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BlogInterviewing & Research Skills

February 27, 2020

  • Last Updated:
  • March 4, 2020

100+ User Testing Questions, From Idea Generation to Usability Tests

Shamelessly steal these 100+ categorized user research questions while learning how to write better questions for each of your projects.

Olivia Seitz

If we had to pick one secret to writing the best user testing questions, we’d go with knowing exactly what you need to get out of the research session. But as important as that is, it’s not the only ingredient to a great set of questions. And the questions themselves are only one aspect of a well-planned research project.

In this post, we hope to help you not only with the questions themselves (and we have quite a few that you’re encouraged to steal) but also with sharpening your understanding of each research project you undertake.

For the sake of ease, we’ve broken down example questions based on what kind of user testing you’re doing, and a few are even categorized for specific types of tests. Here’s the overview — feel free to skip to the section you want:

  • How to Write Good User Testing Questions
  • Generative Questions for User Research     

          ◦ Discovery Interview Questions

          ◦ Ethnographic Research Questions

          ◦ Focus Group Questions

          ◦ Diary Study Questions

  • User Testing Questions for New Products & Features

          ◦ Product Survey Questions

          ◦ Task Analysis Questions

          ◦ Card Sorting Questions

          ◦ Prototype UT Questions

          ◦ Beta Testing Questions

  • Usability Test Questions

          ◦ Website UT Questions

          ◦ Mobile App UT Questions

  • Follow-Up Questions


Note: Gearing up for your next user testing project? Take the pain out of recruiting participants with User Interviews. Tell us who you want, and we’ll get them on your calendar. Find your first three participants for free.

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How to Write Good User Testing Questions

Before we dig into all the example questions we’ve gathered for you, we wanted to talk about how to write good user testing questions. Here’s the overview:

  1. Determine what information you need in order for the project to meet your goals.
  2. Decide what characteristics your testing participants should have in order for them to give you relevant, usable information.
  3. Choose your testing methodology.
  4. Write questions based on your understanding of steps 1-3.
  5. Rephrase as needed to eliminate leading questions and to make sure your questions are human-centric rather than product-centric.

Step #1 is critical even if you’re working on a topic you’re deeply familiar with. It’s one thing to have a general goal in mind (“improve user experience for our mobile app”), but it’s another to identify specifically what you hope to improve and what you need to learn to make that happen (“Understand which steps in the purchase flow are most likely to result in cart abandonment and why”).

If you don’t have enough information for this step, start talking with the other people involved in the project (product manager, engineers, designers — whoever is a part of making it a success). This post has advice on how to have a successful stakeholder interview.

Step #2 (outlining preferred participant characteristics) is just as important. If the people you test don’t represent your users, how can you be sure the insights you gain from them are taking you in the right direction? Since we’ve outlined best practices for recruiting the right participants in another post, we won’t spend more time on it here. You can also find more information on good screening questions in our UX Research Field Guide. 

As for Steps #3-5, we’ll provide what help we can in the coming sections. In addition, take a look at this Taxonomy of Cognitive Domain chart from Nikki Anderson at the UX Collective:

Generative Questions for User Research Discovery Interview Questions Ethnographic Research Questions Focus Group Questions Diary Study Questions


It’s a nifty cheat-sheet for writing questions that get to the heart of what you’re hoping to learn. If you want participants to evaluate something, consider a question that starts with “Discuss...” or “Rate...” If you want to understand how they complete a process, start with “Explain...”

Note for those interested: The taxonomy of cognitive domain comes from the idea that there are six categories of cognitive ability: knowledge (information recall), comprehension (actually understanding what you can recall), application (the ability to use that knowledge in a practical way), analysis (the ability to draw insights out of given information), synthesis (the ability to create something new from what is known), and evaluation (the ability to make judgments about what is known).

Generative User Research Questions

Generative user research is about getting to know your potential customers, understanding their pain points and problems, and looking for ways to connect your company’s ability to fix certain issues with the pressing needs of real people.

Sometimes, generative research takes the form of a straightforward chat with research participants (discovery interviews). Other times, you might want to observe them in their natural habitat with an ethnographic study. Focus groups or diary studies are also ways to approach learning about the market that require creative question-writing.

We’ll discuss all of these methods below.

Discovery Interview Questions

How you approach a discovery interview depends on how far along you are in your research. Are you working for a well-established company that needs to launch new products to a known audience? Or are you a startup looking to find product-market fit for the first time?

Because there are so many reasons to conduct a discovery interview, it’s impossible to pick a few questions to use in any circumstance. But that also leaves room for more creativity.

