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How to write effective UX research questions (with examples)

Collecting and analyzing real user feedback is essential in delivering an excellent user experience (UX). But not all user research is created equal—and done wrong, it can lead to confusion, miscommunication, and non-actionable results.

Last updated

14 Apr 2022

You need to ask the right UX research questions to get the valuable insights necessary to continually optimize your product and generate user delight. 

This article shows you how to write strong UX research questions, ensuring you go beyond guesswork and assumptions. It covers the difference between open- and close-ended research questions, explains how to go about creating your own UX research questions, and provides several examples to get you started.

Use Hotjar to ask your users the right UX research questions

Put your UX research questions to work with Hotjar's Feedback and Survey tools to uncover product experience insights

The different types of UX research questions

Let’s face it, asking the right UX research questions is hard. It’s a skill that takes a lot of practice and can leave even the most seasoned UX researchers drawing a blank.

There are two main categories of UX research questions: open-ended and close-ended, both of which are essential to achieving thorough, high-quality UX research. Qualitative research—based on descriptions and experiences—leans toward open-ended questions, whereas quantitative research leans toward closed-ended questions.

Let’s dive into the differences between them.

Open-ended UX research questions

Open-ended UX research questions are exactly what they sound like: they prompt longer, more free-form responses, rather than asking someone to choose from established possible answers—like multiple-choice tests.

Open questions are easily recognized because they:

If there’s a simple fact you’re trying to get to, a closed question would work. For anything involving our complex and messy human nature, open questions are the way to go.

Yana Barysheva
WattBuy Director of Design

Open-ended research questions aim to discover more about research participants and gather candid user insights, rather than seeking specific answers.

Some examples of UX research that use open-ended questions include:

  • Usability testing

  • Diary studies

  • Persona research

  • Use case research

  • Task analysis

Check out a concrete example of an open-ended UX research question in action below. Hotjar’s Survey tool is a perfect way of gathering longer-form user feedback, both on-site and externally.

#Asking on-site open-ended questions with Hotjar Surveys is a great way to gather honest user feedback
Asking on-site open-ended questions with Hotjar Surveys is a great way to gather honest user feedback

Pros and cons of open-ended UX research questions

Like everything in life, open-ended UX research questions have their pros and cons.

Advantages of open-ended questions include:

  • Detailed, personal answers

  • Great for storytelling

  • Good for connecting with people on an emotional level

  • Helpful to gauge pain points, frustrations, and desires

  • Researchers usually end up discovering more than initially expected

  • Less vulnerable to bias

 Drawbacks include:

  • People find them more difficult to answer than closed-ended questions

  • More time-consuming for both the researcher and the participant

  • Can be difficult to conduct with large numbers of people

  • Can be challenging to dig through and analyze open-ended questions

Closed-ended UX research questions

Close-ended UX research questions have limited possible answers. Participants can respond to them with yes or no, by selecting an option from a list, by ranking or rating, or with a single word.

They’re easy to recognize because they’re similar to classic exam-style questions.

More technical industries might start with closed UX research questions because they want statistical results. Then, we’ll move on to more open questions to see how customers really feel about the software we put together.

Jonathan Hill
UX/UI Designer, Kistler Group

While open-ended research questions reveal new or unexpected information, closed-ended research questions work well to test assumptions and answer focused questions. They’re great for situations like:

  • Surveying a large number of participants

  • When you want quantitative insights and hard data to create metrics

  • When you’ve already asked open-ended UX research questions and have narrowed them down into close-ended questions based on your findings

  • If you’re evaluating something specific so the possible answers are limited

  • If you’re going to repeat the same study in the future and need uniform questions and answers

Wondering what a closed-ended UX research question might look in real life? The example below shows how Hotjar’s Feedback widgets help UX researchers hear from users 'in the wild' as they navigate.

#Closed-ended UX research questions provide valuable insights and are simple for users to address
Closed-ended UX research questions provide valuable insights and are simple for users to address

The different types of closed-ended questions

There are several different ways to ask close-ended UX research questions, including:

Customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys

CSAT surveys are closed-ended UX research questions that explore customer satisfaction levels by asking users to rank their experience on some kind of scale, like the happy and angry icons in the image below.

On-site widgets like Hotjar's Feedback tool below excel at gathering quick customer insights without wreaking havoc on the user experience. They’re especially popular on ecommerce sites or after customer service interactions.

#Feedback tools can be fun, too. Keep your product lighthearted and collect quick user feedback with a widget like this one
Feedback tools can be fun, too. Keep your product lighthearted and collect quick user feedback with a widget like this one

Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys

NPS surveys are another powerful type of (mostly) closed-ended UX research questions. They ask customers how likely they are to recommend a company, product, or service to their community. Responses to NPS surveys are used to calculate Net Promoter Score.

NPS surveys split customers into three categories:

  • Promoters (9-10): Your most enthusiastic, vocal, and loyal customers

  • Passives (7-8): Ho-hum. They’re more or less satisfied customers but could be susceptible to jumping ship

  • Detractors (0-6): Dissatisfied customers who are at a high risk of spreading bad reviews

Net Promoter Score is a key metric used to predict business growth, track long-term success, and gauge overall customer satisfaction.

