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Unpack when the user says "I don't get it"

Unpack when the user says "I don't get it"

When you are facilitating a usability session


  • Participant: "I don't get this"
  • UXR: [Ok, I guess this is a usability issue. He doesn't understand X. Noted.] "Thank you, let's move on to the next activity."


  • Participant: "I don't get this"
  • UXR: "If you had to guess, what would you think this is for?"
  • Participant: "Well this here looks like if it was X, but the panel over there says it's Y... so which one is it?"


When the participant says "I don't know", or "I don't get this" that's a sure sign that there is a usability issue. But you shouldn't stop there. Figure out why they don't get it.

A good way to investigate is to make them guess. "What would be your guess?"

Guessing gives participants permission to say stupid things and share half-baked ideas. So now they can share with you their initial understanding and why they think it's stupid.

We really need to know what derailed their understanding otherwise the Designer won't know what to fix.

Not actionable finding: "Users don't understand feature X"

Actionable finding: "Users don't understand feature X, because the right panel's text makes them think it is Y."

Does this resonate with you? Do you have a different perspective? Let me know in the discussion below.