Note: Because this is an ongoing series, viewers will not receive a certificate of completion.
Skill Level Beginner
- Talking with users is a great way to find out more about what drives them, where their issues are, and what needs they have. But if you treat this like any other conversation, it's easy to accidentally influence the person you're trying to gather information from. Your job in a user research interview is to understand users' true intentions when they do or say certain things. It's these intentions, the things they're really trying to get to happen, that lets us understand what they need from the software we create. Even though an experienced interviewer can make the interview feel and look like it's a relaxed conversation, it's actually structured very differently. Instead of being a conversation between equals, you have to treat the interview as a situation where you are a humble apprentice, learning from the expertise of your participant. It's not your position to share your experiences because they're unimportant compared to the experiences that your participant has. It's not for you to offer advice because you have to treat your interviewee as if they are the master of their domain. That can be really hard. For instance, if you're creating financial planning software, and you interview users who obviously have no clue about what it takes to save money for retirement, you might feel a real urge to jump in and help them, but that's not the point. The product won't ship with a version of you in every box. The best way to help is to learn where people's misunderstanding are and then build a product that fixes those issues. To perform a good user research interview, you have to go in with clear goals. What interactions are of interest to you? What behaviors do you want to talk about? It really helps if you get out to where your participants perform the tasks you're interested in. Being in their environment, and even asking them to do the task will show you all the little pieces that they might otherwise not think to tell you about. To really understand users' intent, you need to listen, probe, and validate. Ask a question that lets your participant talk about their actual behavior rather than their wishes. For instance, say tell me about a time when rather than what would happen if. Then lean forward and listen to their answer. When they've given you an overview, probe for details in the areas you're interested about. Give them direction by saying, tell me more about, or I'm interested in, or I want to go back to. These are all open-ended questions that encourage your participant to give you more detailed information. Once you've heard enough, summarize what you heard back to your participant with words like, so, if I heard you correctly, or it sounds like you were saying. These validation questions are normally closed. You're looking for a yes-no confirmation that you got a good understanding of the situation. Now, remember I said that listening, probing, and validating was about understanding users' intent. Often, participants would tell you about a solution that they want to have implemented. If only I had a button that did this. But what you really need to learn is what is it that they're trying to achieve? What's their end goal? If you focus on the pain points and the end goal rather than on potential solutions, you'll learn more about users' intent and then, you can build a product that helps them to meet that intent. If you're planning on running user research interviews, I recommend that you watch Amanda Stockwell's great course, UX Research Methods: Interviewing.