User interviews: How to get better results from them

user interviews

If you work in UX, you’ve probably heard of user interviews. If not, here we’ll explain a bit about what they are, how to conduct them, and the best way to make an analysis that provides results that add value to the product.

User interviews are a UX research method that allows the researcher to ask a user different inquiries about a certain topic. This is done to better understand how users think and feel about the subject. Interviews are conducted one-on-one and it’s always recommended that there is an observer taking notes. The concept of an interview seems straightforward, but to be able to conduct a successful one and learn a lot from it, it’s essential to understand how to do it.

Performing interviews allows getting insights into the user’s mental models. Meaning, what they think and how they use an app, an information architecture, a product, a website, and so on. From conducting an interview it is possible to learn what’s important to them, what they don’t understand, and why, among other things. 

5 tips on how to conduct user interviews

Before starting to conduct interviews, it’s significant to be clear on a few things about how to get the most out of them. Here are some tips from The Norman Nielsen group to help understand how to conduct user interviews.

1-Set the goal

Before even beginning to consider how to ask a user’s questions, set the goals of the interview. What are we conducting the study for? What is it that we want to learn or improve?

No one is better than the product stakeholders to ask them what they’re trying to understand about the users. That way, it’ll be easier to determine the purpose of the study. 

Examples of goals are:

  1. Do users fully understand how to operate an app’s main screen?
  2. How do physicians prefer to view their patients’ medical records?

2-Script and questions

It is always advisable to prepare a script and a questionnaire before the interviews. It isn’t necessary to strictly follow the script. On the contrary, it’s best to let the conversation flow to build rapport with the user. In that way, he/she will feel more comfortable and, therefore, will share more information with the researcher.

Although not everything should be followed exactly as we set it up before the interview, there are some questions that we need to have answered. This is what will later allow a correct analysis of the results, in order to get deeper insights.

3-Make the right questions

When carrying out the study, remember that the best questions are those that allow the participant to answer freely. 

It’s crucial to avoid biasing the user or to ask closed questions. For example, it is preferable to ask “where else on the screen would you rather find this information?”, instead of “would you prefer to find this information at the bottom of the screen?”

4-Active listening

As previously mentioned, it’s always recommended to have another team member participating in the study as a listener. This person will take notes of everything the user says that is relevant to the goal of the study. 

A person can generally say 95% of the things they’re thinking, but it’s in that 5% that they hide where the real problem lies. The main point isn’t what people say, but what they keep to themselves. That’s why, both the interviewer and the observer must be aware of what the user says in order to go deeper into what may be interesting and provide more data.

5-Test your script and tools before the study

It’s worth doing a pilot test with a team member, or a member of another team, to fix any errors. 

Depending on if you’re conducting the interview face to face, or if it’s going to be done remotely, pay close attention to the audio recorders, the platform you’re using to do the study through, the phone lines, and all those factors that are important as well.

It’s also advisable to check the script and questions with other researchers to make sure that there are no leading questions and that they serve to validate the goal.

Best ways to analyze user interviews

The first thing to keep in mind to ensure a successful analysis of user interviews is to clearly define the purpose of the research. Remember that the analysis will be based on the answers to the questions that were raised. If they weren’t clearly stated or not aligned with the goal, it will be extremely hard to extract good insights.

The most common way to analyze interviews is to start by identifying patterns. That is, statements that different users said, which mean something similar. This is done through the technique of Thematic Analysis.

In short, here are the steps to follow:

  • Read through your notes to look for relevant information.
  • Organize the most important data and give them a title or a concept.
  • Check if you find similarities between them. If so, write in a sticky note why they are similar.
  • Review everything you have assembled to gather all the insights that will help the team to make improvements on the product.

Agile teams often count on researchers who are in charge of carrying out these studies, which are later used to suggest product improvements. If you want to learn more about agile teams, at WillDom we have experts to help you. Feel free to contact us via LinkedIn or at WillDom.com

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