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12 UX Discovery Questions You Need to Ask

Jack O'Donoghue Avatar

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Better questions lead to a deeper understanding of the problem and more informed design solutions.

It only takes one question to spark a whole new world of thought and inspire a whole new way of thinking that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Here are 12 valuable questions you can ask during the discovery phase of your UX Design project.

1. What Are the Primary Goals and Objectives of Your Product?

The first step in any UX Design project, is to understand what the business hopes to achieve.

We need to understand the business strategy and how our project is intended to support it.

By getting this level of clarity in advance, we can make more informed design decisions with a clear idea of how the business will measure success.

Understanding business objectives is the first step in any UX Design project.

Most projects exist for one of the following reasons:

  1. To move the needle on a KPI.
  2. To solve known technical issues.
  3. To address customer feedback.
  4. To enable new technology.

When a project first lands on our lap, it’s more than likely briefed from the perspective of the business and what they consider to be opportunities.

Our job as UX Designers is to take this business perspective and find out where it overlaps with customer problems and user needs.

We can then design useful and intuitive technology solutions that meet customer needs and achieve business goals.

Key questions you need to ask at this stage are:

  1. What is the business trying to achieve?
  2. How will they measure success?
  3. Who are the stakeholders and decision-makers involved in this project?

Think of this stage as building the foundation of your design project by understanding where the project comes from and why it exists.

You can then build on this foundation knowing that you have a solid grounding and clear understanding of stakeholders’ goals and expectations.

2. Who Are Your Target Users, and What Are Their Key Characteristics?

Before we can conduct discovery into users’ goals and pain points. We need to first identify and define who our users are. This enables us to recruit the right customers for our UX research later on in the project.

If you’re in an established organization, then this stage shouldn’t be too difficult, essentially, the key question you want to answer is:

  1. Who are our core customer segments?
  2. What behaviors does each group exhibit?
  3. What are our screening criteria for recruiting UX research participants?

If you’re starting a new project that doesn’t have a well-defined audience, then you need to take an iterative approach.

Defining who our customers are means we can focus our user research on the people that will give us the most valuable insights.

First, look at any existing data from analytics, customer feedback, or existing research.

Make your best guesses about who your audience is based on the information you have available.

Go out and speak to the users to confirm or deny that you have identified the correct group.

After your first couple of user interviews, you should have a very good understanding of whether or not you’re speaking to the right people, you can now document your findings by creating the first piece of the persona puzzle:

Who are your customer groups, and what are their key characteristics and behaviors?

During the next step, we’ll dig deeper and add layers to our personas by asking more specific questions and learning about each customer group and their experiences related to our project.

3. What Are the Main Pain Points and Challenges Faced by Your Users?

At this stage of discovery – assuming we don’t know a lot about our user’s experiences – we want to keep our research broad. We want to understand what experiences our customers are having related to our product or service.

By going broad and asking open-ended user interview questions like:

  1. Tell me about a time when you [Insert the task or problem area you’re researching]
  2. Can you show me how you [Insert the task or problem area you’re researching]

These questions keep our research broad enough that we can understand the entire context of the user’s experience.

User research usually starts broad and gets more focused over time. Always tie your research back to your research questions and business objectives.

It allows us to dig into their motivations, goals, and expectations by asking questions like:

  1. Can you tell me what you were hoping to achieve with this?
  2. Why was it important to you that you could do this?
  3. What did you expect to happen when you did this?

When the users answer this kind of user research question, we want to listen out for how their experiences overlap with our business objectives:

  1. Which parts of their experience align with a product or service the business provides?
  2. What motivations, goals, and expectations sound aligned with what the business wants to achieve?

It’s important that we’re always thinking about how the user’s experiences align with the goals of the business. If we leave the business out of the equation, then we risk creating a product that isn’t economically viable or doesn’t align with our business strategy.

4. What Are the Key Tasks Your Users Want To Accomplish Using Your Product?

At this stage of discovery, we want to understand the key tasks and goals that our users want to accomplish using our product.

More than likely we can review the conversations we had with them in the last phase and highlight what their key tasks are related to our product or service. But sometimes we might need to narrow the focus of our conversations with users to get the granularity we need.

We do this by asking questions like:

  1. What task or goal would you like to accomplish with this?
  2. What features do you think would help with this task?
  3. How easy do you find it to complete this task?
  4. Why did you choose to use our product for this task?

This kind of user research question is designed to get a better understanding of how our users interact with the product and what their experience is.

Defining your customers key tasks helps you to prioritize your efforts and focus on the areas that matter most.

Understanding what tasks they are trying to complete can give us valuable insights into how we can improve the user journey and ultimately increase customer satisfaction.

By understanding which features they find helpful in completing their tasks can help us focus our development efforts in the right areas. With this information, we can start to build better products and services that meet user needs.

5. How Do Your Users Currently Solve Their Problems or Complete Their Tasks?

When analyzing existing solutions, tools, or workarounds used by users, it is important to identify any gaps or obstacles that occur in the process. This can help uncover opportunities for improvement or innovation.

