How To Conduct User Interviews – Tips & Tricks
User interviews in UX help you gather relevant data for your design solution. Read on to learn our favorite tips and tricks on how to conduct user interviews!
A user interview is a method in the UX research process: a researcher asks a participant questions about a topic of interest while recording or writing down the answers (for example, using a product, their behaviors, or habits, and the challenges they encounter) to learn more about it.
Conducting a user interview is a technique in UX to collect the necessary information to create a design solution. Knowing how to conduct user interviews can help you identify problems and develop solutions.
Contrary to focus groups, user interviews involve only one participant.
User interviews in UX are one-on-one sessions, usually no longer than an hour. Sometimes, two interviewers may be present, where one conducts the interviews, and the other takes notes.
User interviews are not casual chats with random people.
User interviews in UX design are meticulous processes with a clear goal – to determine the core of what the user is trying to do and their pain points.
When you learn how to conduct user interviews, you’ll get qualitative data that’ll help you distinguish the next steps much faster and with more security.
In this article, we’ll share some of our top tips on conducting user interviews, which will help you turn your UX research into a convenient and fruitful process.
When to conduct a user interview
Conducting a user interview in the UX process can offer insights into what users think and say about a product, website, or similar. But, besides how to conduct user interviews, it’s also crucial to know when.
- before you have a design, to distinguish directions, determine user personas or journey maps, to unravel new feature or workflow ideas
- alongside the usability test to connect verbal data with actions and behaviors.
Conduct user interviews in a relaxed, neutral setting
How to conduct user interviews
Imagine you want to conduct user interviews in the UX process of developing a dating app. There are four essential elements of creating successful user interviews:
- Determining goals and objectives
- Recruiting participants
- Choosing the location & setup
- Properly starting the interview
- Asking the right questions
1. Determine goals and objectives
Determining goals and objectives means setting clear research goals.
Speak to a product owner or a stakeholder to uncover some more profound insights.
Setting goals and objectives will lead you to:
- understanding general attitudes towards dating
- recognizing general attitudes towards dating apps
- discovering other dating apps people are currently using
- finding out about what features users desire in such dating apps
2. Recruiting participants
Before recruiting participants, set the proper requirements.
Make sure your participants are a perfect fit for your customer base to eliminate the possibility of gathering irrelevant information.
You can recruit participants for user interviews in many ways – tapping into an existing customer base, recruiting people via social media, posting a gig ad, or even asking your friends (if the budget is tight and they fit the customer base).
The crucial thing is that these participants must represent your target audience.
So, to fit our example, your target audience must consist of people interested in dating, dating apps, and who have, ideally, used dating apps before.
3. Choosing location and setup
When choosing a location and the setup of the user interview, think about how the surroundings might affect your users. If they sit in a branded office or a meeting room, they might feel compelled to say only the positive things about that particular brand. That’s why it’s a much better practice to conduct user interviews in a relaxed, neutral setting, such as an unbranded meeting room or at any location of the user’s choice. Another good idea of conducting user interviews is via video call, where the user can answer your question in the comfort of their own home.
Also, the neutrality and the simplicity of the location help you focus on your questions as an interviewer. It’s crucial to make the user feel comfortable, but it’s just as important for you to be relaxed and focused.
4. Properly starting the interview
To initiate the interview, make sure to take a couple of minutes to greet the participant and explain the user interview process. Ask them if they have any inquiries before starting. Sometimes, your participants will have to sign an NDA or similar forms, so the introductory part is the best time to do it.
If there’s a gratuity for participants, and the interview happens in person, you can explain it and hand it to them. You can also give compensation at the end of the interview – the choice is yours. If there’s a gratuity for participants, and the interview happens in person, you can explain it and hand it to them at the beginning.
That way, they’ll stop thinking about the prize during the interview and focus solely on your questions. If the user interview happens via video call, give compensation at the end. Use this opportunity to explain how and when they will receive their reward and ensure a well-rounded experience.
Think through the complete process of recording the user interview and taking notes before conducting it. You must be 100% engaged and tuned into what the user is saying, so you’ll most likely have no time for taking notes and actively listening. Have another teammate taking notes, or if recording the interview, make sure you have the participant’s approval.
5. Asking the right questions
Always encourage them to speak freely and keep the atmosphere friendly.
Asking the right questions is the most significant part in how to conduct user interviews. Prepare your questions before the user interview and choose your words carefully. The questions should be open, dialogue-provoking, and non-leading, instead of closed, vague, or leading.
