ENTERPRISE UX

How to Prioritize User Test Research Questions Effectively

Bansi Mehta | 7 min read

User testing is the core of user experience in more than one ways. User testing allows you to get the right data and employ it for better designs. This is why it is absolutely important to ensure that user testing is done appropriately and effectively. Now the best way to do that is to formulate the entire testing strategy in a way that gets the most reliable results. Questions used in the user test research can make a considerable difference to the whole process. This is why it is important to pay attention to the questions as you do not want to go through the entire testing process only to realize that your questions need to be reworked. Here are some quick tips to prioritize user research questions effectively.

Asking the right questions

When formulating the questions, planning is the key. The more you plan, the better results you get. It is important that along with planning the questions well, we ask the right questions to get the right answers.

Define the concepts

The first obvious step is to define clearly what we want to achieve out of the interviews. Start with understanding what you are trying to uncover in terms of the range of possibilities. Don’t start out with the questions directly. Some of the concepts could be like

How do the users use the portal?

Why do they use the application?

Then based on these, we can formulate the questions for the interview.

Break them down

The above concepts are good for your understanding but you cannot use them as questions, as you will get incorrect information through them. So you will have to break down those concepts into questions that will get you the precise results.  So for example, if we take: Why do they use the application?

We can break it down to:

“What functions do you undertake on the application?”
OR
“What tasks do you undertake through the application?”

This will get you the actual working answers as opposed to what the users think that they use the application for.

Don’t influence the answer

The way you ask a certain question makes a big difference on the answer. Certain questions influence the outcome of the answer and that makes the user data unreliable. So we need to ask questions that do not lead the user in any way. For example, instead of asking

“Is this feature difficult to use?”

Which make the user consider if it is actually difficult rather than bringing up their own experiences, we could ask:

“When was the last time you used this feature? How was your experience?”

This will allow the user to answer free of prejudice and rely on his own experiences for the answer.

Ask about past experiences

If you want specific answers as opposed to generic ones, ask about specific instances. Past experiences are full of insights waiting to be unlocked. So phrase your questions in a manner that allows the users to draw on their past experiences. For example, instead of asking

“How do you generate reports from this application?”

You could ask,

“Tell me about the last time you generated reports from this application. Walk me through what you were thinking.”

Asking questions in this format is a great way to encourage users to share more.

You may also check this blog on 6 steps to successful usability testing

Before you start your User Test Research

Now with the planning covered, you are about to start the actual interview. Keep these tips in mind to ensure that you get the best out of the interviews.

Character is important

Who you portray yourself makes a difference to your approach. Let go of being a designer of the product and get into the shoes of a researcher. This will allow you to remain impersonal and objective through the interview and put your users at ease.

Pay attention to your body language

The way you sit, speak, and react, will all have an impact on the user. Your body language speaks way more about you than your verbal communication ever would. Make sure you portray that you are here to learn as much as possible, and not to interrogate them in any way. Lean forward, make eye contact and remain calm and pleasant. It all makes a difference.

Remain objective

While it is obvious that you cannot get emotionally involved with the interviews, it is important that you convey to the users that there are no right or wrong answers that they can give. Many times, users are a bit hesitant and will answer with what they think you want to hear. So make it absolutely clear that you are an impartial figure and that you will remain objective.

Make them comfortable

With all of this preparation, you might try to get it all right and come across a bit mechanical. It is important that your users are comfortable in order for them to give you information. Start with some warm-up questions to get them comfortable. Ask them about where they live, or their hobbies. Something easy that will put them at ease.

During the interview of user test research

Photo credit: Campaign Creators

During the interview

By this time, you should be pretty confident about the process. Assuming that everything is going great, here are some more tips to get the best out of every interview:

Remain impassive

It is important that you do not react to the responses. If you react in a certain manner post negative feedback, the users might get wary of giving you negative feedback and that could affect the entire process. Remain calm and don’t react to any feedback.

Listen

Listening is a very important skill even in day-to-day conversations. But in user interviews, it is crucial. If the user feels like you are doing all the talking, they might not divulge too much information. Listen and respond accordingly. It will help make your users more forthcoming with their feedback.

Don’t be biased

It sounds obvious but often interviewers are designers who have worked on the product. Therefore, they feel passionately about certain features and that tends to show in conversation. Maybe you are upselling your product without you even noticing. Make sure you are unbiased in your approach and don’t push the perks of your product on the user. Or worse, pass it off as their opinion.

Repeat and confirm

Users are not accustomed to you or the interview environment so communication can be a little difficult. After each question, summarize what they said and repeat it to them. This will help you weed out any inconsistencies and clarify the users’ statements to you easily.

Keep asking questions

Of course, asking questions is what you do in an interview but you need to do it off script as well. Answer questions with more questions as it will allow the user to dig deeper into their own responses and unlock more insights about their experiences.

Pay attention to cues

If you notice any users being hesitant or tight-lipped about something, explore it. Maybe they are uncomfortable asking something or giving information. Ask them if they want to share something and you might get some more insights through the interview.

Conclusion

Like any other process, user test research interviews also get refined over a period of time. The only way to get better is to keep doing it. Are there any other tips that you know of? Share with us in the comments.


About Author:

With an experience of over a decade in User Experience, Bansi Mehta is the Founder & CEO of Koru UX Design. Collectively, her team provides exceptional UX for enterprise applications and complex systems, working with clients ranging from healthcare giants to boutique investment banks.


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