We people are social animals and questions are an important part of how we socialise and relate to each other. One only has to spend a short time with a 4 or 5 year old child to hear them constantly asking Why this? Why that? Those questions and the corresponding responses are an important part of the development of that child.
As we get older, questions continue to be an important part of how we all engage with the world around us. Our brains love questions; it is how forge new associations and wire neural connections.
Curiosity is an essential part of creatively and innovation. Through questioning we spark new ideas and then use more questions to pull apart those ideas and build them back together again.
Questioning is also an integral part of UX Research.
Promoting a culture of questioning and debate
In prod development once we agree internally what we think the product might be and what the important features are, we need to test this with users. The important phrase here is what we think the product ‘might be’. As UX researchers we need to challenge the thinking from inside the business that they already know how the product should work. We are not merely undertaking a validation test with users to prove our ideas but rather we are undertaking a test to test our assumptions about the product. The difference may be subtle but it is important because if we frame our product ideas as hypothesis this allows us to say that we (as a business) don’t know what the answers are yet and that we are open to discussion and debate on what those answers might be.
Jeff Gothelf in his blog on his Lean UX approach puts this very well when he suggests starting with testing a hypothesis of what we believe the new product or design to be. When the new product/design or feature is framed as a hypothesis e.g we believe x feature will deliver x value to customers, is more of a question about our assumptions that a statement of fact.
The aim is to test not only that users understand and can use our products but also that they actually desire it. And if we frame our product ideas as hypothesis this allows us to say that we don’t know what the answers are yet and be more open to the results.
As UX Researchers it is vital that we never forgot that curios 5 year old inside us who is always asking why? Questions will help us deliver not only more usable but also more meaningful and valuable user experiences.