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What is Funnel Technique in Qualitative User Research

What is Funnel Technique in Qualitative User Research
Disha Mod
•  17.05.2024
Discover our complete guide to using funnel technique questioning for conducting user research, with helpful examples on how to implement it in your own research studies.

There are many avenues for improvement in the initial stages of website or app design stages. Whether you have a prototype or a recently launched product, user research can help you enhance it. Instead of driving potential customers away because of poor website design, functionalities, or features, you can make necessary changes at the right stage.

In fact, research shows that 79% of users are quick to leave the website and search for another if it’s too hard to access. To conduct user research, you must follow a process that doesn’t overwhelm users with too many questions or information.

The funnel technique can help here, as it begins with broad, open-ended questions and slowly narrows to specifics. This allows you to cover all the areas you need and get specific insights into areas of improvement.

What Is a Funnel Technique?

The funnel technique guides a conversation or inquiry from broad, general questions to more specific, detailed ones. The name comes from the shape of a funnel, which is wide at the top and narrows down at the bottom.

In qualitative user research, the funnel technique is a valuable approach to structure interviews or discussions with participants to maximize the depth and quality of the insights received. Here’s the structure it follows:

  • Greet users with open-ended questions where they speak their hearts out
  • Slowly guide the conversation to more specific topics to get detailed insights
  • Finish with targeted questions that require precise answers.

Using the funnel technique in qualitative user research ensures a structured approach to gathering insights. You can explore a wide range of topics while also diving deep into specific areas of interest.

Funnel Technique Questions: How to Ask Correctly?

The funnel technique in user research involves structuring questions that start broad and open-ended and then progressively narrow down to more precise and focused questions. Based on the users’ responses, you gather a wide range of insights and hone in on specific areas of interest.

Here are some tips to ensure you ask the funnel technique questions correctly to get maximum value:

  • Start with broad, open-ended questions

Ask as many open-ended questions as possible to gather a wide range of insights from the user. Encourage users to share their experience, reasons behind choosing the product, other similar products they use, etc.

  • Gradually narrow down

Take the conversation from general topics to specific aspects of the user’s experience or opinion. For instance, a user says they like using your app for work. Initially, talk about the aspects of work the app helps fulfill. Gradually slide down to the specific features of the app that allow them the most.

  • Build on responses

Instead of asking new questions every single time, build on the responses you get. For instance, if a customer says they don’t like a specific feature, ask a follow-up question: Can you elaborate on what you didn’t like about this feature?

  • End with close-ended questions

The last stage focuses on gathering precise data and feedback. It can include yes/no questions, multiple-choice questions, or targeted inquiries to confirm the information obtained in the early stages.

The Funnel Technique in Qualitative User Research


Funnel Technique in User Interviews + Examples

User interviews should be conducted in a way that extracts as much valuable insights as possible. It’s crucial to not overwhelm users and progress gradually after making them comfortable. That’s what the funnel technique aims to do, and here are the steps for the same:

Interview Stage 1

Open-ended questions allow users to freely share their experiences—whether good, bad, or worse. Start with a simple question: “Can you tell me about your experience using our product?” Avoid using biased questions at this stage and focus on general experiences and opinions.

Here are some more examples:

  • Can you walk me through a typical day when use the product/service?
  • What led you to start using our product/service?
  • What other products or services do you use for similar tasks?
  • Can you describe a time when the product/service didn’t meet your expectations?
  • Would you recommend our product to others? Why or why not?

All such questions will encourage users to share their thoughts. You can then build on those and make the queries more specific.

Interview Stage 2

After establishing a comfortable conversation in the first stage, the next step is to delve deeper into the user’s experiences and needs. At this stage, questions remain open-ended but are more targeted, focusing on specific areas of interest. Based on the responses, use probing follow-up questions to delve deeper into the participant’s responses.

Here are some examples of funnel technique in interviews:

  • Response: the interface is very user-friendly

👉 Follow-up question: are there any areas where you feel the interface could still improve?

  • Response: I like how the app saves me time

👉 Follow-up question: can you describe a specific instance where the app helped you complete a task more quickly?

  • Response: I’ve been able to customize the settings to my preferences

👉 Follow-up question: Is there a setting you would like to customize but can’t?

These questions signal your interest in understanding how the product meets users’ needs and how it could be enhanced. Focusing on user experience strengthens your connection with them and increases the likelihood of brand loyalty.

