The Art of Conducting User Interviews

Asking yourself as a UX designer which user insights you want to discover and unlocking the Why behind their actions is what makes your users glow

Start by Gathering Valuable Insights
  • User interviews are your gold mine. You can unearth precious data, behaviors, and revealing stories from users when you give them a chance to describe their experiences freely.
  • Meet your user for a one-on-one interview in a comfortable setting. It can be a quiet café style environment, or a front stoop in a quiet neighborhood. Introduce yourself in an open and friendly way and be the one to set a receptive conversational tone. Give your user all the space they need. Ask them politely for their permission to be recorded.
  • Never assume you know your users’ problems, and don’t project that they will behave the way you expect.

People don’t always say what they mean, or do what they say.

Start by Listening
  • It is your responsibility as a UX designer to listen to your users. Start your interview by gently asking your user to describe an experience using a product or service similar to yours. Gently engage them with the topic of your inquiry and the app.

{ e.g.: “Tell me about your most recent experience eating out.” }

  • Ask your next question by moving the topic closer to what you are actually trying to uncover. Don’t be pushy.
  • { e.g.: “Tell me about your best experience dining out with family or friends.” }
  • Keep the flow, ask a more specific follow-up question.

{ e.g.: “You said you liked the daily specials at Sophia’s Restaurant. What did you like about it?” }

  • Keep notes of their answers and story lines, write down your observations and inferences.

Get the user to tell you their story
  • As your users open up to you about their experiences, use an active listening technique. Remain silent, don’t interrupt, and create a space for your users to freely express their thoughts. Repeat back to them what they are saying.

{ e.g.: “I’m hearing that … . Tell me more! Why did you choose… ?” }

  • Arriving at Why your user made a particular choice presents a valuable insight. This is the goal of your inquiry. If you feel you haven’t been hearing the rich insights you are trying to uncover, keep building your thread by asking further probing questions.

  • Throughout your interview, guide the conversation, don’t control it. Be prepared to improvise, depending on your users’ answers and flow. Be mindful of cognitive bias, don’t project.

In Summary…

Synthesize your notes. Identify hard data. Find notable quotes. Analyze if a emerging patterns. Write down your key take-aways. You will be impressed by how much information your users will reveal to you. Remember, everyone’s story is different. Enjoy the variety of your users’ experiences. And … don’t forget to present them with a gift after a successful interview. Who would not like a free coffee card, for example? Both you and your users will be smiling.

And that’s a wrap.