For example, if users are struggling with the current system, it’s a good indication that there is room for improvement in the product design or user experience.

In addition to identifying existing solutions and tools used by users, it’s also beneficial to understand how users currently approach problem-solving.

Knowing how customers currently solve their problems helps us decide how we can help them in a way that aligns with our business objectives.

Oftentimes, there are more efficient ways of solving problems that may not be immediately obvious when using an existing solution.

By understanding how and why users approach certain tasks in a certain way, designers can tweak existing systems to reduce friction and improve usability.

Finally, it’s important to consider the wider context in which users are operating when analyzing existing solutions and tools used by them.

For instance, if a user has a limited amount of time to complete a task due to external constraints like budget or deadlines, this could have an effect on how they approach that particular problem-solving process.

Understanding and taking into account these broader contextual factors can lead to more effective design solutions that take into account user needs as well as organizational goals.

6. What Are the Primary Metrics for Measuring Success?

When determining success metrics, it is important to consider both quantitative and qualitative measures.

Quantitative metrics may include metrics such as user engagement, conversion rate, completed tasks, or time on task.

Qualitative measures can involve collecting feedback from users on their overall satisfaction with the product and experience.

Knowing how you’ll measure success gives you an acute sense of what you should focus on and how you should do it.

This type of data can be used to identify areas for improvement and make changes that better meet user needs.

In addition to measuring success with both quantitative and qualitative metrics, it’s important to track performance over time in order to determine if improvements have been made.

Some of the key UX Metrics worth keeping an eye on are:

  1. The number of calls to customer service.
  2. The time it takes a customer service rep to assist a customer.
  3. The number of errors throughout a core journey.
  4. The time it takes to complete time-sensitive journeys.
  5. Customer satisfaction and how they rate the ease of use.

Tracking performance data such as usage trends, completion rate, or drop-off rate will provide insights into how well a system is doing long-term and inform what we decide to focus on in the future.

User satisfaction is also an important metric that should be tracked over time in order to understand how users are responding to the product or experience.

Collecting feedback from users via surveys or interviews will provide valuable insights into what they think about the product and any areas for improvement they recommend.

This type of data is invaluable when assessing how successful a product or solution is in meeting user needs.

7. What Are the Main Competitors in the Market, and How Do They Differentiate Themselves?

Conducting a competitive analysis involves looking at the main competitors in the market and analyzing their strengths and weaknesses.

By doing this, you can determine what unique value propositions your product or service can offer that would make it stand out from the competition.

This could include offering better customer service, more features, lower prices, faster delivery times, or any other benefit that is not currently offered by competitors.

Identifying these gaps and opportunities for creating unique value propositions will help you create a successful product or service that meets user needs.

8. What Are the Technical Constraints and Requirements?

When building a product or solution, it is important to understand the technical constraints of the platform or development framework being used.

This involves researching what features can be achieved and how those features can be implemented.

This includes assessing the available resources such as coding languages, libraries, and frameworks that are necessary to develop the product or solution.

Some of the key questions you can ask here are:

  1. What are the system requirements for this product or solution?
  2. What technical specifications does it need to adhere to?
  3. Are there any existing legacy technologies that need to be taken into account?
  4. Are there any legal, compliance or security requirements we need to consider?

Understanding these technical constraints in advance will help you plan your development process more efficiently and ensure that your final product meets the necessary standards.

It’s also important to make sure that the design solutions are feasible and compatible with existing platforms and development frameworks.

This requires understanding the limitations of each platform and making sure that any proposed solutions work within those constraints.

It’s critical to assess whether the proposed design solutions are meeting user needs and objectives while remaining cost-effective and efficient.

Regular user feedback should also be gathered during development in order to ensure that any changes made meet their requirements.

9. What Are the Key Milestones and Deadlines for the Project?

Before you even put pen to paper and create a design plan, you need to list out any key milestones or commitments that your project sponsor and stakeholders have already made.

We can then design our project plan around these goals. This information will help you determine how extensive your research phase is and how quickly you need to move through iterations of your ideas.

Before you write your design plan, make a list of key milestones and commitments that have already been made by your project sponsor and stakeholders.

Ask your stakeholders questions like:

  1. What time commitments have already been made?
  2. What milestones have been agreed for delivering the project?

Some projects might allow the luxury of upfront discovery research and a more extensive research method, while most will need you to be lean, efficient, and creative with how you get answers to your research questions.

Some of the things you need to consider at this stage are:

  1. What key knowledge gaps do we have and how do we fill them?
  2. Which areas of the design do we need the most confidence in to ensure success?
  3. Which parts of the design offer the greatest risk if we get it wrong?

The answers to these questions will help you focus your user research to reduce risk and ensure success.

10. How Will You Obtain User Feedback and Conduct Usability Testing?

When designing the project, it is important to take an iterative approach in order to ensure the most effective and efficient design solutions are implemented.

