How to write good questions for forms - Understand the problem before you write your questions

Writing good questions starts with a discovery phase.

You need to understand your users and the problem you're trying to solve before you start on your questions.

Use your discovery phase to understand the service you're designing

Make sure your team understands:

  • your users' needs and their accessibility challenges
  • your different user groups and how your decisions will affect them
  • the purpose and context of the form
  • how your service collects and stores information from users now
  • the wider user journey and the service (and processes) around the form
  • any constraints you may face including, for example, legislation, clinical or financial constraints

It will help if your team also:

  • tests any existing forms, paper or digital - read more about testing
  • talks about technology options
  • decides how you'll measure success

Improve your form at any time

If you cannot do a proper discovery, you can still improve your form.

Get the members of your team to:

  • each choose a hypothetical person (a typical user, based on your user research), give them a name and a background story, including why that person is filling in the form and what they feel about it
  • choose just 1 of the hypothetical people that team members have thought of
  • fill in the form as that person, as realistically as you can
  • talk about the issues you've found in the interface, the content and the service design

This exercise may help you identify areas to prioritise. Then do your user research and test your assumptions.

Read more about the discovery phase

GOV.UK has some good guidance on how the discovery phase works.

Would you like to contribute to this guidance?

Please let us know how this has worked for you and, in particular, if you have research findings to share. This will help us improve it for everyone.

Before you start, you will need a GitHub account. It's an open forum where we collect feedback.

If you have any questions, you can message us on Slack. You will need a Slack account if you do not have one. Or you can contact us by email.

Updated: November 2019