Kun Wattanayothin is a UX Researcher at Morphosis. She is responsible for all aspects of research including user interview, usability evaluation, usability testing, customer journey, UCD consulting, UX research strategy & business alignment, UX workshop to uncover all the insights and provide the best tangible solution for all parties.

Business, Design

Ways to improve the quality of your user interviews

User interviews are widely used as a quick and straightforward approach to collect user data, especially in lean and agile contexts. It is an excellent technique to gain insight, usability knowledge and ideas from users.

Whilst it may appear simple and straightforward to conduct a user interview; an effective interview is far more valuable than many people know.

If you do an interview correctly, you can learn more about your users – their goals, opinions and experiences. Meanwhile, improper interviews might provide misleading information, which might lead to the wrong route for your design.

To carry out an interview correctly, you must take several different factors into account. In this article, we’ll look at the essential components of conducting a successful user interview.

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What am i doing wrong?

Before we look at how to improve your user interviews, let’s take a look at some of the things you might be doing wrong and how to avoid them during an interview:

1Don’t ask questions involving yes/no

Rarely will good, elaborate, expanded answers be given to questions involving yes or no. Instead, if you’re trying to figure out what your client would normally use, you have to ask direct questions. 

2Don’t ask users what they want

They usually don’t know what they want and avoid asking them to suggest solutions, they’re not professional designers. Instead, concentrate on finding out the users’ problems and what they are trying to achieve. Your questions should be, “what are you trying to do?” and not be, “what would you like us to do?” 

3Never make any assumptions

You might overlook a lot of crucial information if you don’t ask basic questions, and this is because you assume you already know the answer. Asking basic questions goes a long way in an interview as they’re an excellent technique to ease the interviewee. This creates a comfortable atmosphere and could get them talking.

These practices should be kept in mind while writing your interview questions. You must also consider them while analyzing a group of user interviews – as interview information provides you with a starting point for examining issues. 

Before you conduct a user interview

First, think about what you want to discover, determine your UX research method, look for a properly defined topic for your interview session. 

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There are four major points to consider when it comes to user interviews, which include:

1Establishing goals and objectives

First of all, specific research goals must be established. This stage is particularly crucial for user interviews as your objectives will guide your interview questions. This stage applies to all research methods.

2Recruiting participants

The following stage is to recruit certain interview participants with a clear purpose in mind. It is crucial to make sure they reflect your target audience when recruiting interviewees. In order to identify potential participants, you should look for individuals with experience or who are interested in that particular topic.

3Making questions for your interview

The most critical aspect now is to write questions about your interview. Your responsibility is to lead the interview in the appropriate path; therefore, the questions you ask and how you ask them will significantly influence the interview’s success. The key to a good interview is to ask questions that are open and direct.

4Documenting everything

Lastly, after the interview, prepare documentation, report, and come up with insights to send back to the client. This would also include the timeline budget, everything would be documented.

Improve the quality of your user interviews

The most effective interviews are those in which the participant is relaxed and comfortable enough to speak openly, providing you, the researcher, with useful information. Though the interviewer’s duty might seem difficult with the practices mentioned above, however, we’ve listed some guidelines and best practices to make your interviews even run more seamlessly.

Think like a user

Always have in mind not everyone is a designer, so simply assuming all your clients would know the UX terminology might be the wrong way to engage in an interview. For most individuals, concepts such as “user flow” and “information architecture” mean nothing, and therefore keep your questions clear of complexity.

Always take your time

You might not acquire the answers you need if your interview feels rushed. Allow the user plenty of time, and don’t be afraid of brief silence in between. Although it is tempting that the silence is broken by repeating the question, that can put the interviewee under strain, so refrain from doing that.

Make the user feel heard

It is crucial that, as an interviewer, you talk to the respondent and actually listen to what they say. Acknowledge their responses by simply nodding and making eye contact frequently. Avoid taking excessive notes, both for you and your research participant, for it is rather distractive. Instead, let the recorder do its job whilst you give your undivided attention to the client in that way they’ll feel much more comfortable.

Make time for debriefing

It’s necessary to debrief the respondent once the interview is finished. At the end of the interview session, always ask if they have any questions or anything else they would like to add. Make a quick general discussion; you might get even more insights that were not made in the session. 

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With that being said, let’s look at the seven essentials to great user interviews.

  1. Plan and establish your goals – make a research plan and take time and resources into consideration to set your objectives.
  2. Give the interview a neutral atmosphere – a comfortable client is always open to talk.
  3. Be prepared and be confident – ask your prepared questions and be direct, avoid mistakes like repeating a question or more
  4. Make documentation and take notes – document everything. 
  5. Be a good listener – after giving out your questions, be sure to always listen, giving your undivided attention.
  6. Be teachable – assume you know nothing, ask questions and let them share their knowledge and stories with you, who knows you might learn a thing or two.
  7. Be patient and practice –  practice makes perfect, even though it takes time to improve your interview skills, practice!

Get the best out of your user interviews

User interviews may be a valuable and useful approach to observe how things seem from the perspective of your users. However, this is only when the interviews are correctly handled.

You won’t likely get everything correct if it’s your first time doing user interviews, but don’t worry! The good thing about interviews is that it is a skill that can be learnt, and similar to all other expertise. All you have to do is practice and analyze your performance continuously.

At Morphosis, we specialise in UX research, product design and other development services to create the best product for our client’s business. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us today to get a free consultation session or visit our service page to learn more about how we can help you conduct user interviews.