Interview Stage 3

Once the conversation is focused, continue to ask targeted, probing questions to gain deeper insights into particular areas. Follow up on points the participant mentions to clarify and explore their opinions or experiences further.

Try to be more precise with your questions to gain concrete examples and explanations. Here are some examples:

  • Response: I use your app every day

👉 Question: What tasks do you perform most often daily with the app? How long do you spend on our app every day?

  • Response: The search feature is very effective

👉 Question: What type of content do you usually search for?

  • Response: The notifications can be a bit overwhelming

👉 Question: What specific notifications would you rather have?

  • Response: The app crashes too often

👉 Question: Can you describe when the app typically crashes? What are you doing when it happens?

  • Response: The pricing is too high for what you offer

👉 Question: Which features or services should you get at this price point?

Once they mention the shortcomings in your product or service, get as much clarity as possible. Let them give you an ideal solution and work around those grounds.

Interview Stage 4

Verify specific details and confirm understanding of participant responses. These questions typically have a binary (yes/no) answer or involve selecting from a few predetermined options.

Here are some questions to wrap up your discussions:

  • On a scale from 1 to 5, how satisfied are you with the product or service?
  • Would you rather have more control over settings or more automation?
  • Would you like to see more customization options in future updates?
  • Would you use a new feature if it were added?
  • Was the customer support response time acceptable?

Add more such questions and wrap up the discussions with clarity. Ask users to give any final suggestions they feel are essential.

💡Pro Tip

Want to include user interviews in your UX research?

Try UXtweak’s Live Interviews! Seamlessly schedule, recruit, conduct, and analyze your all user interviews.

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Funnel Technique in Usability Testing + Examples

funnel technique

Usability testing is a method for analyzing a product, such as a website, app, or software, by observing how real users interact. The funnel technique in usability testing is quite similar to user interviews.

Start with broad, open-ended tasks to encourage exploration and understand the user’s overall experience. Gradually move to more specific tasks to gather information and targeted feedback. Here are the various stages of the funnel technique in usability testing:

Stage-1: Initial exploration

Let users freely explore your product at this stage and see how they navigate it without guidance. It says a lot about your current user interface if they need clarification and more support. During their exploration, here are some questions you can ask:

  • What is your first impression of the website’s design or layout?
  • How easy or difficult is it to find what you want?
  • What features do you first notice when you visit our homepage?
  • What catches your attention when you first open the app?
  • How easy is it to locate the services you use most often?

Ask all such questions that provide details on their first impression. If these questions receive a positive response, it shows that your design team did a good job!

Stage 2: Make them do core tasks

Ask participants to perform specific tasks using your product at this stage. These tasks should focus on using significant features of the product to test their effectiveness. For instance, ask users to finish setting up the account.

Once they do, follow it up with- did you feel like abandoning the process as it was lengthy at any point? If yes, dive deeper and question them: if they could eliminate one step, what would it be?

Let the users guide you towards making your interface and processes better. All you need to do is ask them the right questions. Here are some more to help you through this stage:

  • Did you easily add the product to your cart? (eCommerce store)
  • Did you have any difficulty assigning the task to a category or project? (project management tool)
  • Did you receive clear confirmation messages after completing the transaction? (banking app)
  • How helpful did you find the progress tracking feature? (fitness app)
  • Did you find the flight search feature easy to use? (travel booking website)

Create your questions by identifying the most critical features of your website or app. They should be the easiest to use and understand.

Stage-3: Focused tasks

Stage three of the funnel technique in usability testing allows you to analyze your product’s new features in depth. It is dedicated to focusing on specific tasks and gathering targeted user feedback.

For example, if you are testing a new messaging feature in a communication app, you might ask participants:

  • Can you use our new messaging feature to message a friend?
  • Did you find it confusing?
  • How would you rate the ease of use and effectiveness of this feature?

Here are some more examples to help you through this stage:

  • New collaboration feature: is there anything about this feature that could be improved?
  • Workout tracking feature: Were the detailed statistics provided after the workout session helpful?
  • Product recommendation feature: Did you find the product recommendations relevant to your interests?

Ask participants if they could change one thing about the new feature. If so, what would it be? Then, let them tell you how to improve your current features.

Stage-4: Conclusion and follow-up

Finally, ask follow-up questions and summarize their overall experience. This stage allows users to share additional suggestions and provide feedback that guides product improvements. Here are some questions to ask during this stage of the funnel technique in usability testing:

  • How would you summarize your overall experience of using the product during this testing session?
  • What changes would you recommend based on your experience with the product?
  • Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience with the product or any additional feedback you have?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your overall satisfaction with the app, and why?
  • What features or functionalities are missing from the app that would further support your goals?

