I am in the process of creating a questionnaire for user interviews for a HUGE Enterprise Social Initiative where the end product is going to be an Intranet/ESocial application.I am trying to get some additional inputs on what questions I can ask during the user interview process which would give me additional inputs into how users user he system.

The interviews will be mostly one on ones though there will be some data collection done through an online survey system.

I am looking for best practices and inputs from people who have conducted interviews for similar user groups. Also references to articles which provide inputs on user interviews and how to drive the process will be very helpful.

  • 1
    What information are you trying to gather?
    – DA01
    Commented Feb 13, 2013 at 18:46
  • Interesting question..
    – Mervin
    Commented Feb 13, 2013 at 19:04
  • I would recommend checking out some of the Nielsen Norman Group's intranet reports. This is the whole series: nngroup.com/reports/intranet-usability-guidelines. How to do research (although it seems to be focused on usability studies, which you don't want to do): nngroup.com/reports/intranet-research-overview. And about social features: nngroup.com/reports/intranet-communications
    – Mark D
    Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 3:07
  • 1
    @MarkD why don't you put this as an answer. clearly this cant be answered in few words.. your links are most helpful Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 4:33
  • Please add some more information, such as how long you will be interviewing the participants, how interviews you will conduct, and how many survey responses you expect to collect.
    – nadyne
    Commented Feb 15, 2013 at 1:30

2 Answers 2


You don't say what kind of initiative it is, whether an add-on to an existing platform or something entirely new, but you will encounter complexity, so I would recommend a prototyping approach to learn about your users' needs as you progress. Similarly, you can develop your questions at each stage of the process as you learn more and your needs change.

It is important to understand are that there is no "right" answer. Your needs will depend on your own specific context. Therefore, you should not focus your efforts on getting the questions "right". Understand what it is you currently need to know and formulate some simple questions which will give you useful information.

  • Don't use Likert scales. They seem precise, but the numbers are meaningless.
  • Keep your survey short. People will be put off by a long list of questions. 3-5 questions of similar length to "What problems did you experience?" does not look onerous.
  • Avoid leading questions. Instead ask open questions which invite narrative answers. Ironically, this will result in (some) people volunteering more detail. You'll need more effort to make sense of the data, but you will gain more insight.
  • Avoid the temptation to fill in the gaps in conversation. Learn to remain silent when someone is thinking or reasoning out loud and allow them to reach the conclusion.

If you are interviewing face-to-face, you will have more latitude to ask follow-up questions. Don't stick to a rigid format, but let yourself be led by the interviewee.


I'm always skeptical of questionnaires because people answer them differently than they would in groups, face-to-face, or in a plethora of other formats.

Especially if you're building a social network, I would think that reducing the scale to one that is decidedly not social is a bad move.

Additionally, I think it might be a mistake to ask people what they want because you risk feature-overload based on the ideas of the users. In other words, don't let the prisoners run the asylum (or whatever that saying is).

Without some more information it's difficult to answer your question, but here are some questions that should probably be included anyway:

1-- How many people do you converse with on a social network each day? (You can find these stats online to match them with the average answer as well to see if your users are above or below the norm)

2-- How do you like to converse with them? Status comments? Likes? Direct messages? Chat? Pokes?

3-- What concerns do you have about using social networks?

Beyond those three questions (How do you use it? Who do you use it with? What do you think of the security situation?), it's hard to respond to your question without more information.

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