12 November 2013


The goal of interviewing users is to learn about everything that might influence how the users might use what you’re creating. Good interviewing is a skill you develop with practice. The great myth is that you need to be a good talker. Conducting a good interview is actually about shutting up. This can be very hard, especially when you’re enthusiastic about the topic. 

Remember, the people you’re interviewing want to be liked. They want to demonstrate their smarts. When you’re interviewing someone you know nothing. You’re learning a completely new and fascinating subject: that person. 

Once you have established who you want to talk to and what you want to find out, create your interview guide. This is a document you should have with you while you’re interviewing to ensure that you stay on topic and get all of the information you need. 

The interview guide should contain: 

1. The brief description and goal of the study. This is for you to share with the participant and use to remind yourself to stay close to the topic.
2. The basic factual or demographic questions for putting the participant’s answers in context.
3. These will vary depending on the purpose of the interview, but often include name, gender, age, location, and job title or role.
4. A couple of icebreaker or warm-up questions to get the participant talking. Most people know this as “small talk.” Feel free to improvise these based on the demographic information.
5. The questions or topics that are the primary focus of the interview. 

You should also gather a bit of background information on the topic and people you’ll be discussing, particularly if the domain is unfamiliar to you. Talking to homeowners about how they selected their mortgage brokers? Read up on mortgages. Sitting down with the head of customer service? Review the support forums or frequently asked questions. 

Interview structure: three boxes, loosely joined 
An interview has three acts, like a play or a spin class: the introduction and warm-up, the body of the interview, and the conclusion. 

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