UIEtips: 3 Questions You Shouldn’t Ask During User Research

Jared Spool

August 18th, 2010

When we prepare for our user research sessions, it’s easy to focus on the questions we should ask. But what about the ones we shouldn’t ask?

Our goal, of course, is to learn everything we can. We need to leverage the research time, to ensure we’re filling our brains with the information we’ll need to create great designs.

In today’s UIEtips, I talk about three questions I’ve learned not to ask in sessions. By avoiding these questions, we get to the information we need faster. Read the article Three Questions You Shouldn’t Ask During User Research.

Once you’ve learned what you need from the research, you’ll want to put it in a form that helps you speed through your design process. That’s exactly what scenarios help you do and, coincidentally, why we’ve asked Kim Goodwin to come to UI15. She’ll teach us how to make scenarios work. You can find out about Kim and the other great UI15 experts at UICONF.com.

User Interface Conference FifteenExplore all the workshop presenters. Register by August 26, 2010 for the lowest rate.

Have you compiled your own questions that you shouldn’t ask? Share your list below.

3 Responses to “UIEtips: 3 Questions You Shouldn’t Ask During User Research”

  1. Carolyn Snyder Says:

    Over the years I’ve had clients ask some ridiculous questions. My favorite: “Did you click on that because it’s yellow?” (Yellow = Clickiness. Right. I have to avoid the entire produce section because I just can’t leave those bananas and lemons alone.) Or, “Do you think you would have figured it out if this was a real site and not a prototype?” Or, “Why didn’t you see that?”

    I actually don’t mind the occasional oddball question from an observer – it makes the others realize that there’s a reason why they pay me to do this. And yes, even after 17 years I still ask stupid questions, though on a good day I’ll catch myself halfway through and say, “I’m sorry – I need to shut up now. Please continue with what you were doing.”

  2. Barbara Bix Says:

    Your observations about asking people to reflect on the past, rather than predict the future is a good one. One of my mentors once told me, “People make great reporters, but lousy analysts.”

    Yet, so many researchers ask, “Would you buy this?” and “What would you pay for it?” rather than finding out how they solved the same problem in the past, what items have ranked high enough to get them to open their wallet recently, and what their process was for purchasing/approving like solutions.

    Here’s an article we wrote several years ago addressing some of he same issues: http://bbmarketingplus.com/articles/RT_3-2006.htm that discusses the “Power of anecdote and agenda”.

  3. Erin Lynn Young Says:

    I agree with Barbara – I’ve heard the second two points, but not the first. And I think the first is brilliant! Your example of simply rephrasing the question takes you from the hypothetical to real. It seems like a mistake that’d be really easy to make and I’m glad you brought it to my attention.

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