User research questions for data users

A list of questions to help with user research when designing data things.

I was inspired to write this after reading Andrew Duckworth's excellent post design for real data. In the post, they list questions that can help you discover details about the data that you're working with. I think the questions have lots of potential uses, and I plan on trying them out next time we do research with data providers.

So, inspired by that post, here's my list of question aimed at end-users of data.

I've found that with a bit of tweaking, these questions can work for a range of users. Whether those people need their data as written information, spreadsheets or APIs.

  • How do you find the data? Where do you start?
  • Which specific bits of the data do you need and why?
  • What decisions does the data inform?
  • What is your end goal?
  • What software do you use to interrogate or manipulate the data?
  • What manual tasks do you need to do every time?
  • Which file formats are most useful?
  • How will you know if the data is updated? What will you do then?
  • What will you do next with the data?
  • Who will you share the data with? How?
  • What other sources of data you use?


Thanks to Alison, John, Rob, Jeremy, Jason, Rosalie, Louise and the team at Swirrl who have been helping me to get better at this data stuff.