Using Written Response Questions

At a Glance

The Written Response question is a valuable way to get instant response from contributors in their own words. Learn more on how to set up and capture this unique way of receiving feedback.



Though the answers to written responses questions are qualitative, they are included in UserTesting’s Analytics tools because they provide instant data—without having to watch a single second of video.

As with the Multiple Choice and Rating Scale questions, this type of question has a wide variety of applications:

  • Gathering first impressions
  • Determining where contributors want to click and what stands out to them
  • Verifying that contributors grasp the concepts presented to them

How to Set It Up

In the test plan builder, locate the Written Response question under Tasks and Questions.

When contributors take your test, they will see a field in which they can type short responses.


Best Practices

Written Response questions are excellent for getting contributors to use their own words when describing the experience.

For example, if you want to gather contributors’ initial impressions, you might try questions like these:

  • Explore the home page. Based on what you see, describe what this company offers and who the site is for.
  • Spend a few minutes exploring the app. Then, type 3-5 words or phrases you would use to describe the app to a friend or family member.

And if you’re curious about how contributors would behave or what links they gravitate toward, you could try:

  • Please perform a Google search for Waterford chandeliers. Based on what you see, please indicate which link (or links) you are most interested in visiting, explaining your selections aloud.
  • Tell us what you would do first if you landed on this page during a search for chicken pot pie recipes.

You can also gauge contributors’ understanding of symbols and concepts by using tasks like these:

  • In the top right corner of the playing screen, there is a small square with three horizontal lines. In the space below, please briefly explain what the purpose of that button is.
  • This game uses two forms of currency: gold and magic seeds. How do you spend and earn these forms of currency during game play?

Written Response questions also capture in-the-moment questions and concerns with tasks like this one:

  • Now that you’ve explored the site a bit, please type in any questions or concerns you may have about the site, the company, or its product.

The UserTesting Research Team often sees a psychological phenomenon, known as the recency effect, while analyzing videos. Contributors recall the most recent issues with a site or app much more vividly than those they encounter early on in the session. Adding an occasional Written Response field to our studies helps to get a more accurate understanding of the issues that occur throughout the test, rather than only focusing on the last part of the experience.

Here are some more tips to keep in mind when using Written Response questions:

1. Use Written Response questions wisely

It’s tempting to load up a test with these questions because they’re so valuable, but remember that most remote contributors are accustomed to answering questions verbally.

The effort required to articulate the response, type it in, and edit it is much greater than simply clicking a button on a Rating Scale or Multiple Choice question, so it’s more likely to cause contributor fatigue—especially if they’re testing on a mobile device and have to type on their smartphone keyboard.

Use Written Response questions wisely, and space them out with other types of questions and tasks.

2. Remind contributors to type their response

Although many contributors have encountered a Written Response question before (on the UserTesting platform, as well as in surveys, polls, etc.), it’s helpful to remind them of the task’s expectations—especially if they go beyond the typical think-aloud format.

One line of instruction (such as “Please type your answer in the space below”) can keep contributors from talking extensively for a few minutes, only to realize that they need to re-articulate their answer in written form to proceed with the test.

3. Whenever possible, specify response length

Hopefully, you aren’t expecting contributors to type a full essay into a tiny text box, but if you are, you should say so! Same goes for when you want only three words.

Clarifying the proper response length of written feedback helps contributors avoid over-exerting themselves, and it will make for more consistent data when you get into analysis.

4. Have fun!

Written Response fields are wide open to creative uses, like having contributors rank three sites from best to worst, respond to fill-in-the-blank statements, a play word association game, or suggest alternative terms.

Collecting Insights: Smart Tags for Written Tasks

If your plan allows, you may have access to smart tags for written tasks to help you find important moments faster for tests with Written Response questions. Smart tags for written tasks uses the same technology as the video player to evaluate written responses. Smart tags are added in-line with the written response on the Metrics tab and are color-coded according to the overall moment: green for positive, red for negative, and purple for neutral. 



Learn More

Need more information? Read these related articles.

Read our articles on sentiment analysis and smart tags for further guidance.

For more information, visit the original blog post Tips for Using Written Response Questions in UX Research.


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