This means regularly reviewing and assessing the progress and gathering user feedback in order to make adjustments where necessary.

It is also important to keep in mind that user feedback should be taken into account throughout the entire process, from research and concept development all the way through implementation.

Usability testing is a great way of obtaining user feedback as it allows designers to evaluate how people interact with their products or service.

Usability testing can help identify areas where users struggle, areas they find confusing or difficult, as well as areas they find intuitive or enjoyable.

By collecting this data, designers can make whatever changes are needed to ensure a successful product launch.

In order to conduct usability testing effectively, it is important that the right test methods are used so that insights can be properly gathered.

Depending on the type of project, this may include remote interviews, field visits, A/B testing, surveys, or other methods of research.

Through these research methods, designers can understand how their products are being used by real users which gives them valuable feedback for improvement and optimization of their designs.

By taking an iterative approach with testing at each stage of development, any issues can be identified quickly before they become too costly and time-consuming to fix later down the line.

11. What Are the Main Risks or Challenges You Foresee for This Project?

By identifying your stakeholder’s biggest fears and challenges, you can get an idea of where the project holds the most risk.

This is good information to have because most big projects will have pivots and changes in direction as well as scope cuts and knee-jerk reactions to competitors or stakeholders changing priorities.

Knowing where the biggest risks are helps you to mitigate against them and anticipate their inevitable arrival – as few projects go off without a hitch.

When you know what the main risks and challenges are, you can better anticipate where all these changes might be. It’s good to have flexible expectations because no project happens in a straight line.

Just as you are trying to figure everything out, so too are your stakeholders and project sponsors. This means when new information comes in it could change your focus and priorities.

12. What Are the Long-Term Goals and Vision for Your Product?

A long-term vision is a beautiful thing that can align teams around a concerted effort, create autonomy in decision making and inspire people to connect to a larger purpose.

If you can align your team around a shared vision early on, it can make the whole product development process much more efficient and productive.

A compelling vision will create clarity and provide direction to the product development team.

To help with this you can ask questions like:

  1. Fast forward 3 years and we’ve exceeded our wildest dreams, what does that look like?
  2. What are the key success measures that will tell us if we’ve been successful, what if we 10x’d those metrics?
  3. Imagine we’re receiving glowing customer feedback, what would that feedback say about our product?

When you consider these questions, and you frequently speak to customers to understand their ideal futures, you can start to cultivate a powerful vision that will provide direction and clarity to your whole team.

That said, some projects will naturally be shorter-term tactical plays. Like meeting new governance and compliance regulations. Or solving a backlog of known issues.

In this example, our vision might not be as aspirational and we might be able to define it within a couple of conversations, but it’s still worth having.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are UX discovery questions?

A: UX discovery questions are a set of specific questions that UX designers and the UX researcher asks during the discovery phase of a project. These questions help gather valuable insights about user needs, goals, and pain points, guiding the design process and ensuring a successful user experience.

Q: Why are UX discovery questions important in the UX design process?

A: UX discovery questions play a crucial role in the UX design process by helping designers understand their target audience and identify user needs. By asking these questions, designers can create products that cater to users’ preferences and motivations, ultimately leading to better product development and user satisfaction.

Q: How do UX discovery questions contribute to user research?

A: UX discovery questions are an essential component of user research, as they help uncover users’ problems, frustrations, and goals. By asking these questions during user interviews and other research methods, designers can gain insights into users’ experiences, informing design decisions and improving the overall user experience.

Q: What is the difference between UX discovery and product discovery?

A: While both UX discovery and product discovery aim to gather insights for creating successful products, UX discovery focuses on understanding user needs, behaviors, and motivations, whereas product discovery encompasses a broader scope, including business goals, market analysis, and technical requirements.

Q: How do Internal stakeholder interviews and discovery sessions contribute to the discovery phase?

A: Internal Stakeholder interviews and discovery sessions are essential in the discovery phase, as they involve discussions with key stakeholders such as product managers, business analysts, and internal stakeholders. These conversations help identify project goals, requirements, and potential challenges, providing a solid foundation for the design process.

Q: Can UX discovery questions be used in other research methods, like usability testing?

A: Yes, UX discovery questions can be adapted and used in various research methods, including usability testing. By asking users about their needs and experiences during usability tests, designers can gain additional insights that inform design iterations and improvements.

A: Some examples of UX discovery questions related to user research and user experience include:

  • What are the primary goals and objectives of your product?
  • Who are your target users, and what are their key characteristics?
  • What are the main pain points and challenges faced by your users?
  • How do your users currently solve their problems or complete their tasks?

Q: How can UX designers collaborate with product teams and project managers during the discovery process?

A: UX designers can collaborate with product teams and project managers during the discovery process by participating in discovery workshops, sharing research findings, and aligning on project goals and requirements. Open communication and collaboration among team members ensure a unified vision for the product and a successful outcome.

📸 Shout out to İrfan Simsar for the cover photo.

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