Usability Testing Questions To Unlock Key Insights

Page Flows Team

May 16, 2024 | 8:00 am
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Usability testing is a crucial part of building a digital product. It’s what makes the difference between a good product and a great one. However, if you don’t get your usability testing questions right, then it can damage the outcome. Asking the wrong questions means you won’t get the data you need, which means you can’t improve your product.

In a usability test, part of your data comes from observations. This form of contextual inquiry is certainly useful. That said, knowing how to ask the right questions goes a long way in validating your results. Crafting questions is a skill and one you should master as a UX researcher.

Here’s everything you need to know about usability testing questions.

Three people sit talking to each other, looking at a smartphone. One person holds a pen in their hand.

 Usability Test Example: What Makes a Good Test?

Usability studies take many forms. However, there are a few things that contribute to a good test.

This usability test example highlights what you should try to learn:

  • Background questions about the user’s demographics and experience
  • Questions about the tasks
  • Questions about the product’s design, navigation, and language
  • Reflective questions on the test
  • Questions about their opinions

With these in mind, you can start to lean into the goal of usability testing. After all, without a concrete goal, it’s easy to lose focus on the task at hand.

What’s the Goal of Usability Testing?

Usability questions aim to help you understand the what, why, and how of your product. You need to perform these tests for a range of reasons, including:

  • Getting a better understanding of your target audience
  • Learning if your product works with real users in the real world
  • Obtaining feedback to improve the product
  • Discovering potential errors and bugs

Taking the time and resources to perform usability tests can help you perfect your product before launch. This can save time and money down the line.

However, you can’t achieve these goals if you don’t know how to do the test properly. Take a look at the user testing questions below to learn more about asking the right questions.

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Sample Usability Test Questions

For a good usability test, you should ask different questions at different stages of the test. It’s important to get this right, carefully guiding the user through the test as they work on different tasks. If your test is too random and directionless, it can be confusing.

The sample usability test questions below will help you formulate your test. Let’s start with some pre-test questions that will help you find the right users to test.

Demographic Usability Testing Questions

Before the test officially begins, you need to learn more about the user you’re interviewing. Demographic information provides more context to your user interview. With this data, you can spot usability trends across sub-sections of your audience. 

Here are some demographic questions to ask:

  • How old are you?
  • How do you describe your gender?
  • What is the highest level of education you have completed?
  • What is your profession?
  • What is your household income? (Provide ranges)
  • How do you describe your ethnicity?

These questions are really important. They prevent you from making assumptions about people, ensuring that your data is correct. 

Make sure you word these questions carefully because some participants may be uncomfortable answering personal questions. This is how you start the test, so it’s important to get off on the right foot. That way, your participants will feel more comfortable taking the test.

Background Usability Testing Questions

Next, you can start to ask background questions. These usability test questions are different from demographic questions–they aim to uncover the user’s experience. They are still pre-test questions, though, that will help you screen your users.

Essentially, these background questions should assess the participant’s expertise and brand knowledge. 

Consider asking:

  • Have you ever used our product before?
  • How often do you use our product?
  • Which features do you use most?
  • What product do you use to do [action]?
  • Have you used any other products in this industry before?
  • What device do you normally use to do [action]?
  • How comfortable are you with using an application to do [action]?
  • How often do you do [action]? 
  • What would make you decide to use [product]?

The answers to these questions can help you segment your data. For example, participants who are entirely new to your product might spot different usability issues. Or, participants who use your competitors’ products might provide different feedback. Knowing this can help you spot potential anomalies in your results later down the line.

Questions for During the Usability Test

During the test, it’s crucial to ask open-ended questions that invite the user to share their opinions. Try to avoid leading or yes/no questions that force the user to give a particular answer. Also, try to avoid asking too many questions, as this may overwhelm the participant and distract them from their task. 

Here are some examples of great questions to ask during a test:

  • How do you feel about the layout of the features on this page?
  • How did you find navigating to [X] page?
  • Which parts of the site did you use most often?
  • What did you think of the explanations on the page?
  • What do you think [feature] is trying to communicate to you?
  • How have you seen [content] presented before?
  • Based on the previous task, how would you prefer to do this action?
  • How would [feature] change the way you work, if at all?
  • I noticed you did [action]. Can you tell me why?
  • Which of these two options do you prefer? Why?

You’ll notice that all of these are open-ended questions. As a result, they give the user a lot of leeway to provide their answers. Conversely, yes/no questions can trap users into one-word answers. Or they may not feel comfortable sharing their opinions.

