March 30, 2021

21 Questions: Usability Style

Benjamin Yang

As much as we’d love to think that our users are a lot like us, they rarely are. That’s why it’s important that we understand who they are, what they need, and how they go about getting it. Our products are designed for them. So why not improve the experience? 

User testing is a great way to do this. Gathering unbiased opinions will ultimately lead to a better user experience. Ask the right questions and you’ll get the right insights, ones that you can act on.

First things first…

You need to define your objectives. Figure out what it is you want to achieve, and why. Are you looking to prove a hypothesis? Find issues in your product? Understand how people interact with your competitors? A clear objective will help you create the right questions and get to where you need to be.

Essentially, your questions should produce a mix of qualitative and quantitative data. Think multiple choice, open-ended and the yes/no type. Throw in a practical exercise, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for success.

Screening Questions

Right. You know what you want. Now you’ve got to decide who to get it from. Who would be your ideal candidate; someone who’s just signed up? Or a power user? Get your demographic and experience questions out the way. They’ll help you find potential participants. Plus, you can use this information at a later stage in your analysis of the final results.

1. How old are you?

2. What’s your highest level of education?

3. How much time do you spend online?

4. What apps and websites do you use on a regular basis?

5. What’s your income level?

Pre-test Questions


Once you’ve selected your test subjects, you’ve got another opportunity to filter them. This will uncover whether or not participants know enough about your products to provide relevant feedback. Do this through a questionnaire, survey, face-to-face interview or any other way that works for you. Plus, knowing the backgrounds of your participants means you’ve got context for the way they interact with your product.

6. What made you choose this website/app?

7. How often do you use the website/app?

8. Which features do you use most?

9. What other websites/apps did you consider using?


Test Questions

It’s time for the real deal - the test. During this stage of questions, your goal is to collect data that explains why users make certain choices while interacting with your product. It could be silent, with users completing tasks and then answering questions after. Or, it could be conversational, with users talking through their thought process at each step.

Our advice? Make it conversational. The more relaxed participants are, the more open they’ll be.

10. I noticed you did ___. Can you tell me why?

11. Is there another way to do that?

12. What stops you from completing a task?

13. How do you use the X feature?

14. What do you think of the interface?

15. What do you think of the design?

16. How do you feel about the way information is laid out?

17. What do you think of X page? How easy is it to find?


Post-test Questions

Missed anything? Not fully understanding certain answers? Now’s your chance. It’s also a great time to let your participants ask a few questions or offer feedback they believe is relevant. These questions can be more general to get an overall opinion on the user experience.

18. What’s your overall impression of X?

19. What’s the best and worst thing about X?

20. How would you change it?

21. How would you compare X to a competitor?


Note taking?

Forget about it. You won’t be able to focus on non-verbal cues if you’re furiously scribbling down minutes. It might also distract your participants or make them even more uncomfortable than they already are. Record your interview instead. Then, upload it to a transcription service. Like the speech-to-text software, Rev.

Constructive criticism?

It’s one of the necessary evils, especially in tech. The more usability tests you run, the more feedback you’ll get - good and bad. But that’s okay. Without different perspectives, you wouldn’t be able to see the bigger picture and then better your product. Plus, allowing your users to rip your work to shreds in the name of improvement often results in an even better user experience than anyone could have imagined.

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