What are leading questions in UX?
User Research

Published on January 26, 2022

What are leading questions in UX?

When it comes to user research, candid, unbiased participant feedback is essential. If you want to gather input that will move you forward, then it’s critical to ask the right questions. In this article, we will cover the topic of leading questions, what they are, and why you should avoid them in your research.

People frequently tell you what they think you want to hear. This is motivated by people’s innate good nature, which in theory, is generally ok. However, if your in-depth interview questions force participants to provide incorrect responses, you may be potentially missing out on crucial UX information.

Psychoanalysis, according to the psychologist Adam Phillips, is the method of looking at someone’s subconcience, or “what falls out of their pockets once they start talking.”

This is a terrific analogy for interviewing, since we want to ask just enough questions to get participants talking, build momentum, and examine what falls out of their pockets as they speak. We’re not able to acquire the knowledge we desire when we’re preoccupied with showing our prejudices by asking whether they prefer something in either a red or blue color, for example.

What are leading questions?

A leading question is a question that encourages respondents to answer in a certain way based on the wording of the question. These questions discreetly urge or prompt the desired response. In UX, these questions reveal the researcher’s views toward a topic and expect participants to respond in a specific way.

As a UX researcher, it’s your responsibility to find out the truth. It’s your job to collect customer input that isn’t skewed by your aspirations and expectations. Listening and being intentional with your words and actions is what you need to do in order for your findings to be valuable.

Five basic characteristics of leading questions: 

  1. They’re designed to instill bias in respondents so that the results match the expectations of the author.
  2. Conjecture and assumption are present in the questions.
  3. Leading questions thrive on the personal involvement of the respondent.
  4. These questions are frequently asked to comprehend the implications of a situation.
  5. When it comes to asking the respondent to provide a critical response, the questions are usually abrasive.

leading questions

What is wrong with leading questions?

Leading questions lead to inaccurate or skewed data.

Rather than attempting to elicit a true and unbiased response to the topic, these questions frequently contain data that the survey developer wishes to verify. Biases may show up in the most unexpected places – if they show up in the form of leading questions in a poll, the poll’s objective will be compromised. This is  because the replies would be biased as well, depending on the leading question. These responses and data will therefore not result in conclusions or in-depth study reports.

How can we avoid them?

Offering open-ended questions to elicit answers from users rather than single-word yes/no or multiple-choice responses is an effective method of preventing them. The value and validity of the responses we receive are directly proportional to the way we ask these questions.

When constructing a survey, keep questions clear and simple. In particular, avoid encouraging the respondent to answer specifically, provide acceptable answer possibilities, and include an “other” option to ensure the survey is simple to respond to.

To remove biases from leading questions, the survey developer can also ask someone who isn’t familiar with the subject of the survey for their opinion. Before distributing a survey, it is usually a good idea to have an extra pair of eyes scan it to remove any biases.

Avoid asking inquiries in jargon. Employing technical or difficult-to-understand phrases might lead to leading questions. When respondents don’t understand the question, they often tend to choose the option that makes the most sense to them.

There is always a possibility that the answer options you’re offering are not relevant or do not cover everything a user has in mind. In the case of multiple choice questions, make sure to add an “other” option and a text box in case they want to specify their opinion.

It’s one thing to have a designer or two doing interviews; however, it’s quite another to include Product Owners or Managers. To be honest, PMs and POs are sometimes too familiar with a product to avoid letting prejudice creep into the discussion. Fortunately, this is something the entire team can work on.

leading questions in ux research

Examples of leading questions in UX research

Question 1

What was the source of your navigational difficulties?

Explanation

This question presupposes the solution and that the issue focuses on navigation. It also shifts the blame from the website to the user, since the question is focused on the user’s behavior rather than the site components that may have influenced the user’s actions.

Question 2

Do you find it difficult to use this feature?

Explanation

As a researcher, you can infer that a feature was inconvenient based on your data or the user’s expressed statement. However, if you pose the question directly, individuals are more inclined to think about it too much, and you may not obtain honest responses.

Question 3

Would you prefer to utilize the previous version of the website or this newer and improved version?

Explanation

By referring to one version as “improved,” you’ve already convinced participants that it’s better than the other. Therefore, it’s probably best to simply refer to them as Version A and Version B, or something along those lines.

Question 4

If you had this product at home, would you utilize it?

Explanation

Because the majority of people would likely answer “yes” to this question, you won’t be receiving much valuable information. Therefore, try an alternative approach. People aren’t very good at predicting the future, so concentrate instead on past experiences and pain points.

Here are some examples of good questions: 

Question 1

Without this tool, how would you ordinarily complete this task?

Explanation

This is a great question, since it provides further context and information about the issues you’re seeking in order to find solutions with the product.

Question 2 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of these designs?

Explanation

A clear question that’s easy to understand. 

Question 3

What has been your experience with this app?

Explanation 

This is a very good question, because it does not mislead the respondent to answer the question according to the preferences of the interviewer. 

Practice, practice and practice

In general, we miss out on the possibility of gaining unexpected insight from the user when we ask leading questions. The more direct our questions are, the less likely the user will give us a reply that surprises or intrigues us, or makes us consider a problem or solution in a new light. They may be useful for “validating” designs, but they are unsuitable for testing. So, it’s always best to avoid them. But how? Well, as they say, practice makes perfect, and the same is true when it comes to asking questions. 

By incorporating the characteristics listed above, survey producers can avoid asking leading questions and consciously practice the art of asking the appropriate questions in order to create effective research for their companies or organizations.

Here at UXtweak, we attempt to provide you with the greatest UX tips and tricks. If you found this article interesting, take a look at our other articles. Even still, you can also try UXtweak and its fantastic features for free. 

Tereza Stehlíková
January 26, 2022
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Marketing & Sales Assistant at UXtweak who likes to discover the charm of UX and travel around the world.

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