For example, Brandie Smith of Metromile had participants write a love letter or a breakup letter to their insurance company before meeting with her to chat. This exercise revealed a lot about how people viewed their insurance companies while providing conversation topics during the actual interview.

Here are some examples of generative interview questions:

  • Tell me a little bit about yourself. What have you been working on recently?
  • Tell me how you currently accomplish ‘X’ task.
  • What tools, if any, do you use to complete ‘X’?
  • What is your single biggest challenge around ‘X’?
  • Tell me about a time when you failed to do ‘X’.
  • What do you love most about ‘X’?
  • Who do you turn to when you have ‘X’ problem(s)?
  • (In regards to the question above) What makes them able to help you?

And here are a few to avoid:

  • What do you think of this idea?
  • What do you want?
  • Would you buy ‘X’ if it were on the market?

These last three questions are poor because humans are notoriously bad at predicting their own behavior. Plus, there can be a real difference between what people think they want and what they’ll actually choose to solve a problem when the time comes.

3 Questions to Avoid in User Testing: (1) What did you think of this idea? (2) What do you want? (3) Would you buy 'X' if it were on the market?

Ethnographic Research Questions

During an ethnographic study, most questions should be in response to events rather than pre-written. It doesn’t hurt to prep a few ahead of time, especially if an interview at the end of the day is part of your process, but it’s important to have as little influence over the subject’s routine as possible.

Let’s imagine that you’re riding along with a package delivery driver for the day. You start at the depot to pick up packages and load the truck, then ride shotgun as they complete deliveries.

Continuing with that example, here are some questions you might ask in response to your observations:

  • How are you feeling this morning?
  • How many packages do you need to deliver today? Is this the average amount?
  • Explain why you pack the packages in your truck this way.
  • What made that stop difficult to find for you?
  • What process do you use to select the order of your deliveries?
  • What made you decide to stock dog treats in your truck?
  • Now that we’ve been out for half a day, how are you feeling?
  • Discuss the last three interactions you’ve had with a dispatcher. 

Focus Group Questions

Since a focus group involves getting multiple people at once to provide feedback instead of conducting one-on-one conversations, it requires a slightly different approach. While the initial questions you ask are similar to solo interviews, you’ll need to work to build rapport with the group early on and make an effort to get each person in the room to voice their opinions.

It’s also important for participants to know what you hope to accomplish and in what span of time.

Focus groups can be used to generate ideas for improving brand, marketing, and product.

We’ll provide a few questions related to each of those topics:

  • Which brands come to mind when you think of ‘X’?
  • What do you like about [competitor, competitor’s product]?
  • What do you dislike about [competitor, competitor’s product]?
  • What is the core message you took away from [marketing material]?
  • When you first started using [product], did you expect it to do anything that it doesn’t?
  • How would you describe our company to someone who had never heard of us?
  • Has your usage of [product] declined or increased over the past [time-frame]? Why is that?
  • What would you do if [product] was no longer available?
  • How long do you expect [product] to last until you need to purchase a new one?
  • Have you ever had a problem with [product]?
  • Explain what went wrong.
  • Walk me through the steps you took to get it fixed.
  • If you want information on ‘X’, where do you go?
  • What problem do you think [product] is intended to solve?

Diary Study Questions

Dscout allows users to submit diary entries via their app, as shown in the screenshot.
This image from Techweek of Dscout shows what it looks like to have users submit diary entries via mobile phone apps.


Your diary study can be structured (outlining a set of questions you want to be answered) or free-form (simply having users record their thoughts every time they take a certain action or find themselves in a specific situation).

The diary entries themselves can be submitted through any medium, even a user’s cell phone recording.

If you do decide to ask specific questions, make sure you keep the number of questions reasonable for the frequency of the task. If someone is expected to report every single day, they will be fatigued quickly if they have to give detailed answers for ten questions.

Let’s use an example to illustrate possible questions. Say you’re developing a gaming app and you want to know what will keep your users engaged. Users are not required to play the game every day, but they are asked to report on the following set of questions each evening:

  • Did you play the game today?
  • Why or why not?
  • When you saw [game notification], how did you react?
  • Were you tempted to log in just for the daily bonus?
  • If you interacted with friends while using [game app], tell me about that experience.

Alternatively, let’s say you’re earlier in the process. You want to build a game app, but first you want to know when, how, and why your target audience pulls out their phones to play games. You’ve asked them to record a quick video each time they feel compelled to play a game, making sure to answer the following questions:

  • Why did you look at your phone in the first place?
  • What made you decide to play a game or not?

