How Can User Experience Designers Ask Effective Questions?

I have so many questions. One of my favorites (and most self-defining) is: Who is this for? Now, I usually use an angry and aggressive tone when asking this question, because I do not understand why something is designed the way it is. For example, earlier today I decided to purchase a digital copy of Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things. When it came time to complete the transaction, the familiar “add to cart” button was replaced with one that read “Buy Now with 1 Click”. This function enables Amazon customers to bypass a number of steps in their transaction. No need to go to the cart, confirm payment and shipping options, and press the check out button: a real time saver for regular and frequent customers. I was not interested in this function today, because I needed to be certain the correct credit card was charged. “Too bad” Amazon’s interface told me. There was no option to complete the transaction through traditional means. After 40 minutes of purchasing it with incorrect billing information, requesting a refund, exploring my account settings, and yelling in a public place, I have the book, but I don’t know how I paid for it. Obviously, this function was not designed for me.

Why should we ask questions?

This example illustrates the importance of User Experience (UX) design. UX is a field of design concerned with how products and tools, such as software interfaces, behave in order to ensure users can complete functions better with a more positive experience. In order to provide users with these products and services, a designer must first conduct research in order to gain a better understanding of what the users’ needs might be. In most cases, a portion of that data is collected through interviews. Designers must be skilled in the art of asking questions. Lacking this skill will affect every stage of the project because user input is an overarching necessity. They must also ensure that they are forming the questions in a way that will not alter the subject’s responses.

What kind of questions should we be asking?

The questions we ask should be appropriate to a step in the UX design process. Garrett Kroll provides a list of 100 example questions that designers should use throughout the UX process. He outlines six different stages: the kickoff meeting, stakeholder interviews, user research, user testing, design reviews, and stakeholder reviews. Some questions will be asked of the client, of your design team, and of course, of the end users.

When starting off the project, you want to ensure that your team is on the same page, you should ask “What does the project need to do?” Towards the conclusion of the project, a design team can give feedback when you ask, “How can this design fail?” Asking these questions of your peers enables you to work together efficiently, utilizing peer criticism.

It is also important to ask the clients questions in order to wrap your head around the project. “What have you tried that has or hasn’t worked?” These questions can reveal information about the clients and what they perceive the problem to be. It gives designers a starting point.

Most importantly, UX designers need to ask the users’ about their experiences with the product. Initially, you can ask users questions that will help identify current issues. “How often do you encounter the problem?”

Once designers have an iteration of a solution, they must test it out and ask questions to discover how it performs. Hamilton Hernandez outlines the process of asking questions during the usability testing phase. Question can be asked before the test takes place in order to learn more about the subjects and their past experiences with similar products. It is also beneficial to ask questions while they perform the test. Questions like “Why did you take that approach?” asked in the moment give important insights about the project’s functionality. Finally, you should follow up after the test and look for responses about the overall experience.

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