UX Laddering

This method helps you to explore correlations between components of a product, by conducting user-interviews.
Number of ParticipantsFacilitatorsCategoryDurationLevel of Difficulty
5-501 InterviewerPrototyping Phase90minDifficult


The basis of UX Laddering is the «means end chains model». The model is used to explore correlations between product features, components of benefit and values by using «Laddering».
«Laddering» is a semi-structured in-depth interview technique. «Why-questions» are repeatedly asked in order to reveal reasons of valuation of an attribute until the underlying need is identified. Each question stands for a rung on the ladder.


  • Prototype
  • Pens & Paper
  • Whiteboard


Realistic scenarios or tasks regarding the research product/prototype need to be prepared beforehand.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. User is given 10 to 15 minutes to explore the research product/prototype.
  2. The interviewer asks the user to reflect on his/her previous experience of the product/prototype.
    1. The ladder of attributes-consequences-values is climbed up by keeping to ask for the «why».
  3. The raw interview material is converted into ladders.
  4. Summary Content Codes are built
  5. Implication Matrix is generated
  6. Hierarchical Value Map is derived

Remarks, Tips, Limitations

  • UX Laddering provides comprehensive information about the target group
  • can be combined with other methods
  • specific root cause is revealed
  • emphasis on concrete product attributes which then can lead to design guidelines
  • problematic with sensitive subjects
  • issues might occur when respondents experience time-pressure
  • respondents must be open for in-depth interviewing
  • by their very nature laddering questions can become annoying because of their repetitive character
  • keep interviews short
  • focus on concrete attributes rather than on abstract ones
  • Ladders do not necessarily need to be perfect resp. complete


Abeele, V. V. & Zaman, B. (2009). Laddering the user experience. In User Experience Evaluation Methods in Product Development (UXEM’09)-Workshop.
Blake, B.F., Saaka A. & Sidon C. (2004). Laddering: A «How to Do It» Manual – with a Note of Caution. Cleveland State University. Retrieved 2020, June 18 from: https://academic.csuohio.edu/cbresearch/papers/Good%20PDFs/Laddering_A%20How%20to%20do%20it%20manual.pdf
Kompetenzzentrum Usability, Siegen. Usability & User-Experience Methoden für den Mittelstand. Retrieved 2020, June 18 from: http://www.usability-siegen.de/qualifizierung.html
Laddering Questions Drilling Down Deep and Moving Sideways in UX Research. (2016). Retrieved 2020, June 18 from: https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/laddering-questions-drilling-down-deep-and-moving-sideways-in-ux-research
Magerhans, A. (2009). Die Laddering-Technik oder die Frage nach dem warum. Retrieved 2020, June 18 from: https://www.usabilityblog.de/die-laddering-technik-oder-die-frage-nach-dem-warum/
Reynolds, T.J. & Gutman, J. (1988). Laddering Theory, Method, Analysis, and Interpretation. In: Journal of Advertising Research 28. Jg, S.11- 31.

Contributed by Stefanie Bächler.