You can always go in for a more detailed interview or survey at the end of the diary study, so if there are questions your participants can answer well in retrospect, it’s best to save them for later.

Note: Gearing up for your next user testing project? Take the pain out of recruiting participants with User Interviews. Tell us who you want, and we’ll get them on your calendar. Find your first three participants for free.

User Testing Questions for New Products and Features

Product Survey Questions

A product survey can be used to generate ideas for improving an existing product, testing an idea, or even getting feedback on a beta version. If you’re looking for quick feedback, you can ask multiple-choice questions. But it’s worth throwing in a few free response questions to see what extra info you can get from respondents.

Below, we’ve included some examples you can build on based on your specific research needs:

Multiple Choice Survey Questions:

  • Is [product] something you need or don’t need?
  • How often do you use [brand’s products]?
  • Out of [competitors’ products and yours], which do you like the best right now?
  • Out of [competitors’ products and yours], which do you see as the best value?
  • How easy is [product] to use?
  • Have you recommended [product] to anyone you know?
  • Do you know anyone who could use [product]?
  • If yes, would you recommend it to them?
  • Did anything about [product] frustrate you when you were using it?
  • If a positive response, ask: “We’re sorry to hear that! Please explain.”
  • How did you first hear about [product]?
  • How often do you buy [product]?
  • How often do you buy [competitors’ products]?
  • When is the last time you used [product]?

Open-Ended Questions:

  • Do you currently have anything that does what [product] does? Explain.
  • What do you think [product] is best used for?
  • What are all the ways you use [product]?
  • What do you like best about [product]?

In addition to these types of questions, you can list a series of features or aspects of the product you’re testing and ask participants to rate them on a given scale.

Task Analysis Questions

How we think someone performs a task and how they actually perform the task can be very different. And unless you perform a task analysis study, you don’t know what you don’t know. 

Task analysis is best done before you’ve solidified the user flow for a new product. It helps you understand factors such as cultural or environmental influences on how someone performs that task. If being present to observe how people approach the task is critical, you’ll want to conduct a field study. Otherwise, you can still get a wealth of information from user interviews.

Here are a few questions you might ask during task analysis:

  • When do you need to complete [task]?
  • Walk me through every step you take to complete [task].
  • What additional tools do you need to complete [task]?
  • I noticed you chose to do [action]. Why is that?
  • What are the most annoying steps in [process to complete the task]?
  • What are your favorite parts about [task]?
  • How have you completed [task] when in a rush?
  • How do your [colleagues/friends/family/etc.] complete [task]?
  • Where did you learn how to do [task]?
  • How did you feel when learning how to do [task]?
  • Have you ever failed to complete [task]?
  • What would happen if you couldn’t complete [task]?

9 pictures that break down the steps of how to make a cake.
Image credit: Preppy Kitchen. Task analysis helps you break down the task you want to study (such as baking a delicious cake) into discrete steps.


Card Sorting Questions

Card sorting can be moderated or unmoderated. The benefit of a moderated session is that you can remind test participants to think out loud, granting access to the reasoning process they go through to make sorting decisions. If all you care about is the end result, however, unmoderated is the way to go. 

Most of the work in setting up a good card sort is done before the exercise starts. You’ll need to give participants some context as to what they’re doing (at least for most studies). For example, are you building a website? Creating a guide? Designing a product interface? Let them know that ahead of time.

Whether or not you give them categories for the cards or have them write their own is up to you.

If you do ask any questions during the process, consider these:

  • Why did you put [card] with [group] and not the others?
  • (If a participant left one or more cards unsorted) Why didn’t you sort [card]?
  • Are there [card topics] you expected to see, but didn’t?
  • If you could add a category beyond the given ones, what would it be?

Prototype User Testing Questions



There’s more than one way to test a prototype, and exactly which test you choose depends (once again) on what you’re making. One of our favorite methods for prototype testing is Rapid Iterative Testing & Evaluation (the RITE method).

Using the RITE method, you never test the same prototype twice — at least, in the beginning. Instead, you create multiple prototypes, identify the strengths and weaknesses of each one, then make a new round of prototypes and test again.

In this section, we’ll split our questions between those appropriate for a digital product vs. a physical product (although there’s really some overlap between the two).

Questions for Digital Products:

  • Is there anything here that confuses you?
  • What did you expect to see here?
  • What do you think [button, dropdown, etc.] does?
  • Try to find [button, function, etc.].
  • How does this design make you feel?
  • Why didn’t you [use ‘X’ feature, navigate to ‘X’ location, etc.]?
  • Did you notice any other ways to accomplish [task]?
  • Would you use a different device (i.e. smartphone, tablet, etc.) while using [product]?
  • Was there anything you wanted to find, but couldn’t?

