The following is a guest post by Cherryl Pereira, Head of Content at Chisel Labs
Designing good questions is essential to good user feedback.
With the right question, you can extract just what you need from your users and make changes accordingly.
In this article, we’ll be discussing how to craft good questions and the best way to ask them to get great feedback that will shape your product into something even better.
Why Is It Important To Ask Good Questions?
Our Best Tips To Ask Good Questions for User Feedback
Why is it important to ask good questions?
Asking good questions is an essential part of the feedback process.
But good questions are hard to come by – they should be perfect for probing someone to extract the information you need about your product, without asking too many or too few questions.
In general, good questions should have a clear purpose to focus the user on what you want from them and get your feedback in good shape for analysis.
A good way of knowing if it’s time to ask a question is by having an idea about how well the conversation is going – this will help keep track of where you’re welcome to ask and where you should stay quiet.
For example, if the user is talking about unrelated things and it’s taking up a good deal of time you could ask one or two questions to get them back on topic.
You want to avoid asking too many which might leave them feeling cornered – especially when they’re sharing sensitive information like criticism.
It is also important to sometimes sit back and listen to what you don’t think you need – having open-ended conversations is just as important for the user to enhance trust in your system and product.
You might be wondering, “what good questions should I ask?” And that is a good question! It’s important to get the right feedback at the right time.
Questions like “what do you think about ?” can often be misleading and elicit a good reaction, but not offer great information.
After the user’s response to that question, it might be difficult for them to expound on their thoughts or feelings, and then there is no insight into what they truly feel. It may lead to a good conversation, but it’s important to focus on the why behind their response.
Additionally, questions that lead to a yes or no answer can be even worse! For instance “do you like this feature?” is not only leading the user toward an expected yes or no answer but also limiting them from giving great feedback because they don’t have many responses available to provide you with.
A good alternative to that question may be “why do you like this feature?” or “what about the design did you feel good about?”
Also, it’s important not to ask too many questions. People can get overwhelmed with open-ended answers and quickly shut down.
It is possible to give the user a list of options for them to choose from and make it easier for them to respond.
This can be good when you want specific feedback on a topic, but it’s best to combine these with open-ended questions so that the user has an opportunity to provide commentary or suggestions in addition to their answer choice.
This way they feel like more of their voice is being heard and received by you which encourages further dialogue and a space for feedback to be shared.
If you want specific critiques from the users, you can also provide them with a list of topics to focus on and probe into.
However, if you do this it is good to give the user some space for commentary as well so they feel like their voice is being heard in addition to giving specific feedback.
This can be good when you want specific critiques or suggestions from users but it’s best to then first know yourself what it is you are looking for feedback on and try to make that clear at the start.
If you want good user feedback, it is good practice to begin by making sure someone feels like they can give constructive criticism without fear of repercussion (a good idea in any situation).
For example, if a friend was asked for certain notes or suggestions, sometimes their critique could be more about making you feel good about it rather than an assertion of good ideas.
This is particularly good feedback to have if you’re just starting and need some good user input, but it’s also extremely important as a product grows and becomes more professional that the opinions of those who use your service or app are taken seriously by you.
Make sure someone feels like they can give constructive criticism without fear of repercussions. While good feedback is good to have, bad feedback isn’t good for anyone.
There are several ways you can go about getting this information from your users.
To help you out, we have compiled a list of good questions to ask in user feedback that will help you extract the exact information you need for your product and the effective execution of the product timeline.
Our best tips to ask good questions for user feedback
1. Make sure not to use industry jargon
It is good to keep your messaging in the same language as your customer base, but make sure you are not confusing them by using terms that may be too complex or different from their everyday vernacular. This may make it unnecessarily difficult to understand what you are asking for, and also difficult for them to respond.
If you need to use industrial language, it may be a good idea to additionally explain what you are trying to say in layman’s terms.
Be sure not to make assumptions about your user base, but also be aware of the demographics they represent. It is good practice to try and distinguish between generalizations that may apply across a larger group (such as an age range), or stereotypes that do not necessarily hold.
