Contextual Laddering

Method suitability

Study type

XField studies
XLab studies
Online studies

Development phase

Early prototypes
Functional prototypes
XProducts on market

Studied period of experience

XBefore usage
XAn episode
XLong-term UX

Evaluator / Info provider

UX experts
XOne user at a time
Groups of users
Pairs of users




XWeb services
XPC software
XMobile software
XHardware designs


XTrained researcher
Special equipment


One-to-one interviewing technique (qualitative data gathering) + quantitative data analysis technique. Preferably to be done in context.


The interviewer probing into the reasons why certain (consequences of) attributes are important/liked to reveal the respondent's dominant attributes - consequences - values chains related to the product.


Answering why - questions
Data at abstract & concrete level
Knowledge on product preferences


Lot of effort: one interview lasts typically 60-75 min.
Analysis of data - hard
Requires a skilled interviewer

References describing the method

Reynolds, Thomas: Understanding consumer decision making. The means-end approach to marketing and advertising strategy
Cockton, G. (2007). Make evaluation Poverty History. Proceedings Of Chi 2007, pp. 1-13.
Grunert, G. K., & Bech-Larsen, T. (2005). Explaining choice option attractiveness by beliefs elicited by the laddering method. Journal of Economic Psychology, 26(2), pp. 223-241.
Gutman, J. (1982). A means-end chain model based on consumer categorization processes. Journal of Marketing 46(2), pp. 60-72.
Zaman, B. (2008, April). Introducing contextual laddering to evaluate the likeability of games with children. Cognition, Technology & Work 10(2) (pp. 107-117). : Springer.
Jans, G. & Calvi, L. (2006). Using laddering and association techniques to develop a user-friendly mobile (city) application. In R. Meersman, Z. Tari, P. Herrero et al. (Eds.), OTM Workshops 2006, LNCS 4278 (pp. 1956-1965). : Springer.
Abeele, V., & Zaman, B. (2009). Laddering the user experience. Workshop position paper Interact 2009 submitted, no notification yet).

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