Additional Questions for Physical Products:

  • How many times have you used [product] since receiving it?
  • How long did it take you to understand how to use [product]?
  • How did you expect [product] to work?
  • Comment on how well or poorly built you think the product is.

Beta Testing Questions

Many of the questions & scenarios we’ve discussed through now (and will continue to discuss in the usability section below) would be appropriate during beta testing. But there are some beta testing questions we haven’t covered, like how to ask potential customers about pricing.

Since we’ve already had a great conversation with Marie Prokopets about how she and FYI co-founder Hiten Shah failed and then succeeded with a product launch, we’ll let you read all of their beta testing advice and recommended questions instead of rehashing it here.

Note: Gearing up for your next user testing project? Take the pain out of recruiting participants with User Interviews. Tell us who you want, and we’ll get them on your calendar. Find your first three participants for free.

Usability Test Questions

Usability testing sample


Usability testing governs any testing around how a user might work with or navigate the product you’ve created. It’s commonly used to make sure that navigation, onboarding, and other aspects of a site or tool work as intended. If there are any hiccups or confusing instructions, it’s how you’ll find out about them. 

Website User Testing Questions

Website usability testing can be moderated or unmoderated. Conducting moderated tests means you can react to problems in the moment and better understand what the user is thinking. Unmoderated tests are convenient and can result in valuable insights as long as you leave good instructions and the testers explain what they’re thinking.

Preparing a focused test is arguably more important than the questions you ask during the session. But a few well-placed questions, especially if the participant isn’t as talkative as you hoped, can keep things on track.

Consider asking these web app usability testing questions:

  • How often do you use [your website]?
  • (As they’re completing the test) What’s going through your mind right now?
  • Is there anything on the page that confuses you?
  • (If a user is surprised by something) What were you expecting to happen when you [task]?
  • Was anything about your experience frustrating?
  • Did [task] take as long as you expected it to?
  • Was there something missing from [flow you had the user go through]?
  • How did this compare to [similar process for competitor]?
  • Do you think there is an easier way to accomplish [process] than what you just did?

During the testing session, keep on eye on how they respond to what’s in front of them. Does anything distract them from the specific tasks you gave them? Do they completely miss something you think is important? How quickly can they find what they need? Do they take a circuitous route to solve what you thought was a simple problem? How do they react to usability issues?

Mobile App User Testing Questions

To be honest, most of the questions you need to ask for website usability testing are the same for mobile app usability testing sessions. While your testing environment may look a little different, the goals are mostly the same.

Still, there are a few extra questions worth mentioning:

  • Do the permissions requested by this app seem reasonable to you?
  • Why or why not?
  • Have you ever had trouble signing into the app?
  • (If the user is testing in the wild) Could you hear [notification/other cause of sound]?

As with website testing, pay attention to trouble spots — do they linger on a task you think should be easy? Are there places where the app is slow or annoys them? Do they make any verbal cues (“Ooh,” “Ah,” “Hmm,” and so forth) at specific parts of the flow you’re testing?

Follow-Up Questions

Sometimes, the best information you’ll get in the whole session comes from follow-up questions. Perhaps it’s just a matter of you mimicking what they just said (“The navbar disappeared ... ?”) and waiting for them to expound on that statement.

For the sake of variety, here are a few different ways of getting a participant to explain themselves:

  • Tell me more.
  • Could you explain what you mean by that?
  • Oh?
  • Why is that?
  • Why do you think that is?
  • Is there anything I should have asked you today that I didn’t?

Conclusion

You definitely won’t need all 100+ questions from this guide for each project you undertake. But even so, you’ll probably need to write additional questions specific to your work. Hopefully, these are enough to get you started.

But even with the right questions and testing methodology, you won’t get very far without recruiting great participants. If you’d like to make recruiting quick and (relatively) painless, consider User Interviews.

Using our platform, you can recruit from 200,000+ vetted participants simply by telling us which demographic characteristics matter to you, and by setting up a short screener survey based on behaviors your users exhibit. When you’re ready to launch your study, we’ll find as many participants as you need.

You have complete control over who is accepted and who is rejected, and you can see exactly what they answered in order to make that decision. Even better, you only pay for access to participants who actually participate in your research.

Finally, we’ll handle scheduling and incentive payments so you can focus on user testing.

Try User Interviews risk-free now, and get your first three participants free.

Olivia Seitz

Olivia is a content strategist at Grow & Convert who loves science, cats, and swing dancing. She enjoys a mix of writing, editing, and strategy in every work week.

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