Open vs. Closed Questions in User Research

I have a question for you. What is your favorite book genre now that you’ve mentally answered? Let me ask once more, but a bit differently. Which of the following is your favorite book genre?

Did your answer change? These two questions are examples of the two variations of user research questions we can ask. Open ended or closed ended? Closed ended questions have a limited set of possible answers, but they allow you to analyze the responses a bit easier. Close ended questions are great for quantitative usability studies or surveys. Some examples of close ended questions include Has this happened before? Which of the following do you own? Overall, this task was on a scale one very difficult to seven, very easy. On the other hand, open ended questions are great because they allow for a free form answers like list and stories. One downside of asking open ended questions is that it can be difficult and more time consuming to quantify responses from open ended questions. Open ended questions are great for exploratory studies like usability testing, interviews, qualitative surveys, field studies or diary studies. Here are some examples of open questions. What do you think about that? What would you expect to happen if you click that? What would you most want to change about this process? When we conduct research studies where in a very curious mindset, we want to find out everything we can about our participants and their experience with our interface, questions are a great way to get pointed insights. But the way you ask questions matters.

Both closed and open ended questions have their place and user research. Open ended questions give us insights, but close ended questions give us metrics and scale. Knowing when to use each type of question is key to getting the data you need.

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