3 questioning techniques I use in User Interviews

Andrei Urse
4 min readMay 1, 2021

Instead of trying to find over the internet what questions to ask in User Interviews, make sure you understand what techniques to use and when. They will make you a better researcher because instead of rigid questions that you memorize, you develop your own questions that are best for your context, and you can pivot really fast if the unexpected happens when interviewing.

There are a lot of techniques you can explore, questioning is not something new (actually it goes as far as more than 2000 years ago), Socrates is one of the first to develop one, called nowadays the Socratic questioning (or Socratic Method), and I recommend you to read more about it, it’s very interesting to understand the roots of questioning and critical thinking.

But before doing that, let’s explore three types of questioning techniques I frequently use when I facilitate User Interviews.

Funnel Questioning

You start with an open question and then you narrow the funnel by drilling down to a more specific point in each. Let’s start with an example:

Q: Tell me about your experience with football.

A: I love football, especially the Spanish Championship, and have been a big fan since I was a child.

Q: Which is your favourite team from Spain?

A: Definitely Barcelona.

Q: Who is your favourite player from Barcelona?

A: Tough one, I will say Messi, although Xavi is an incredible player.

Q: Would you think Messi should win the “Best Player Award”?

A: Absolutely!

Q: So you think Messi is better than Ronaldo, right?

A: No doubt!

As you see, I started with a very open question and then continued by asking more specific questions so I can obtain exactly the information I was looking for. Think about detectives that ask a witness a series of questions to gather more information about what they see. It’s a really simple technique, you just need to practice to master it.

Critical incident