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How to craft a great question set

How to craft a great question set | Edgar Allan

Interviews are an incredible way to quickly get in-depth information and insightful takes on your product, brand, or the problem you’re trying to solve in digital experience creation. But before you hop on Zoom or grab coffee and sit down at the table with your prospect (Remember when we did this? Feels like forever ago.), you’ll want to have a tight, clear question set planned in advance. If you don’t take the time, your interview may meander, and you may not get the information you came for. 

The art and science of questioning

Before we begin, understanding the type of project at hand is the compass that will guide the questions you'll be asking. Is it about exploring user interactions, identifying pain points, or shaping content and design? Once you've got your 'why,' 'what,' and 'how' locked in and have everyone on the same page, those goals will be your guiding light throughout the research journey. 

However, the next crucial step is crafting a compelling set of questions, the cornerstone of gathering meaningful insights. It's about asking the right thing, in the right way, to unlock the answers you need. 

But before you start firing off questions into that blank Google Doc, let's dive in and uncover some key principles for formulating questions that lead to invaluable data.

  1. Write clear and concise questions

Good questions are essential for successful research. They need to be easy for participants to understand. Avoiding complicated words or jargon makes sure more people can answer. Using simple, friendly language makes conversations smoother and helps prevent misunderstandings, leading to better, more useful answers.

  1. Ask open-ended questions

Instead of going for a simple "yes" or "no" answer, open-ended questions prompt individuals to share their thoughts, experiences, and opinions. For example, asking "Can you describe your experience using our website?" invites a more comprehensive response compared to a closed question like "Did you find our website user-friendly?

  1. Avoid leading questions

Leading questions inadvertently suggest a preferred answer or steer participants towards a particular response. It's crucial to maintain neutrality to obtain unbiased feedback. For instance, instead of asking, "Didn't you find our website useful?" you could ask, "How did you find the experience with our website?"

  1. Ask for specific examples

Requesting specific examples helps to ground abstract concepts or opinions in concrete experiences. It adds depth to participants' responses and provides contextual insights. For instance, if exploring user frustrations, you might ask, "Could you share a recent instance when you encountered difficulty navigating our website?”

  1. Know that actions speak louder than words

Understanding user behavior is vital for predicting future actions like website visits or content preferences. Instead of solely relying on what users say, which can be influenced by a desire to present themselves positively, observe their actual behavior for more reliable insights. For instance, even if users express a preference for email, asking them how they contacted the last company they interacted with might reveal a tendency to choose live chat for quicker responses. This approach goes beyond expectations, helping us uncover genuine user habits. It allows us to ask more specific questions, like, "What factors influence your choice of communication channel?" to get a better understanding of the nuances, and adapt design strategies accordingly.

Incorporating these principles into your question set can improve the quality of insights you collect. Remember, asking questions is just the start; effective research is all about asking the right questions in the right manner. By following these guidelines, you'll be well prepared to take on research and get the insight you need to make smart design choices. Happy interviewing!

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