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How to conduct Effective User Interviews?

May 30, 2020

What is User Interview?

As a UX designer, we will be using different user research methods to understand the users and their behaviors and their needs to use our products/services. User interviews are one of the many user research methods. This comes under the Qualitative research methods. User Interviews will give us Qualitative self-reported data. Basically, user interview is a one to one session where you ask the protentional users with the prepared questions and record their answers. We should have a clear goal in mind and should prepare the interview questions accordingly. Through user interviews, we can understand how our target users talk about their experience about the particular product/service that we are designing. They will be talking about the problems and pain points they face and tell about the experience of using the product/service and what they enjoy and what can be done better.

Qualitative research methods are often used to get more exploratory or in-depth understanding of an individual user or user groups, their motivation to use a particular product/service, and their daily life.
Read more about Qualitative research methods.

Types of User Interviews:

There are three different types of user interviews based on the structure of the interviews conducted. They are:

  1. Structured
  2. Semi-Structured
  3. Unstructured

Structured Interviews:

Structured interviews have carefully scripted questions. The same set of questions should be asked to each of the users in the same way by all the interviewers. Structured Interviews often contains a closed set of questions and a few open questions. Some times the interviewer presents the participants with predetermined options to choose from. In structured interviews, the interviewer doesn’t probe, so this is used in the early stage of the project. Because this may not generate many insights.

Semi-Structured Interviews:

In semi-structured interviews, the interviewer will have only a few framed questions. This is called an interview guide or discussion guide. The whole interview will be based on this guide. The questions framed in semi-structured interviews are open-ended to allow the participant to talk and express his opinions. Based on the discussion, the interviewer will ask probing questions. The interviewer is allowed to change the order of the questions or to spend longer probing response to one specific question if they are getting lots of insights from the participant.

Unstructured Interviews:

In unstructured interviews, the questions aren’t formed. The interviewer will have an idea in mind about the product/service and the whole interview will be driven on covering those topics.

When to use these different types?

  • If you know nothing about the domain, you may start with unstructured interviews, to learn more about users and significant areas. This is a difficult interview because its hard to think of good, non-leading questions on the spot. This is not recommended for people who are just getting started with the interviews.
  • If you’re looking to learn more about a specific issue, area, or experience, then the best type of interview would be a Semi-structured interview. Preparing a guide will help you avoid going off tangent and ensures you have some really good quality questions prepared that provide good insights.
  • If you’re looking to interview a lot of people and easily compare responses, then a Structured interview will be a good process. you can compliment this qualitative data with things like analytics to give a good understanding of the performance of the product.

How to Conduct User Interviews?

Set clear goals:

Set clear research objectives like what you have to learn from the interviews, what are the insights to be uncovered, etc,. The goal should be specific to keep the interview questions focused.

Recruit Participants:

Once we have a clear objective in mind, we need to recruit the participants for the interview. To do this we can recruit some customers from Social Media or from our existing customer base. Recruiting the right audience for user interviews is a major part of this process.

Choosing Location:

The meeting can be organized via online calls or in person. Make sure to have someone take notes or record the interview to listen later. Because if you take notes during the interview, you can’t concentrate on the interview. If you’re recording the interview, inform the participants in advance.

How to Write Interview Questions?

This is an important part of the interview process. You need to have a list of questions prepared for the interview to keep the whole process focused on a particular topic. The key to successful interviews is to ask open, non-leading questions. The open questions prompt the users to go into a more detailed answer instead of a simple yes or no answer. When conducting user interviews it’s important to be aware of the words we use. The usage of words highly influences the way the participant responds. The leading question always results in biased or false answers. This will prevent you from uncovering new insights and experiences from the user. If we need more insights about a particular question or topic we can ask the users to elaborate with questions like “Can you explain this in detail” or “Can you tell more about that?”

Before starting the interview just give a quick intro about you and the purpose of this interview. For example: “Hi! I’m Kishore. I’m conducting research as a part of my project to build a crowdsourcing platform to rent camera gears! I would like to ask you some questions related to photography and your experiences about renting a camera gear. Please be comfortable. There are no right or wrong answers. Before we start the interview, do you have any questions?”

Best Practices:

  • Engage with the participant: As an interviewer, engage with the participant, listen to what they are saying, make good eye contact with them, and acknowledge their answers.

  • Freedom to think: Give the participant enough time to think about the question and answer them. Don’t rush the interview process. Don’t repeat the question when the participant is thinking, it brings the user under pressure and the might not be able to think properly.

  • Don’t try to answer the questions by yourself: Allow the user to think about the question and answer them with their own experiences. If we try to help them answer those questions, we may end up with the wrong insights

  • Avoid technical/industrial terms: Don’t use UX terms like user personas, information architectures, etc,. as the participants of the interview come from various disciplines and they might not aware of those technical terms.

  • Don’t be offended: If you’re showing a prototype that you designed and the participants convey negative opinions, don’t get offended and don’t take it personally. Try to understand from them about why they don’t like the prototype, what can be improved. Remember we are conducting the interviews to improve the experience of a product/service for the USER.

Do you have a product idea in mind, want to visualize, and take it to the right audience?