Questions and Formalities

This page outlines questions, principles and formalities for running and conversational and natural interview.


Good user interviews follow this simple format...

  1. Tell me about yourself

  2. What’s your experience with X

  3. Tell me/show me how you go about using X

The good stuff comes from the follow on questions we ask, based on what the user replies with.

Good Interview Questions

Bad Interview Questions

  • Are open-ended

  • Begin broad and get specific later

  • Don’t give too many clues away about what we want to hear in the answer

  • Are simple to understand

  • Closed - ends with ‘yes’, ‘no’

  • Ask the user to future-cast “would“ or “will“ e.g. “Would you pay for this feature if we offered it?“

  • Are leading - Questions which suggest to the user the answer you have in mind.

  • Use complex terms and language when simple is sufficient

Examples of Good Interview Questions

Examples of Bad Interview Questions

  • Tell me about…

  • Describe a time…

  • Talk some more about…

  • Show me what you would do next…

  • Follow-up questions

  • “Why is that?” “When did you notice that?”

  • “How is that different from your experience of X?"

  • What feature should we build next?

  • How much would you pay for this feature?

  • How important is X to you?

  • Do you think if the product did X it would meet your needs?

An example set of questions if you are trying to build a language learning app that solves the problem of people not committing and losing interest over time:

Good Questions

Bad Questions

  • Roughly how many language learning apps have you tried out over the past year?

  • How many language learning apps are currently installed on your phone?

  • Can you remember the last time you opened one?

  • Have you ever written down a goal to learn a language?

  • What did you try to meet that goal?

  • How did that work out?

  • What features should we build to make it fun for you to learn languages?

  • How many languages will you learn in the next year?

  • What pain points do you have in the language learning process?

Watch this video for guidance:

Formalities and more questions

You should have a prototype in MarvelApp, Figma, Sketch or whichever tool suits you the most. Let them know that it's not a real thing and only a prototype and send them the link through the chat.

At the start: “Don’t worry about saying something negative”

Introduce yourself in the beginning of the interview and make clear that the interview will definitely add value no matter what. Some interviewees don't feel comfortable saying what they really think, without trying to phrase it nicely. Ask them for the uncensored truth, you will need it.

“This is not a UX test”

I’ve stumbled on some interviewees who have already done user tests and for some reason they think they are supposed to give feedback on UX design (i.e. “this CTA should be higher”). I try to defuse that mindset by letting them know that this is not about UX, but rather about their personal opinion.

"What do you expect if you click on this?"

Especially if you start out with a social media mock-up or introductory screen from the very first point of contact, it's often worth asking about their expectation. This can be crucial if you use short sentences to grab peoples attention. With this question you can check if the promise you are making is interpreted correctly and if you are keeping it at the end.

If they click through too fast, don't hesitate slowing them down

Some people like to click buttons right away without reading through everything. This way they could skip some important details they might not understand if they focus on it. You can politely ask them "what they think this section is describing" or if not possible directly ask them to go through it a little slower.

Awkward Pauses

Once you have established rapport, deliberately not saying something will make them feel slightly awkward and they will try to fill the silence by talking more. That gives you extra stories.

"Why do you like this?"

Often, if testers are too nice and praise the design, I double check why that is. This allows me to understand if they like the concept because they want to be nice to me or it just looks good, or if they have solid reasons. The latter is more important to note, you want to be sure you know why people like or dislike something.

“Where could you imagine this product in your life”

This gets them thinking about how your product could enrich their life. They might not have a definitive answer but might give you some ideas for improvement.

“What are you currently doing to achieve [solution of your product]?”

Understanding the current tools and habits of your users can give you a lot of insight into the current world they live in. I normally start an interview asking them about their current solutions — i.e. “how would you currently find a suitable insurance?” in case of an insurance-related product.

“Name three things you would like to add”

Please don’t use this as a suggestion for new features! The aim of this question is making them dream up what could be better about the experience in general and might show you which features you don’t need.

Conclusion: “How would you describe it to someone else?”

This is a classic to conclude the interview. It lets them recapitulate what they have seen and express it in their own words. They will mainly speak about the parts that were relevant to them and not mention what they didn’t find interesting.

If they say something like “my friend would be interested / like this”, don’t pay attention. They are not their friend and you are not interviewing their friend, you are talking to them so only their experience is relevant. If you are wondering whether they would buy a product and how much they would pay for it, don’t ask. Sell right away, only putting money behind it can assure you that people actually value your product.

To make sure we can pay them for their time, please send them this link after the user interview is over:

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