Dangerous Questions in User Reseach
User research is an essential step in the designing of any type of product. The insights that it gives into the needs and behaviors of real end users is invaluable and goes a long way in influencing the direction of any project as well as determining its success. Yet research can be both expensive and time consuming, and money and time are commodities that few projects can afford to waste. Therefore, it is important that when resources are expended on user research, every effort is made to ensure that as much value as possible is gained from it.
An important factor that influences the value of any user research will be the interaction with the user by the researcher, or more specifically, the types of questions that are asked. People generally like to give their opinions. They also tend to have an inherent desire to please others. Therefore, even the most well intentioned respondent can give misleading responses that are influenced by something as simple as the way a question is framed. This results in lots of feedback which is potentially useless as it doesn’t necessarily reflect reality.
In his post, Jared Spool sets out three types of questions that shouldn’t be asked during user research in order to ensure the quality of the research.
- Don’t ask anything about the future – This comes down to the basic mantra ‘what people say they’ll do and what they’ll actually do, is usually not the same thing’. Instead, a better way of predicting future behaviour is to look at what the user has done in the past
- Don’t ask how they’d design a feature – Unfortunately, while they may be the ones who ultimately use the product, it doesn’t automatically translate that they’ll know exactly what they want. Even if they do have a good idea of what they want from a product, they’re unlikely to be aware of all the different types of constraints or any other factors that go on behind the scenes.
- Don’t ask by providing a reason in the question – These types of leading questions potentially give a respondent an easy way out. It signals to them an easy response to the question that they can give without having to think for themselves.
Conducting user research is something that is dependent on the time and money available to spend on it. It takes a lot of effort to design and recruit for it and therefore it’s important that the time that is devoted to research with participants is time well spent. Even when resources are not a limitation, implementing correct user research methodologies is still critical to any project. Incorrect user research can often result in feedback that is misleading or outright wrong. Work that is carried out on the back of such research can end up destroying a project.
Read more at the source “Three Questions You Shouldn’t Ask During User Research” via UIE.