We know how important it is to gather meaningful feedback from our users to drive design decisions. Interviewing and engaging users is an art. It’s a skill that requires practice, planning, and preparation.

Albert Einstein once said:

“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”

Throughout the design process, from ideation to production, well-defined problems pave the way to meaningful solutions and products. Designing for problems that are not thoroughly understood, not clearly defined, or just based on our assumptions is a waste of time and resources.

Our approach should be to discover, define, iterate, and communicate problems by asking the right questions. Questions that help us identify opportunities reveal underlying needs and empathize with our users.

In this blog, we will focus on practical ways to ask questions that obtain the type, quality, and quantity of information designers need for the best outcomes.

Roadblocks in Asking Questions

Let’s start with exploring why designers might not ask questions:

  1. We often work in fast-paced environments where they need to focus on quick solutions and prompt delivery. We’re afraid that taking the time to ask the why and the how of a problem can be seen as impediments that slow down the design process.
  2. We fear that our questions will be met with judgment about our expertise and that we “should’ve known” the answer.
  3. We don’t know what we don’t know. We’re unaware of key pieces of information, context, or user goals that would change the problem’s scope.

To persevere through these roadblocks, we need to remind ourselves how vital it is to establish a well-defined problem. Also, practice the skills in how to get there efficiently and effectively.

Things to Keep in Mind

  1. Ask open-ended questions that encourage users to elaborate and go beyond a “Yes/No” response.
  2. In general, human memory is not always reliable. Ask about specific instances rather than generalizations.
  3. Be objective. Don’t ask leading questions that can influence users’ opinions. Acknowledge and set aside your own assumptions.
  4. Encourage users to describe their problems, what they are doing and how they are doing something. Don’t expect users to provide direct solutions. Avoid solutions for others.
  5. Put the user at ease so they will be comfortable in sharing honest thoughts and opinions.
  6. Prioritize which questions to ask.
  7. Listen more, talk less than users.
  8. Learn to make inferences, draw logical conclusions and hone key insights based on user feedback.

Question Starters

Here are the six types of questions and question starters:

Explorative questions that inspire expansion on new points of view and uncovered areas.

  • Could you walk me through it?
  • Can you demonstrate how?
  • When you are in this situation, what is your first/next step?
  • Imagine [situation/task], what would be your first step?

Affective questions that reveal people’s opinions.

  • Please share with me what you were thinking…
  • What are your initial thoughts…
  • Let me know what you think about it…
  • What do you think about this…

Reflective questions that encourage more elaboration.

  • Could you elaborate on…
  • That’s interesting, can you tell me more?
  • Talk some more about…

Probing questions that invite a more profound examination.

  • Explain what you see here…
  • What’s an example of that?
  • Why did you…
  • What were the other options you considered, and why did you choose this one?

Analytical questions that look for the root cause(s) of a problem.

  • Could you help me understand how/why?
  • How do you think that would work?

Clarifying questions that help align and avoid misunderstandings.

  • If I understand you correctly…
  • If I hear you right…
  • So, I hear you say…
  • Did I miss anything?


Designers should understand that a meaningful question depends on how it is formulated and framed.

Meaningful questions lead to key insights, clear problem definition, effective solutions, and ultimately, a usable and useful product.

Radiant Digital can help you creatively utilize the art of questioning to get useful inputs from your customers. Call us today!