December 20, 2022

Using the TEDW method in your discussion guide to ask better questions

In this post we cover how using the TEDW framework can help UX Researchers elicit richer stories from their participants. Make sure to update your discussion guide using this framework to deliver more impactful research.

UX Research

User interviews are a great way to gather insights and information about your product or service from the perspective of the people who use it. And even if you haven’t yet shipped your product or service, user interviews still play a crucial part in helping you refine your understanding of the customer and problem space.

They are one of the essential methods used in generative research.

Before carrying out the user interview, it’s important to write a discussion guide that is composed of questions which help answer your research goals.

It might sound easy on the surface, yet asking good questions is harder than it seems. Many UX Researchers have tripped over this hurdle, leading to less constructive conversations, biased participant answers, and less insightful and impactful research. Bad research causes a company to lose touch with their customers and ship products that no one wants. We don’t want to do bad research.

One method we recommend UX Researchers to employ is the TEDW framework, which helps formulate better questions and produce more impactful research.

TEDW Framework

When talking to users, you seek to gain a deeper understanding of who they are and the problems they face. Naturally, one of the most engaging ways to gain this understanding is to let them narrate powerful stories about themselves and their problems.

The reason why we prefer stories, according to Gary Klein is Sources of Power, is as follows:

Stories organise events into a meaningful framework. Stories serve as a natural experiment, linking a network of causes to their effects.

Simply put: stories help us better understand events and concepts.

This is precisely what the TEDW framework, popularised by Nikki Anderson, aims to do.

TEDW stands for:

  • Talk me through
  • Explain
  • Describe
  • Walk me through

Let’s dig into each component of this framework.

Talk me through

This question invites the participant to begin telling their story. As we mentioned earlier, it is within those stories that we can extract that juiciest nuggets of insights.

This should replace questions that start with “When was the last time you…”, because these questions do not indicate to participants that we want to know more. In most cases, the participant will provide temporal information and we then need to mechanically follow up with another question to get them to elaborate.

It breaks the “story flow” of the conversation and feels less natural. Talk me through on the other hand already implies a when and gives the participant permission to elaborate further.

Explain

If we think of the story as an onion that must be artfully peeled off and chopped up, then it follows that Talk me through only gets you to remove the skin of the onion. We have a lot more chopping to do!

Explain how/why/what is a great way to dive deeper into a specific part of the story told by the participant and elicit richer answers.

Explain invites the participant to provide the reasons behind their actions or behaviour. It enables them to continue enriching their story with background information about their motivations.

For instance, after having asked a participant to talk you through the last time they ordered a meal on a food delivery app, you could follow up by asking them to explain why they chose a specific cuisine.

Describe

This is one is often confused with Explain. Some would even say that it is equivalent to Explain, but I beg to differ!

Explain hints at the why, whereas Describe covers the what.

For instance when you want more detailed information about a specific process, you could start your question with something along the lines of  “Describe how you used Excel and Powerpoint to solve this issue”.

I love asking Describe type of questions, because it helps unearth some key steps in the participant’s workflow. It helps us get closer to their reality. But we can get even more detailed information with Walk me through type of questions.

Walk me through

This is the cherry on the user interview cake. It is the final step of the TEDW framework and the one that should enable you to get the highest level of fidelity with regards to the participant’s workflow.

This step is all about getting to the most detailed and visual parts of the story.

If you are face-to-face with the participant, get them to show you what they mean. If you are conducting a remote user interview, ask them to share their screen if possible in order to to show you what they mean.

By the time you go through this step, you should have a robust mental model of the participant’s workflow.

Conclusion

TEDW is a powerful framework but it can take time to internalise. We recommend it for UX Researchers of intermediate to advanced level, but you can still try employing some components of the framework even if you’re just starting out.

TEDW has many use cases beyond user interviews. It could be used for internal meetings such as 1:1 with direct reports, stakeholder conversations, or HR interviews. You could even use it in personal life, although it may feel awkward to both you and your friends or partner.

Finally, if you’re conducting remote user interviews over video, make sure you store recordings on a UX platform built for video like EnVsion to save time analyzing and sharing observations with your team.

EnVsion automatically transcribes user interviews and enables UX Researchers to review observations across multiple user interviews from a single place, without having to context switch to tools like Excel which lack the context and engagement that video evidence delivers.

Now it's time for you to elevate your discussion guide and ask better questions during user interviews!

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