Asking the right usability testing questions is a vital part of UX research – so much so that we’ve written a guide to explain why asking them is so valuable for obtaining rich and reliable UX data.

Ultimately there are two main components of gathering info and data through usability testing: tasks and questions. Today we’ll be focussing on the questions you ask.

Questions are especially great for adding all sorts of useful context to your findings and discovering more about the users themselves – who they are, what they like etc.

Let’s dive a little deeper. We’ll also share some sample usability test questions to ask before, during and after the main user test task.

What is usability testing?

Well, it’s a type of research method that gauges how effectively users interact with a product – with the overarching goal of improving the overall user experience. So with the addition of usability testing questions, you can get to know the human behind the participant and enrich your hypothesis with extra details on what they want and need from your product in the first place.

Take a read of another blog where we clarify the differences between user testing and usability testing. It may help you know which questions to ask!

Why should you ask usability testing questions?

The nature of asking questions is simple! The more you ask, the more you understand the who, what, and whys, of your product’s usability. Beyond observations and tasks, extra questions are integral to UX research because they:

  • paint a bigger picture of your audience
  • provide feedback and opinions
  • validate your hypothesis 
  • uncover issues, bugs, and pain points
  • show how user-friendly a product is
  • help you understand more about the ways a user interacts and engages with a product

demonstrate whether a product is working the way it’s intended.

Questions to ask during usability testing

Here are a few types of usability testing questions you might ask:

  • background questions on user demographics 
  • questions that ask for an overall opinion about the brand/experience
  • reflective questions that ask about the test itself
  • more specific questions regarding the product design, function, visuals, language etc.

This range of questions can be easily divided into three stages too: pre-test briefing questions, post-test debriefing questions, and core questions that you ask as part of the test itself ie. if it’s usability survey questions. 

Our UserQ platform allows you to add what we call introductory and conclusion questions. In fact, we recommend always adding these questions both before and after the tests. 

Here’s a little more about each stage and some sample usability test questions you can ask.

Before the test (introductory questions)

The goal of this stage is to break the ice and obtain background/demographic info on who’s taking the test and what their behaviours and preferences are as an audience. Examples of pre-test questions include:

Demographic questions

(Questions to narrow down your target audience and give you more context on their basic demographic data).

  • What age group are you in? (Give range options ie. 18-24, 25-30…)
  • What is your current occupation?
  • What is your household income?

Beware that based on the testing software and the recruitment option chosen, you may already have this info as part of your panel and won’t need to ask these questions again (for example if you’ve chosen to recruit from our UserQ panel).

Background questions

(Questions to find out more about who they are as consumers, their habits and how your brand/product might fit into their lifestyle).

  • Do you already use X product?
  • What is your average daily screen time?
  • How experienced are you in using X product?

During the test

The questions to ask during usability testing all depend on the type of test you’re carrying out. Typically in-test questions revolve around the user interacting with the product as part of a task. 

  • What made you click on X?
  • What are your thoughts on X design?
  • How easy or difficult was X?

The key to this stage is all about not asking too many questions – and not influencing the participant to answer in a certain way (but more on that in a second).

After the test (conclusion questions)

This stage gives you the chance to thank your participants and set up debriefing questions that a) ask if there’s anything about the test that can be improved on and b) uncover more things that the participant wants to mention and didn’t have the chance to. Examples of post-test questions include:

  • What’s your overall opinion on X?
  • Did any tasks confuse you?
  • Do you have any additional comments?

Best practices for asking the right usability testing questions

Lastly, here are a few tips to achieve best practice results with your usability testing questions.

#1 Prepare natural usability interview questions

In moderated usability testing like interviews and focus groups, you can ask specific follow-up questions that prompt the user to explain their behaviour a bit more. Just make sure you keep the usability interview questions as natural, logical and free-flowing as possible to avoid disrupting the user’s thoughts. 

Use your initiative as a moderator and see the questions as a guide rather than a script. Sometimes the observation itself is enough.

#2 Avoid leading questions

Your questions should aim to guide participants and encourage honest responses, rather than steer them towards a particular answer. Leading questions like “Do you prefer X over Y?” or “Did you like X more?” can yield inaccurate and biased results. Instead, pose questions like “What do you prefer: X or Y?”

#3 Don’t ask too many

Coming up with questions to ask during usability testing isn’t a game of quantity over quality. We recommend sticking to a smaller number of questions: a maximum of three easy ones as you don’t want any type of test to last any longer than 45 minutes to an hour (preferably much shorter!).

#4 Use scenario-based questions

We’re big believers in the power of using scenario-based questions that build imaginary situations for tasks.

For example, if you’re investigating online shopping behaviour you might write something like “You’re looking for a special item of clothing for your three-year-old daughter, where might you look?”. With this style of open-ended question, you avoid triggering a specific action so you can simply observe their autonomous behaviour instead.

In the meantime, check out our latest blog on more best practices for remote research methods in general. You can use it as a blueprint for all the remote tools we have across our platform.

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