will help you to optimize the user experience further and will also help you with setting priorities for new features or services to add.
Also, this question can be very powerful to ask those people that are no longer using the product of service. They will be able to tell you what was their ‘moment of truth’ was and their reason to no longer use it.
Why are these 4 questions so powerful?
By asking these 4 questions and focussing on the start, the best, the worst, and the end, you draw a frame, the outline of someone’s experience. You can see where it starts, it peaked (high & lows) and how it ended (if so).
By asking these 4 questions to enthusiasts, churners, power users, different drivers, different levels of experiences, sleepers, high potentials, and slackers you can find out what each group has in common and what is needed to improve their experiences.
Want to know more?
Over the last 10+ years, I have done research all over the world, in all kinds of studies with different topics, with all kinds of people, and in all kinds of contexts. The biggest learnings in setting up a good interview came from the book the Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick. Of course, other than asking the right questions, you will also have to make sure that you ask the right people for your specific type of research.
I am curious to hear which questions are your favorites in UX Research, and of course also, why! :)