I was reading:

Instead of asking, “What do you want?” or even “What do you want the system to do?” an approach based on usage and user goals asks, “What do you need to do with the product?” Your users might not be accustomed to a dialogue of this nature.

And I come to PM.StackExchange to ask this question, what questions do YOU ask your users and stakeholders to find out what they want and need?

  • 2
    Welcome to PMSE. Open-ended questions where every possible answer would be "correct" are not appropriate for Stack Exchange. Please narrow your question to something that is less of an opinion poll, and it will likely be on-topic.
    – Todd A. Jacobs
    Feb 9, 2016 at 3:17

2 Answers 2


It depends a lot on what the project actually is. Here are some examples of different scenarios:

Let's say the client wants a website for their small business - instead of asking "What features do you want on your site?", I'd ask something like "What is your typical customer, and what are they looking for?". This lets you figure out what's really needed vs. what the client thinks they need.

In the situation of a photoshoot, "What did you have in mind?" will get broad answers, like "Good looking models with our product" or "something to make our brand stand out." Not particularly helpful, so instead we'll focus again on the end user's needs, not the customer's ideas - "Who will be seeing the pictures?" "Where will they be put and how will they be used?" "Are there brands that do the kind of things you're looking for?" (for the last one, I typically only take the successful brands into account).

Hope this helps give you an idea - instead of asking the client what they want, I try to understand the client's customers and cater to them. It's usually a very different project when put in that perspective.

  • I really like that, can you recommend any reading material where I can get into more of that mindset?
    – Sam
    Feb 8, 2016 at 2:03
  • Ooh, that's a hard one - I don't think I ever read anywhere specifically for that, more of an experience thing. However, there's a good book that kind of touches on the subject of trying to understand people's needs and shifting your mindset - it's called How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age by Dale Carnegie & Associates. It's an updated version of an older book, but the changes are pretty relevant. :) Feb 8, 2016 at 17:08

The user or customer isn't trying to do stuff for the sake of doing it. They are trying to make decisions based off of the information they receive from whatever product you are developing.

While there is no silver bullet question to help elicit user requirements it is often helpful to make sure you understand what decisions or actions your audience is trying to take during or immediately after their interaction with the product.

The UX field is heavily focused on eliciting user requirements. You may want to check out "Lean UX" as a resource to get ideas on how to elicit requirements. Many of these techniques also apply to customer requirement gathering.

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