100 THINGS I LEARNED ABOUT DESIGN  |  JULY 16, 2020

100 THINGS I LEARNED ABOUT DESIGN
JULY 16, 2020

7. How to conduct User Interviews

7. How to conduct user interviews. 

I’ve recently written a few posts about gathering business requirements. Now I want to shift the focus from the business side to the user. And one of the best techniques for learning about the people you’re designing for—aka users—is the User Interview.

I’ve recently written a few posts about gathering business requirements. Now I want to shift the focus from the business side to the user. And one of the best techniques for learning about the people you’re designing for—aka users—is the User Interview.

How to conduct user interviews

What is a User Interview?

A User Interview is exactly what you imagine. It’s an interview with the users of your product. That is, people that represent those users. The format of the interview is Q&A, meaning that you the UX Designer ask the questions and the “users” provide you with answers.
 

Why conduct User Interviews?

Before looking at the questions, I want to call out how valuable User Interviews are when designing. 

If I look back to one of my first big UX Design projects, I was tasked with designing a website for an online investing tool. And like most people, I had a very layman understanding of investing and the stock market. But, the real turning point for me was when we started conducting User Interviews. 

We had a bunch of stock brokers come in and we sat down with each of them and asked them all sorts of questions about trading stocks and their day to day; about the products they were already using for this; what they liked and disliked about these products; and what they wish existed but didn’t at the time. And by the end of the interviews something amazing happened. I went from knowing zero about the world of investing to having enough information to put myself in the user’s shoes. The key word being ENOUGH. I by no means became an expert on investing overnight. 

But at least I knew enough to understand the people we were designing for. Their needs, motivations, pain points and the opportunities to differentiate our product from the competition. 

It almost felt like I now had the instruction manual or recipe for designing the website. And since then I’ve made User Interviews a part of EVERY design project I work on.

Let’s keep moving forward, though. 
 

Who should you interview? 

The answer is simple. If you go back to the Stakeholder Interviews, I tend to include a lot of questions about the user/customer I'm designing for. You can then leverage this information to identify your users (or different subsets of users). With these groups defined you can now find people that represent these users and interview them. 

For example, if we’re designing an online shoe store. Our stakeholders define the users as millennials, ages 22 to 38, with an average income and technologically savvy. Boom, you can now go out and find people that match this description. 

Now, that sounds easy enough for an online store that has a pretty broad audience. But it gets trickier when you’re designing a specialized or niche product. For instance, with the online investing product I mentioned before, we had to interview investors and stock brokers because those were the people that would use the product. 

But no worries. In most cases your stakeholder will have a very clear idea of who they want to target with their product. And in most cases they can actually help you find people to interview. 

What questions should you ask?

Again, you’re really trying to understand everything you can about the people who will use your product, including their needs, motivations, and pain points. All in the context of the product you're designing of course. 

So, if you’re designing an online shoes store, your questions should be geared to understanding how, where and when these people buy shoes.

In my Online UX Design Course, I share a User Interview template with my students, so that they have a list of questions to start with. Then it’s all about adding questions that are relevant to the product (because every product is different) and removing the questions that aren’t relevant. 


A few final tips…

Record (with permission)
You want to record your interviews so that you’re not caught up on taking notes the whole time. Your user interviews should flow like a natural conversation, and they won’t if you’re too busy typing on your laptop. Zane Lowe isn’t a designer, but I’m a fan of his interviewing style. His interviews feel like a conversation with a friend and he's good at weaving in questions. 

P.S. Make sure you ask permission to record. 

Improvise
Your interviews won’t always follow the order you planned and that’s OK. Leave some room for improvisation and let the users talk. Just know when to bring it back to the questions.


Practice on a coworker (or friend)
One last tip. Make sure you go through your interview questions with a coworker or a friend first. It’s always helpful to do a dry run-through of the questions to make sure everything makes sense. A lot of times, I’ve written down questions and only realized that they were confusing or didn’t make sense in the actual user interview. So be sure to practice, practice, practice

What is a User Interview?

