Something I put together recently for a client who insisted on conducting his own interviews with his clients.
The primary objective from conducting task analysis, interviews and observational research is to help us define and describe the users’ mental models.
A mental model represents a person’s thought process for how something works — how they understand the world around them. They are often based on incomplete facts, assumptions, experiences and perceptions and they shape behaviour and define how people approach and solve problems.
The conceptual model is the actual interface and product experience. The thing that we will design and build. We want to get as close to a match between these two models. The better we understand the former, the closer we can get to a match with the latter.
What questions are we trying to answer. What do we need to know. What are the knowledge gaps that we need to fill.
What do we believe we already know. What are our current assumptions. What do we think we know about our users, both their behaviour and their requirements.
Are we meeting and interviewing people face to face. One to one or groups. Are we conducting interviews remotely, if so what tech are we going to use.
Carry out the methods
Find answers to our Objectives questions & prove or disprove our Hypotheses. Make sense of the results and draw out the insights and value. Decide how this can guide and impact our design decisions and also if we need to do some more research.
Interview technique and guidelines
Most people are not used to being interviewed, and many will feel apprehensive to some degree. Explain why you’re doing this and that you’ll be taking notes. You’re here to get a better understanding of how they work, how they manage their clients and their assets in the context of their daily job. By understanding their context, environment, motivations and goals we can better design services and products that meet those needs and make their lives better.
Shut up and listen
You’re there to get as much out of the interviewee as possible, nothing they say is bad. Analysis comes later. Make them feel relaxed and informal, they’ll be more forthcoming. You’re there to listen. Good listening is a technique, lots of lightweight positive reinforcement. Gentle smiles, slight nods and facial expressions of acknowledgement and agreement are good.
“If you want someone to talk, you’ve got to know how to listen. And good listening is a surprisingly active process. The interviewee is your focus of attention; you are there to hear what he says and thinks, exclusively.”
Don’t disagree with their point of view or present your opinion. If you want them to explain something or elucidate, invite them to say more. Why do you think that, how would you do that, how would you approach that situation?
People often raise the most interesting points once they’ve had time to process and internalise your questions. Give them time to think.
5 W’s and an H
The way you open your questions directly determines the type and the quality of the response.
- Who are your clients, what are their expectations of you and how do you help them achieve their goals.
- What might a typical day look like, if you have a typical day.
- When do you find yourself doing this task, when are things like this most likely to happen — are some processes based on time of day, or based on temporal events throughout the day.
- Where are you when you are doing this — are they always at their desk, or at someone else’s desk. Perhaps they are mobile and away from their work environment.
- Why do you do that, why would you go through that process — helps you to explain the underlying emotional and rational drivers of what a person is doing, and the root reasons for that behaviour.
- How would you do that, how would you approach this — helps you go into detail on what explicit actions or steps people take in order to perform tasks or reach their goals.