These questions could be as generic or as specific as you want based on the feedback you want to extract. If users were disappointed with one particular feature throughout the testing, your final questions could revolve more around that to gain as many insights as possible to improve.

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Funnel Technique for Information Architecture

funnel technique

People prefer staying on websites and apps that are intuitive and easy to navigate. They leave immediately if it’s too cluttered and confusing. That’s why you need to tailor your product’s information architecture to fit the expectations of your users.

Let’s see how we can do that using the funnel technique:

Step-1: Conduct an Open Card Sort

funnel technique, card sorting

Open card sorting is an activity in which participants group content items into categories based on their own mental models. Each participant is given a set of content items (represented as cards) and asked to organize them into groups that make sense to them. This open approach allows for various grouping possibilities and insights into how users naturally categorize content.

Allow participants to freely explore and express their initial impressions of how the content should be organized.

Let’s consider an example of using the funnel technique in an open card sort for a travel booking website. Here, we want to understand how users naturally categorize different types of travel-related content and services.

Provide participants with a set of cards featuring various website elements, such as flight booking, hotel reservations, car rentals, destination guides, customer reviews, and travel tips.

Ask them to organize the cards into groups based on how they think the content should be categorized on the website. Using an online card sorting tool like UXtweak makes the process easier as it helps you define cards and categories, recruit your respondents, and analyze insights.

💡 Want to learn more about conducting card sorting studies with UXtweak? Check out our video below. 

Step-2: Conduct a Closed/Hybrid Card Sort

The next stage focuses on validating the insights extracted from the open card sort. Here, we introduce pre-defined categories that reflect potential groupings based on the insights gathered from the open card sort.

As in the above step, we again provide participants with sets of cards, this time with pre-defined categories. Instruct participants to place the content card into one of the predefined categories or create new categories, if necessary, based on their perception of where the content belongs.

Once they do, analyze the data collected to see how participants’ categorizations align with the predefined categories. Note any instances where participants deviate from the predefined categories or suggest alternative groupings.

Step-3: Conduct Tree Testing to Validate

funnel technique, tree testing

After refining the information architecture through card sorting, we will now validate the effectiveness of the navigation structure. Tree testing helps assess whether users can find specific content within the proposed information architecture without the influence of visual design elements.

The categories made during the closed card sort are a basis for developing the hierarchical structure (tree) for tree testing. Each category becomes a branch in the navigation tree, and content items are organized accordingly.

Next, participants are presented with the predefined tasks and asked to navigate the hierarchical navigation tree to locate the corresponding content items. The tasks are designed to test how easy it is for users to find and access content in the categories we’ve set up. Again, using an online tree testing tool can make your process even easier.

See how card sorting and tree testing work together in these demos ⬇️

Try Card Sorting🔥

Closed Card Sorting
Try Card Sorting🔥

Try Tree Testing✅

Tree Testing
Try Tree Testing✅

Wrapping Up

The above discussion shows that the funnel technique is all about asking the right questions in the right manner. Manually conducting user research processes can be hectic and less effective. Using the right tools to conduct qualitative research can help you improve the usability of your digital products.

With UXtweak you can schedule, conduct and analyze user interviews, recruit participants for them, conduct usability tests on your product, and so much more! Our all-in-one research tool can help you identify your digital products’ efficiency and make lasting improvements.

Want to know more about how UXtweak can help? Book a demo today! Or register and try it yourself ⬇️

Conduct UX Research with UXtweak!

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FAQ: Funnel Technique

What is the funnel question technique?

The funnel question technique is an interviewing approach in which questions start with broad topics and gradually become more specific. It allows interviewers to gather detailed information by starting with open-ended inquiries and gradually delving into more focused areas of interest.

What is the funnel technique used for? 

The funnel technique serves various purposes, such as conducting interviews, market research, or investigative journalism. Starting with broad questions and gradually narrowing down to specifics facilitates thorough data collection and analysis.


What is funnel technique in an interview? 

In an interview, the funnel technique involves initiating the conversation with general questions to establish rapport and encourage open communication. As the interview progresses, the interviewer transitions to more specific inquiries, probing deeper into relevant topics to elicit detailed responses from the interviewee.

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