#Asking your customers, 'How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?' helps calculate Net Promoter Score and gauges user satisfaction
Asking your customers, 'How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?' helps calculate Net Promoter Score and gauges user satisfaction

Pro tip: while the most important question to ask in an NPS survey is readiness to recommend, it shouldn’t be the only one. Asking follow-up questions can provide more context and a deeper understanding of the customer experience. Combining Hotjar Feedback widgets with standalone Surveys is a great strategy for tracking NPS through both quick rankings and qualitative feedback.

Pros and cons of closed-ended research questions

Close-ended UX research questions have solid advantages, including:

  • More measurable data to convert into statistics and metrics

  • Higher response rates because they’re generally more straightforward for people to answer

  • Easier to coordinate when surveying a large number of people

  • Great for evaluating specifics and facts

  • Little to no irrelevant answers to comb through

  • Putting the UX researcher in control

But closed-ended questions can be tricky to get right. Their disadvantages include:

  • Leading participants to response bias

  • Preventing participants from telling the whole story

  • The lack of insight into opinions or emotions

  • Too many possible answers overwhelming participants

  • Too few possible answers, meaning the 'right' answer for each participant might not be included

How to form your own UX research questions

To create effective UX questions, start by defining your research objectives and hypotheses, which are assumptions you’ll put to the test with user feedback.

Use this tried-and-tested formula to create research hypotheses by filling in the blanks according to your unique user and business goals:

  • We believe (doing x)

  • For (x people)

  • Will achieve (x outcome)

For example: 'We believe adding a progress indicator into our checkout process (for customers) will achieve 20% lower cart abandonment rates.'

Pro tip: research hypotheses aren’t set in stone. Keep them dynamic as you formulate, change, and re-evaluate them throughout the UX research process, until your team comes away with increased certainty about their initial assumption.

When nailing down your hypotheses, remember that research is just as much about discovering new questions as it is about getting answers. Don’t think of research as a validation exercise where you’re looking to confirm something you already know. Instead, cultivate an attitude of exploration and strive to dig deeper into user emotions, needs, and challenges.

Once you have a working hypothesis, identify your UX research objective. Your objective should be linked to your hypothesis, defining what your product team wants to accomplish with your research—for example, 'We want to improve our cart abandonment rates by providing customers with a seamless checkout experience.'

Now that you’ve formulated a hypothesis and research objective, you can create your general or 'big picture' research questions. These define precisely what you want to discover through your research, but they’re not the exact questions you’ll ask participants. This is an important distinction because big picture research questions focus on the researchers themselves rather than users.

A big picture question might be something like: 'How can we improve our cart abandonment rates?'

With a strong hypothesis, objective, and general research question in the bag, you’re finally ready to create the questions you’ll ask participants.

32 examples of inspiring UX research questions

There are countless different categories of UX research questions.

We focus on open-ended, ecommerce-oriented questions here, but with a few tweaks, these could be easily transformed into closed-ended questions.

For example, an open-ended question like, 'Tell us about your overall experience shopping on our website' could be turned into a closed-ended question such as, 'Did you have a positive experience finding everything you needed on our website?'

Screening questions

Screening questions are the first questions you ask UX research participants. They help you get to know your customers and work out whether they fit into your ideal user personas.

These survey question examples focus on demographic and experience-based questions. For instance:

  • Tell me about yourself. Who are you and what do you do?

  • What does a typical day look like for you?

  • How old are you?

  • What’s the highest level of education that you’ve completed?

  • How comfortable do you feel using the internet?

  • How comfortable do you feel browsing or buying products online?

  • How frequently do you buy products online?

  • Do you prefer shopping in person or online? Why?

Awareness questions

Awareness questions explore how long your participants have been aware of your brand and how much they know about it. Some good options include:

  • How did you find out about our brand?

  • What prompted you to visit our website for the first time?

  • If you’ve visited our website multiple times, what made you come back?

  • How long was the gap between finding out about us and your first purchase?

Expectation questions

Expectation questions investigate the assumptions UX research participants have about brands, products, or services before using them. For example:

  • What was your first impression of our brand?

  • What was your first impression of X product or service?

  • How do you think using X product or service would benefit you?

  • What problem would X product or service solve for you?

  • Do you think X product or service is similar to another one on the market? Please specify.

Task-specific questions

Task-specific questions focus on user experiences as they complete actions on your site. Some examples include:

  • Tell us what you thought about the overall website design and content layout

  • How was your browsing experience?

  • How was your checkout experience?

  • What was the easiest task to complete on our website?

  • What was the hardest task to complete on our website?

Experience questions

Experience questions dig deeper into research participants’ holistic journeys as they navigate your site. These include:

  • Tell us how you felt when you landed on our website homepage

  • How can we improve the X page of our website?

  • What motivated you to purchase X product or service?

  • What stopped you from purchasing X product or service?

  • Was your overall experience positive or negative while shopping on our website? Why?

Concluding questions

Concluding questions ask participants to reflect on their overall experience with your brand, product, or service. For instance:

  • What are your biggest questions about X product or service?

  • What are your biggest concerns about X product or service?

  • If you could change one thing about X product or service, what would it be?

  • Would you recommend X product or service to a friend?

  • How would you compare X product or service to X competitor?

Excellent research questions are key for an optimal UX

To create a fantastic UX, you need to understand your users on a deeper level.

Crafting strong questions to deploy during the research process is an important way to gain that understanding, because UX research shouldn’t center on what you want to learn but what your users can teach you.

Use Hotjar to ask your users the right UX research questions

Put your UX research questions to work with Hotjar's Feedback and Survey tools to uncover product experience insights

UX research question FAQs