How to Conduct a User Interview

With a Template

Be it a pre-launch or post-launch user interview, it is a powerful tool to examine an idea

from the perspective of your end users and get invaluable insights

What is a user interview

A User Interview is a conversation with your end user(s), during which a researcher asks specific questions and records the user’s responses. It can be focused on examining the user experience, the usability of a product, or fleshing out data for input into Customer Personas, etc.

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Ideally, an interview should be conducted by two UX researchers and one user, where the first researcher would be in charge of asking questions and guiding the interview, while the second would collect observations on the interviewee’s behavior and emotional feedback to the questions, as well as take notes. Alternatively, a video/audio recording can be of support as well, if the second researcher is not available.

There is a number of topics usually discussed at User Interviews, e.g. the below:

  • The users background (technological as well), demographic/ethnographic data, interests;

  • The use of technology and position on the innovation curve (innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, laggards);

  • Main objectives and motivations behind the choice of products similar to yours, and your product in particular;

  • The use of your product, positive and negative experience related to it;

  • The user’s pain points to be covered by the product.

In fact, anything that you need to test or clarify, asking your users, can be made a subject matter of the User Interview, as long as your questions are not offensive or threatening. Another popular subtype of a User Interview is a contextual interview, which is conducted along (“in context”) with the observations of the actual product usage, and is common for usability testing and product assessment.

When to conduct a user interview

Careful listening to the users brings value at any stage of user experience testing, usability understanding and ideation. It’s a relatively easy and cost-effective technique, which can be conducted by anyone who can ask questions and record the answers.

It’s a relatively easy and cost-effective technique, which can be conducted by anyone who can ask questions and record the answers.

How to conduct a user interview

Prior to arranging a User Interview, check if it makes sense to be conducted at this stage, and consider a User Interview, if:

  • You don’t have answers to important questions.

  • You believe you have a solution to the users’ specific problem.

1. Define the goal

User interviews can be used in a generative or evaluative manner, meaning you either intend to come up with new ideas resulting from the users’ feedback (generative), or to see if your product is of value to them (evaluative). Document the goals you set for yourself prior to moving further to setting up the interviewing process.

2. Set up the process

Then move over to documenting the process, which implies a few stages, 2-3 weeks each, in the best practice approach.

Stage 1: Setting up the criteria, and recruiting the interviewees (think who you want to talk to and how to recruit them, also - what you plan to do with them).

Stage 2: Formulating the Field Guide and/or Questionnaire and the stimuli to facilitate the user’s participation and feedback.

Stage 3: Planning the actual field work, e.g. interviews schedule, people in charge, reporting and de-briefing activities.

Stage 4: Data processing and analyzing, define how you are going to handle with the data you’ve received at the interviews, and enhance your product development with it.

3. Develop a research plan and an interview guide

Now you are well equipped to move over to the Interview Guide creation. You can break it into a few provisional parts for convenience, please see the example below. We also recommend that you add an estimated amount of time for each part, even though you can’t anticipate the possible turns of your interview, however, its useful to stay aware of what you have the time for.

Part 1: Introduction
Plan how the interviewer is going to handle the introduction part and get to know the user’s background.

Part 2: Questions
Compile your primary list of questions to be asked at the interview.

Part 3:  What if Scenarios
Discuss the users’ predictions for ideal scenarios or future predictions.

Part 4: Conclusion
Wrap things up and discuss anything that was not yet covered.

The process matters, however, these are the actual questions to be asked that make up the “meat” of the interviewing process, so focus on asking the right ones, that will give your food for thought and further product improvement.

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