Screener questions: Best practices

Screener questions identify specific contributors for your tests. These best practices can help your team know which questions work well for finding the best contributors. 

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Guidelines for screener questions

 Always provide a "None of the above," “I don't know," or “Other" option

  • This prevents users from picking an answer at random and accidentally ending up in your test.
  • Poor example: Which of the following social networks do you have an account with?
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • Instagram
    • LinkedIn
  • Better example: Which of the following social networks do you have an account with?
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • Instagram
    • LinkedIn
    • Other


Provide clear and distinct answers that don't overlap each other.

  • Poor example: How many salespeople do your team support?
    • 1-10
    • 10-30
    • 30 or more
  • Better example: How many salespeople do your team support?
    • 1-10
    • 11-29
    • Over 30
    • I don't know


Avoid asking leading questions

  • This prevents users from giving you the answer they think you want instead of the one that applies to them.
  • Instruct users to select the option that most closely applies to them.
  • Poor example: Do you like shopping online?
    • Of course, I do often
    • I never do it
  • Better example: What are your thoughts on shopping online?
    • I like shopping online
    • I do not like shopping online
    • I'm indifferent about shopping online
    • I don't shop online


Avoid asking yes/no questions so that people can't guess the "right" answer.

  • Poor example: Do you work for Microsoft?
    • Yes
    • No
  • Better example: Which of the following companies do you work for?
    • Google
    • Facebook
    • Microsoft
    • Amazon
    • None of the above


Avoid double-barrelled questions so that you give people time to process and respond to one thing at a time.

  • Poor example: How dissatisfied or satisfied are you with the pay and work benefits of your current job?
  • Better example (this should be two questions):
    • How dissatisfied or satisfied are you with the pay of your current job?
    • How dissatisfied or satisfied are you with the work benefits of your current job?



How to check that your screener is capturing the right users

  • Verify your contributor is right for the test in your first task.
  • Example: “You indicated in the screener questions that you are currently shopping for a new car. Please describe what kind of car you are looking for, where you have looked so far, etc."
  • Sometimes listening to a user describe their experience can let you know if they're the right fit.



Screeners based on familiarity with a product

  • Don't point-blank ask if someone is familiar with your product as people are naturally inclined to say "yes".
  • Ask contributors to indicate their familiarity and then define the different levels of understanding.



Screeners based on the frequency of use

  • Define frequency in solid terms, not just "rarely," “sometimes," “often," etc. 
    • Daily
    • Weekly
    • Monthly
    • Yearly
  • To determine how recently a user has participated in a specific activity, define time:
    • Within the last week
    • Within the last month
    • Within the last six months
    • Within the last year



Screeners based on industry or occupation

  • Start by listing broader categories. 
  • For example, a massage therapist might want to hear from people in the massage therapy industry. The first question could be: 
    • Which of these industries do you work in?
      • Health (which would encompass massage therapy)
      • Tech
      • Education
      • Sales
      • Marketing
      • None of the above
  • In a follow-up screener, have users indicate their role within the Health industry. 


Screeners that deal with personal information 

  • If the study requires the contributor to disclose sensitive personal information during the user test, it's important to forewarn them with a screener question.
  • We recommend asking these types of screener questions first so that contributors avoid wasting time if they don't want to opt-in.
  • If your study involves Protected Health Information (“PHI”), please review our article on collecting insights under HIPAA. Only accept users who are willing to be open about this personal information.



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