A User Interview is exactly what you imagine. It’s an interview with the users of your product. That is, people that represent those users. The format of the interview is Q&A, meaning that you the UX Designer ask the questions and the “users” provide you with answers.
 

Why conduct User Interviews?

Before looking at the questions, I want to call out how valuable User Interviews are when designing. 

If I look back to one of my first big UX Design projects, I was tasked with designing a website for an online investing tool. And like most people, I had a very layman understanding of investing and the stock market. But, the real turning point for me was when we started conducting User Interviews. 

We had a bunch of stock brokers come in and we sat down with each of them and asked them all sorts of questions about trading stocks and their day to day; About the products they were already using for this; what they liked and disliked about these products; and what they wish existed but didn’t at the time. And by the end of the interviews something amazing happened. I went from knowing zero about the world of investing to having enough information to put myself in the user’s shoes. The key word being ENOUGH. I by no means became an expert on investing overnight. 

But at least I knew enough to understand the people we were designing for. Their needs, motivations, pain points and the opportunities to differentiate our product from the competition. 

It almost felt like I now had the instruction manual or recipe for designing the website. And since then I’ve made User Interviews a part of EVERY design project I work on.

Let’s keep moving forward, though. 
 

Who should you interview? 

The answer is simple. If you go back to the Stakeholder Interviews, I tend to include a lot of questions about the user/customer I'm designing for. You can then leverage this information to identify your users (or different subsets of users). With these groups defined you can now find people that represent these users and interview them. 

For example, if we’re designing an online shoe store. Our stakeholders define the users as millennials, ages 22 to 38, with an average income and technologically savvy. Boom, you can now go out and find people that match this description. 

Now, that sounds easy enough for an online store that has a pretty broad audience. But it gets trickier when you’re designing a specialized or niche product. For instance, with the online investing product I mentioned before, we had to interview investors and stock brokers because those were the people that would use the product. 

But no worries. In most cases your stakeholder will have a very clear idea of who they want to target with their product. And in most cases they can actually help you find people to interview. 

 

What questions should you ask?

Again, you’re really trying to understand everything you can about the people who will use your product, including their needs, motivations, and pain points. All in the context of the product you're designing of course. 

So, if you’re designing an online shoes store, your questions should be geared to understanding how, where and when these people buy shoes.

In my Online UX Design Course, I share a User Interview template with my students, so that they have a list of questions to start with. Then it’s all about adding questions that are relevant to the product (because every product is different) and removing the questions that aren’t relevant. 


A few final tips…

Record (with permission)
You want to record your interviews so that you’re not caught up on taking notes the whole time. Your user interviews should flow like a natural conversation, and they won’t if you’re too busy typing on your laptop. Zane Lowe isn’t a designer, but I’m a fan of his interviewing style. His interviews feel like a conversation with a friend and he's good at weaving in questions. 

P.S. Make sure you ask permission to record. 

Improvise
Your interviews won’t always follow the order you planned and that’s OK. Leave some room for improvisation and let the users talk. Just know when to bring it back to the questions.


Practice on a coworker (or friend)
One last tip. Make sure you go through your interview questions with a coworker or a friend first. It’s always helpful to do a dry run-through of the questions to make sure everything makes sense. A lot of times, I’ve written down questions and only realized that they were confusing or didn’t make sense in the actual user interview. So be sure to practice, practice, practice.

Ready to learn 
UX Design?

Ready to learn
UX Design?

Get started with our online UX course.
 

Get started with our online
UX Design course.

 

© 2020 BUTTER DIGITAL INC.

PRIVACY POLICY  |  ACCEPTABLE USE  |  TERMS & CONDITIONS

© 2020 BUTTER DIGITAL INC.

PRIVACY POLICY  |  ACCEPTABLE USE  |  TERMS & CONDITIONS

© 2020 BUTTER DIGITAL INC.

PRIVACY POLICY  |  AUP  |  TERMS & CONDITIONS