What are closed questions, you may ask? Closed questions are simple questions with yes-or-no answers. So, instead of asking “Have you ever…” think in terms of “How do you feel about…”. If you must, use closed questions only to introduce the real question that dives deeper into your topic of interest. Use them to confirm an assumption before asking another question.
Leading questions in conducting a user interview, which hint at the desired answer, are also a no-go practice because they can get you biased or even false answers. Ask the user to guide you through their approach to the process.
Additionally, try to anticipate some answers and prepare follow-up questions to help the user elaborate their answer and disclose more insights. Your follow-up questions can look something along the lines of: “Can you explain why?”, “Can you tell me more about…?” or “How did that work for you?”.
Workspace before conducting a user interview
More Tips On How To Conduct User Interviews
- Make your user feel heard
Listen to what they’re saying, take notes, show empathy, make eye contact, nod, concentrate on their words, and give them your undeniable attention. Don’t interrupt them – always allow them to finish their thoughts.
- Take your time
Ensure your user has enough time on their hands to answer the question. Embrace the short silences if they appear, and let them think about the answer they’re going to give you. If necessary, repeat the question and slow down the pace of the interview.
- Avoid professional terms & jargon
Assuming that the person sitting on the other side is familiar with all these extensive UX phrases is a no-go. Leave terms like “user flow,” “wireframe,” or “low-fidelity” for meetings with your fellow UX companions. 🙂
- Don’t neglect the importance of the end
Once the user interview is at its end, make sure to ask your user if they have any questions for you. A quick, informal chat might give you another sip of unspilled details. Don’t forget to thank your participants for taking their time and effort to join this interview.
What questions to ask in a user interview
Questions you could ask in a user interview should have a dedicated blog article, instead of only a paragraph on how to conduct user interviews. Still, for now, we’ll scratch the surface and give you some brief examples. Preparing your questions before conducting a user interview is essential because it will prevent unintentionally asking leading questions.
Creating a discussion guide or a script could help you stay on track with questions you want to get answered. Prepare as many questions for the user interview as you can – even more than you think you’ll have time to ask. Our rule of thumb consists of 5-10 topics of interest and 20-40 questions (including follow-ups). Chances are, you won’t get the answers to all of your questions with every participant but keep them there.
Types of questions
Before diving into the topic-specific questions, ask your user some ice-breaker questions, such as their typical day, job role, or relationship with the technology: “What does your day usually look like?” or “What is your profession?”. These will enable you to get to know your user a bit more & dive deeper into the topic with a clearer vision.
Some of the topic-specific questions for the user interview can help you learn about their previous experience with the situation of your interest.
Ask questions similar to: “Tell me about your interest in…”, “How do you learn more about…”, and “What is the most crucial piece of information you are looking for when…”. Ask about the problems and the alternative solutions.
You could get information about solutions you haven’t thought of before.
These questions could look like: “What is the most challenging thing about…” or “When was the last time you felt troubled during…”.
As we already mentioned, prepare follow-up questions for the user interview that’ll enable your user to broaden the answer, such as: “Can you tell me more about that / give me more details?”. You can also use follow-up questions to bounce back to something your participant mentioned before and ask for further clarification: “You mentioned … Can you tell me more about that?”.
Pro tip: Don’t ask questions about the future or potential scenarios.
User interviews are a foundational method that is most useful when conducted early in the UX process, before any actual ideas or prototypes. To make sure to conduct a successful user interview in UX, keep your goals straight. Remember that your participant is not a designer, so don’t try to get them to create an ideal product or suggest improvements.
Create a discussion guide – prepare your questions in advance and plan “ice-breaking” questions to set the user interview’s tone. Create a relaxed opening, where you’ll introduce yourself and explain the purpose of the user interview.
Make your user feel comfortable and heard – let them know that they are not obliged to answer any questions they don’t like and that there are no right-or-wrong answers. During the interview, you are mostly listening, whereas the interviewee is the one doing the talking. Don’t rush them; embrace the silence, and show empathy. Remove yes/no questions – always ask open and dialogue-provoking questions instead of leading your user on, and never underestimate the power of closing the user interview right.
Leave some time for the user to ask you questions as well. Make the most out of your participants’ answers: ask follow-up questions.
A simple “Why” can work like a charm to help you get extra details.
We compiled our examples of questions you can include in your discussion guide:
And that’s our take on how to conduct user interviews!
If you wish to read more about UX & its processes, visit our blog.
We’d be more than happy to offer you more guidance and inspiration throughout your user interview practice!