This is of course assuming your intent from the feedback is not to gauge what they understand of the vocabulary itself.
2. Layout timelines
The second most important thing is to lay out the timeline and frequency of what you are probing about.
For example, if you are asking about the frequency of use it might be good to ask in a follow-up question how frequently they would like to receive updates.
This way you can adjust and tailor your product and marketing efforts accordingly. Always begin your sentence with the frequency question so it is clear. For instance, in the last three months, what have you not liked about the app?
Here we also see the importance of using good language when seeking user feedback. Each word of your question is important, so it is good, to begin with, positive phrasing.
For instance, instead of asking “What do you not like about the app?” try something more specific and less harsh such as “In the last three months, is there anything, in particular, that has stood out for you that wasn’t necessarily good or bad but just different than your expectations?”
3. Don’t ask leading questions
It is good practice not to ask the user about something that you already know or that they may be likely to say, as this can skew their response in a direction that gives you less accurate feedback than if an unbiased party were listening in and looping in on the conversation.
You don’t want to ask about something that you already know, because it is good practice not to lead someone into a direction they wouldn’t normally take when talking about your product. For example, if I knew for sure my user was going to say he had some trouble using one of our menus and then offer suggestions, I may want to avoid that to make his response as unbiased as possible.
Ask direct questions to elicit direct responses.
You probably already know how to ask good questions, but you may not be asking good product development questions. Good feedback comes from good conversation that relates to your goals for the project or company as a whole. Starting with “What do you think of…” is important because it allows the user to talk about what they think about it but is it a question that will give you the response you need?
Depending on what you want to learn from the user, good questions may include:
– How do you feel about…? (feeling or emotion)
– What do you think about…? (opinion)
– Why ….? (the reasoning behind an opinion or feeling)
And if I was preparing for this, I would also give a tentative timeline, “how do you feel about this in the past year…” or “how do you feel about this in the next year…”.
Don’t send out surveys unless it’s necessary. Most of the time people will just leave a survey unanswered because they don’t want close-ended questions – it means you are leading them to answer one of the options.
4. Pace your questions
It is a good idea to break away the complicated questions and ask them in parts. The good thing about this is that it helps the user to feel more comfortable. It also gives them enough time to think before they answer, which can help you get a better insight into their thoughts on your product.
The timing of your questionnaire in its sequence is essential to be focused on the good questions.
For example, if you are asking the user about their experience with your product before they have even tried it then there is no room to talk about anything else but how good or bad was this first impression for them.
If you ask all the technical questions in one go, it may be overwhelming for the user and they may feel like some of their answers are not that important.
Or you may ask too many questions altogether and then, after a while, the user loses interest in your product because he got all his answers right away.
So pace your questions, space them out and make sure you are asking good questions. They need to be engaging for the user, they need to be clear to not confuse someone, but also objective because there is no room for biased feedback here.
How to not make the user feel like they are responsible for their experience?
It is best to give them options of good or bad and ask what they would improve on.
Don’t lead the questions such that the user is responsible for their experience if it was not good. And asking them to be specific about what they want improved might help get rid of any ideas that you don’t agree with or want as part of the product.
So, avoid putting it across like, “did you feel embarrassed or irritated when…”. They may choose to share this themselves but you are forcing them to.
Instead, ask good questions such as “how did this make you feel?”, “what could have made this good for you?”
There is no one good way of asking good questions.
The most important thing is to make sure you are not overstepping any boundaries, especially if the product or service involves sensitive topics like health care or employment.
And when in doubt always ask yourself “what will this question help me learn?”
If your product improves user experience then it’s likely they’re happy with what you have initiated and then improvised on.
Alternatively, if they are not satisfied with the product in its entirety, good questions will help you learn what areas need improvement.
Cherryl Pereira is the Head of Content at Chisel. Chisel Labs is a premiere agile product management software company that brings together roadmapping, team alignment, and customer connection.