Here are some questions to avoid:

  • What made completing this task a good experience?
  • How simple and clear was the interface?
  • Was the explanation straightforward?

These questions are all leading. Each one includes specific adjectives about the interface, which assumes something about the user’s opinion. It may also plant the idea in the user’s head. Instead, try to phrase questions in a way that encourages an open discussion.

A person writes in a notebook on their lap. There are wireframes on the page, along with annotations.

Questions for Different Types of Usability Tests

You can implement different types of usability tests depending on your budget and resources. This includes:

  • In-person tests
  • Remote tests
  • Moderated tests
  • Unmoderated tests

In-person testing requires more resources and planning than remote testing. Similarly, moderated testing requires more time and effort than unmoderated testing. 

However, resources are not the only consideration. These tests are appropriate for different situations. Moderated testing can help you gain a much deeper understanding of your user’s behaviors. However, unmoderated testing, or contextual inquiry, can help you observe users in a natural environment.

The testing method you choose may affect your user testing questions. So, when planning your test, make sure you take into account the context. Where your user is, how they’re interacting with the product, and so on, can all affect their answers.

Post-Usability Test Questions

After your user completes the set tasks, you should ask them follow-up questions. These allow you to dive deeper into the experience and really pinpoint the data you want to know. By this point, you will have already asked about the specific design details. So, you can start to ask even more open-ended post-usability test questions.

Consider the following:

  • How did you find the site/app overall?
  • What did you like most/least about this product? Why?
  • Would you use this product in real life? Why?
  • What features would make you want to use this product more?
  • How would you change [feature]?
  • How would you compare this product to that of [competitor]?

Depending on what you’re testing and why, you might also want to do a more formal survey following the test. This standardized format can help you gather quantitative data to support your user research

You can employ industry-standard methods like the System Usability Scale (SUS) to better understand your approach. Using this method also means you can easily compare your product against others in the industry. You even have a numerical basis to compare it with previous iterations of your own product.

As the test comes to an end, give the user a chance to provide final feedback. Thank your user, and close the interview on a positive note.

Usability Test Template

It can be helpful to use a usability test template that ensures you haven’t missed anything. There are a couple you can choose from that are available online.

Firstly, consider using the Nielsen-Norman Group’s usability test checklist. This leading UX research firm has devised nine steps to help you determine the scope of your research. This includes in-depth guidance on selecting the right testing method, selecting users to test, and more. It will also help you write testing plans. 

We recommend using this as a starting point when you start to plan any research. Whether you want to do remote, in-person, moderated, or unmoderated studies, this checklist is useful.

Alternatively, you can try out this template from usability.gov. Created by the US Department of Health and Human Services, this template is an in-depth blueprint for any user testing. You can fill out the ten-page document as you compile goals, methodology, and metrics.

Note, however, that this document is specific to moderated lab testing. If you’re doing remote or unmoderated tests, this isn’t the best template.

A woman sits with a laptop on her knee, looking at the screen. Another woman observes in the background.

Best Practices for Usability Testing Questions

With all of this in mind, let’s run through some best practices for asking usability testing questions. These will help you stay on the right track.

  • Ask open-ended questions: These questions are best for garnering in-depth feedback from your users. Start your questions with ‘how,’ ‘why,’ and ‘what’ to try to gain deeper insights.
  • Ask participants to think out loud: If your users speak aloud during the test, you’ll learn a lot. This can help you understand their thought processes every step of the way. Plus, you’ll be able to ask better follow-up questions.
  • Use testing software: For remote tests, it’s helpful to use software. Make the most of online tools to help you gather information. Even if you’re doing in-person tests, consider using all the tools at your disposal, such as doing follow-up video calls.
  • Don’t overwhelm your participants: Striking the right balance is key. Don’t ask too many questions, or your users might get confused. This also applies to the start of the study. When you’re explaining the task, be careful not to go into too much detail. For the best results, the user should be able to navigate the product organically and formulate their own opinions.
  • Don’t take everything at face value: Even if you do everything right, you need to approach your data carefully. At the end of the day, a usability test is still a formal environment. Your results are at risk of lab bias. So, make sure you take feedback with a pinch of salt and take time to validate your results.

Discover a New World of UX With Page Flows

Usability testing is just one step in the process, albeit an important one. Armed with these usability testing questions, you’re on the right track. However, you’ll also need design inspiration.

Learn from proven products and get expert insights with Page Flows. Get started today to access our growing library of user flow recordings and finally stay up-to-date with current design trends.

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