Aparna, one of the content marketers at WowMakers, is a barely five feet tall, tiny, chatty, emotional being who found her love and home, both in words. She loves to explore new opportunities with a warm smile and a happy heart. UX and technical writing are her newfound favorites. Apart from art, she has a thing for fashion, cooking, memories, and anything aesthetic. Also, the easiest way to please her is a hand-written letter and a nice beach view.
UX Design 6 min read
How to Conduct User Interview in UX Research
What is a user interview?
User interviews are a kind of qualitative UX research method, wherein the researchers ask questions to the users, to derive information from them about the usability of a product or service. A properly conducted interview can give you an in-depth knowledge of your users – their experiences, goals, and pain points. User interviews are generally conducted as one-on-one sessions in lean and agile environments, with a nature similar to that of a journalistic interview.
User interviews are one of the quickest, easiest and cheapest modes of collecting data. An ideal user interview consists of two UX researchers and one user. Among the two researchers, one asks questions, while the other takes notes. In the absence of a second researcher, audio recording or video recording is used.
Topics that are generally covered during a user interview include:
- Ethnographic data of the user
- The use of the product
- The use of technology
- Objectives and motivations of the user
- Pain points of the user
Why do we use user interviews in UX research?
Conducting user interviews helps us understand what a user thinks of an app, a process, or a website. User interviews can tell us what a user finds convenient and difficult about a product or service. Since these interviews take place as one-on-one sessions, individual concerns and frustrations can be analyzed easily.
A user interview can be done in the following situations:
- Before designing: For understanding the user personas, journey maps, and workflow ideas.
- Based on a context (contextual interviews): Observing the user while they actually use a product.
- At the end of a usability test: To collect verbal responses following the observed behaviors.
Drawbacks of conducting a user interview
- Even a contextual interview can be misleading as people tend to say one thing and then act differently.
- As interviewers ask people to answer questions based on their past experiences with a particular product or service, people usually make up stories because of the memory issues that come in between.
- Users are not designers who could help us create our ideal product, and hence interviewers should stick to a concrete examination of the user.
- Sometimes, people can be private and won’t be ready to give an honest answer to certain questions.
When to conduct a user interview?
Through user interviews are helpful during any phase of the product development process, they are particularly helpful during the following three stages:
- During the beginning phase: To know about the wants and needs of the potential users.
- During the early phases: Conducting interviews with an early model will help get valuable feedback from the users.
- After shipping: Contextual interviews could be conducted during this stage to know about the user’s interaction with the product.
Where to conduct the interviews?
Different locations could be chosen to conduct the interviews like the user’s place, agency office, or online.
Checklist to follow while choosing the right location:
- Choose a convenient and comfortable location for the users.
- Consider the convenience of the team, if a group is involved.
- Set the right context for the interview with necessary examples and tools.
- Avoid biased locations that could affect the answers of the user.
How to conduct user interviews?
Steps of conducting a user interview
Setting up a goal
Set up a realistic goal per the desires of the stakeholders. Instead of focusing on broader goals, make them narrower. A specific goal, driven in a particular direction can make the interview a success.
Before the interview
- Make sure that the interview is the right method for the research context.
- Recruit the interviewers with whom the target audience could relate.
- Always follow a discussion guide while interviewing people, which could contain both general and product-specific questions.
- Create a comfortable environment for the interview.
- Seek the support of another person during the interview with whom you could share the responsibilities and conclude valuable insights.
During the interview
- Positive attitudes are contagious, so wear a smile before taking any interview.
- Rather than sticking to a preplanned structure, be flexible and open to discussions, so that people would feel comfortable.
- Always seek permission from the interviewee before audio or video recording.
- Start with easy questions as a process of warm-up and don’t forget to ask follow-up questions.
Tip: Following the “Five-Whys” technique, by literally asking “why” questions five times in a continuous manner helps in getting a better understanding of the interviewee’s perceptions.
- Use the critical-incident method to get accurate information from the interviewee regarding a past incident. Unlike usual incidents, people tend to remember the details of a critical incident better.
- Don’t hesitate to ask the interviewees to elaborate on their responses for better clarity.
- At the end of the interview, provide the interviewee a chance to ask questions back, give them closure and thank them for their time.
After the interview
- Reflect on yourself and come up with points of improvement that could be imparted in your next interview.
- Organize and structure the bulky data that you gathered from the interviewee.
- Try combining the results with other methods like usability testing and user surveys, before drawing up a conclusion.
10 frequently asked user interview questions
User interview questions need to have a structure for building a knowledge base and point of context before the design process starts. Some of the commonly used user interview questions are as follows:
- What is your first impression of this product?
- What are you thinking as you look into this?
- What do you think is the use of this product?
- When and where do you think people will use this product?
- Where do you start with this product?
- What do you expect to achieve from the use of this product?
- What would keep you from this product?
- Do you find this product similar to some other products?
- Do you trust this product?
- What was the reason for your first gesture when I showed you the interface?
Best practices to follow
- Choose a skilled interviewer: A skilled interviewer could make the overall process easy by making the interviewee comfortable, asking the right questions, and being a great listener.
- Create a discussion guide: A well-formulated discussion guide that includes all the questions and follow-up questions aids the interview.
- Take consent: It is always better to seek the permission of the interviewee before audio or video recording. An additional interviewer who could take notes makes the process easier.
Do’s and don’ts while conducting an interview
What to do?
- Before the interview, interact with the interviewee either through audio or video call.
- Begin by explaining the purpose of the interview.
- Start with easy-to-answer questions.
- Be authentic and show empathy towards the interviewee’s concerns.
- Discuss the questions with your team, before the interview.
- Anticipate the responses and construct follow-up questions accordingly.
- Use dialogue-provoking questions.
What not to do?
- Do not interrupt the interviewee in between conversations.
- Do not rush the interview, slow down the process.
- Avoid leading and closed questions.
- Avoid using personal questions during the interview.
- Do not exceed the interview over an hour.
Analyzing the results
Reporting the results
Summing up the bulky data of the interview can be a challenging process since it involves qualitative data instead of quantitative. For better understanding, qualitative data could be presented using word clouds and mind maps. With the written reports, focus on the key data while shifting the rest to the appendices.
The query effect is something the interviewer should be aware of while interviewing people. Users will be willing to make opinions on anything when asked to. This can be quite dangerous while designing big changes, as users might make opinions on things that matter to them the least.
For example, when asked about the users’ opinion on colors, they might make comments that are less important to them. On the other hand, if you observe them while they actually use the product, you could get valuable feedback. (A comment like, “the powder blue is so calming to the eyes.”)
To yield better results, it is always advisable to combine multiple methods. User interviews along with user tests allow us to get a better understanding of the users’ perspectives.
For example, to check the time taken for a page to load, user testings are recommended, since one can observe the user getting impatient or frustrated with more time taken. But instead, for getting answers to some higher-level questions like the branding impacts of a site, a user interview would be suggested over user testing. Each method has its strengths and weaknesses, hence supplementing each with other methods will guard against misleading outcomes.
User interviews are one of the easy and quick ways to get information regarding the users’ perspectives. However, combining those results with observation-based data will aid in achieving more accurate and reliable data.