Good Research Question: "What strikes you about this page?"
What captures users' attention and how to translate it into insights
At Helpfully understanding the intricate nuances of user behavior, preferences, and engagement is the holy grail. Helpfully researchers are dying to know what’s going on in a user’s mind — to understand their experience. Narrowing in a little more into research around user experiences, especially testing product screens where every tap, scroll, and click points to insights waiting to be discovered.
In contrast, a user’s refusal to act — to scroll, click, read, or use — points to something going on as well that would be worth delving into. How a user goes through a screen, page, or product from all those interactions, provides your answers. The only thing is - they’re not translated yet. For that, you need to go to the source, the user, and get them to translate what all these clicks, taps, and scrolls meant - what were they thinking about, why did they pause there, etc.
In these scenarios, a simple yet powerful question emerges: "What strikes you about this [page/screen]?" This question is a deliberate open-ended invitation into their experience. This question will help uncover what pulls a user's attention on a specific screen or page.
Some places where participants might start their replies:
- The headings and hero section
- Brand / images / video and other visuals
- Messaging copy - and relevance to their needs (or lack of it)
- Utility - does the page inspire action, curiosity to learn more, etc
What they choose to mention first highlights the elements that immediately captured their eye. Whether it's a bold headline, a striking visual element, or a strategically placed call-to-action button, their initial response provides valuable insight into the elements that draw their gaze. Also, what they don’t mention can say more than what they do, e.g. a page that you want to act as a funnel, if users are not noticing the steps to the final interaction, you might want to do something about that.
Go Beyond "Do You Like It?"
We've all encountered the classic research question: "Do you like…?" It feels straightforward and the right thing to ask, but it doesn’t capture the complexity of user engagement. It pigeonholes users into binary responses, either yes or no. It’s limiting. In a previous blog post we explain why asking “Do you like…” is a bad research question.
Instead, ask “What strikes you…” This lets users go beyond simply stating what they like. They can be honest about what struck them - whether negative or positive.
Give Users Permission to Share Freely
In the realm of user research, you want to aim for honest responses. The question "What strikes you about this [page/screen]?" can open space for your participant to give an honest and off-the-cuff response At Helpfully, we’ve found that creating an open channel of communication is invaluable. Users feel empowered to bring up aspects that resonate with them and what aspects missed the mark.
Encourage Active Seeing
At the heart of collecting user insights lies the concept of active seeing. This practice goes beyond observing something and instead means noticing and interpreting what you’re seeing. Researchers need to encourage users to use active seeing as they move through a product, screen, page, etc. Encouraging users to express what catches their attention will produce better insights and might actually make the experience more meaningful and fun for the participants.
When a user finds a cutting-edge mobile app interface, they might poke around at the surface level, skimming to get oriented. But active seeing compels them to go deeper, to scrutinize the subtle transitions, to think about the placement of interactive elements, and to absorb the finer details that combine to form the holistic experience.
Removing Pressure: Opening Genuine Engagement
Pressure is an unwelcome guest in user research. It can lurk behind questions that need definitive responses, nudging users to conform or second-guess their thoughts. "What strikes you about this [page/screen]?" reduces the pressure, creating an environment where users can engage authentically and with less self-consciousness.
When users are relieved from the burden of forced preferences, their engagement flourishes. Hopefully, they will explore usability as if it were an open dialogue, a conversation with the tool. This approach not only enriches the depth of user feedback, but also fosters a sense of collaboration between users and designers, resulting in experiences that truly resonate.
Cultivating Lasting Recall: Insights That Endure
Our cognitive architecture is wired to remember what stands out. By actively engaging users and encouraging them to articulate their observations, "What strikes you about this [page/screen]?" contributes to their lasting recall.
Consider a scenario where a user encounters a visually captivating webpage. Their articulation of the imagery, typography, and intuitive navigation helps deepen the experience and create a lasting memory. This kind of positive experience and this memory isn't just about pixels on a screen; it's a testament to a meaningful interaction that reverberates beyond the immediate moment.
Here are a few follow up questions you can ask to keep the conversation going.
‘What three words would you use to describe this page or screen?’ The three words can be closed-ended or open-ended. Sometimes it’s better to give people a big list of words and have them pick. In other cases, freely allowing them to scout around and find words of their own.
‘Who would you say this page or screen is designed for?’ If the user doesn’t feel like the experience was designed for them, this could lead to a variety of issues including your target audience not using the product because they don’t feel it was designed for them.
“It sounds like you are saying ____, is that correct? Did I understand correctly?” Asking for clarification will help both the researcher and user understand if what’s being said matches what’s being heard. It will also allow a user to expand on their answer and provide additional details they may have forgotten to mention previously.
In conclusion, the question "What strikes you about this [page/screen]?" is more than a question – it's a path to user insights that goes deeper than the superficial. It unveils the raw and authentic impressions of users, empowering them to share their thoughts freely.
As a user research consultancy, Helpfully is committed to finding and asking the questions that resonate deeply with people. We nurture active engagement , encourage unbiased expression, and release all the pressure out of the experiences. All this propels us towards our ultimate goal - creating user centered designs that stand the test of time.