When conducting usability studies or field studies, it’s a great idea to ask lots of open-ended questions. Typically, researchers ask questions before, during, and after research sessions. It’s easy to focus on what you want to know rather than on how you ask, but the way you ask questions matters a lot in terms of what and how much you can discover. You can learn unexpected and important things with this easy technique.


Open-ended questions are questions that allow someone to give a free-form answer.


Closed-ended questions are often good forsurveys, because you get higher response rates when users don’t have to type so much. Also, answers to closed-ended questions can easily be analyzed statistically, which is what you usually want to do with survey data.

However, in一对一可用性测试, you want to get richer data than what’s provided from simple yes/no answers. If you使用5个用户进行测试比如说,有60%的用户对某个问题的回答是“是”,这样的报道并不有趣。没有统计意义。如果你能让用户深入讨论一个问题,那么你绝对可以从5个用户那里得到有效的信息。不是统计的insights, but定性的insights.

How to Ask Open-Ended Questions



Are you satisfied?

How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with this process?





  • Please tell me when you’ve found the item.
  • Explain how you would find that.

After a task:

  • Where did you find the answer?
  • Where was the item?
  • What did you find?



How might this change the way you do that today?


What do you think about that?

Have you done this before?



Please describe your level of experience with …


What’s most confusing or annoying about … ?

w什么orked well for you?

Did you know … ?

How do you know ... ?



Did you see that?




w什么ould you most want to change about … ?

Which things did you like the best about … ?

Did you expect this kind of information to be in there?


  • 当你…,你希望看到什么?

After a task:

  • Which (other) kinds of information would likely be in there?
  • w什么ere you expecting?


The most important benefit of open-ended questions is that they允许你to findmorethan you anticipate:人们可以分享的动机,你没有expect and mention behaviors and concerns that you knew nothing about. When you ask people to explain things to you, they often reveal surprising思想模型, problem-solving strategies, hopes, fears, and much more.

Closed-ended questions stop the conversationand eliminate surprises: What you expect is what you get. (Choose your favorite ice cream: vanilla, strawberry, or chocolate.) When you ask closed-ended questions, you may accidentally limit someone’s answers to only the things you believe to be true. Worse, closed-ended questions can偏袒他人做出某种反应。你建议的答案可以揭示你在寻找什么,因此人们可能会直接或间接地受到这些问题的影响。不要问,“这有意义吗?“问,”这是怎么回事?“仔细聆听,发现设计传达其功能的效果如何。注意用户的词汇选择,因为在界面中使用他们的术语可能会有所帮助。


Start open questions with “how” or with words that begin with “w,” such as “what,” “when,” “where,” “which,” and “who.”

不要以“was”(w提示的例外)或其他形式的动词“to be”和“to do”开头提问

In general, avoid “why” questions, because human nature leads people to make up a rational reason even when they don’t have one. We normally ask “why” only about ratings, to tease out more open-ended feedback. Say “Please tell me more about that,” instead.


Even when you must ask closed-ended questions, you can ask an open-ended question at the end, such as, “What else would you like to say about that?”



  • In a screening questionnaire, when为可用性研究招募参与者(for example, “How often do you shop online?”)
  • While conducting design research, such as on
    • 要解决哪些问题
    • 提供什么样的解决方案
    • Who to design for
  • For exploratory studies, such as
  • During the initial development of a closed-ended survey instrument: To derive the list of response categories for a closed-ended question, you can start by asking a corresponding open-ended question of a smaller number of people.


  • Inquantitativeusability studies, where you are measuring time on task and error rates, and you need to compare results among users
  • 在调查中,你预计会有1000多名受访者
  • 当收集数据时,必须仔细测量一段时间,例如重复(相同)的研究工作
  • 当一组可能的答案由于某种原因受到严格限制时
  • 在你做了足够的定性研究之后,你就有了覆盖大多数案例的优秀的多项选择题

Bottom Line

Whenever possible, it’s best to ask open-ended questions so you can find out more than you can anticipate. Test your questions by trying to answer them with yes or no, and rewrite those to find out more about怎样and什么. 在某些情况下,你将无法适应自由形式或写在答案,然后有必要限制的可能性。