Article written by Kristina Drury – founder of TYTHEdesign
No matter what the project or challenge, understanding the needs of your users is one of the most essential parts of the design thinking process. Finding out what those needs means connecting with the community and learning through surveys, interviews and observation.
Here are a few tips on how to ask useful questions to learn more about your users needs:
1. Overcoming challenges of honesty, the right method. Ask your interviewees if they’d prefer to have a conversation with you or use a questionnaire. In my experience, if you are asking personal or private questions, people tend to feel more comfortable with a questionnaire.
2.Prepare your questions beforehand. It is important to ask everyone the same initial questions before asking more individualized questions. If each conversation is very different, it will be hard to do any reliable comparison.
3. Asking useful questions without being leading can sometimes be a challenge. If you have assumptions around your users needs and wants, put those down in a list and ask someone to rank them in importance. Following the ranking, ask them to explain why they chose the most important one and the least important one.
4. Use language in your questions that help your users feel important. They are the experts so let them know that their voice matters. People tend to speak more freely and honestly about their point of view when they are shown that they are valued.
5. Don’t ask someone ‘why’ or ‘please explain further’. These statements are impersonal. Find a way to ask ‘why’ with full sentences.
6. If your are interviewing someone, practice your questions. If you’re comfortable with what you’re going to say, your interaction with your interviewee will be that much better.
7. Provide an opportunity for people to tell a story around their needs, feelings or experience. Stories can help you understand the context and offer deeper insight into why their needs are important.
Figuring out what how to ask the right questions might take a few tries to resonate with your community. Hopefully these tips will help you on your way.
KRISTINA DRURY is an expert in design thinking and the Executive Director of TYTHEdesign, a consultancy serving the social sector based in New York City. TYTHEdesign uses design-based approaches to support the goals and needs of agencies in the social sector, drawing on communication and organizational design to increase the impact of their work. Feel free to contact her if you have questions at all! She’s here to help.
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