Ask good questions and get better answers
Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers. – Voltaire
Source: SlideShare presentation at UX Camp Brighton 2016. Information presented here as compilation of slideshare presentation.
What makes a good question?
Check your facilitation guide / survey / interview questions to make sure they start with or include either a: Why, How, Where, Who, What, When. You might be amazed how often this isn’t the case. The guides below serve all kinds of interviewers in all kinds of situations, and are just as useful for the freelance designer as for the corporate designer.
A good question has a purpose.
Write a statement for the purpose of the research. Review your questions against it. For each question make a note on why you are asking it. If you don’t know why you are asking a question delete it. Highlight your most essential question(s) to spend more time to probe in depth.
A good question gives insight that is actionable.
It’s easy to take up too much time enjoying a chat. Remember why you are there. Spend your time getting answers that inform your thinking on the project. Don’t ask interviewees for design solutions. Rather understand their problems that your design should solve.
A good question opens up a conversation.
Spot and edit question types that limit answers. Re-phase if not intentional: – Closed questions e.g. Do you like drinking tea in the morning? What was the last book you read? – Close-ended questions e.g. Do you prefer tea or coffee?
A good question is neutral and free of bias.
Spot and edit question types that limit answers. Re-write to remove bias: – Leading e.g. Would you agree . . ? Do you think . . .? – Charged words e.g. Tell me what you think of our exciting new design?’
A good question is interesting.
As you have to listen to multiple people respond to the same questions make sure they are interesting to ask and to answer. Look out for changes in body language that indicate engagement or boredom with the question. If an interviewee says ‘that’s a good question’ take note and re-use in other projects.
A good question is short.
Ask one thing at a time. Short questions are easier to listen to and understand (and analyse). Review your questions to look out for: – ands (avoid compound sentences) – commas (avoid subordinate clauses) – questions with more than 12 words.
A good question can be answered.
Questions should help you learn not show off. Don’t make interviewees feel stupid. Be careful of jargon (client, sector, UX & digital words). Ask questions based on the interviewees experiences and behaviours. Avoid asking for conjecture or future predictions. ‘What do you do’ over ‘what would you do’. Get people to show you rather than tell you.
How can I get better answers to my questions?
- Listen and observe more than you talk. Use the power of silence.
- Be aware of moderation bias. Avoid prompting, leading and conﬁrming.
- Ask fewer questions but go deeper. Use the ﬁve whys.
- Know your killer question and when to ask it.
- Empower the interviewee. Unlock insight through interest and empathy.
How can I get better at asking questions?
For those serious about improving their interviewing skills, read more:
- Do more of it. Improvement comes with practice and reﬂection.
- Listen back critically to session recordings of yourself. However experienced you are you’ll ﬁnd things to improve upon.
- After each project reﬂect on which questions gave the best insight and why. Keep an ongoing list, iterate and re-use good questions.
- Find time to watch other practitioners in action. Live or recorded. Experienced colleagues and those starting out.
- Stretch yourself. Build your toolkit by asking a new question or trying a new activity in your next project.