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How to Conduct a User Interview That Actually Uncovers Valuable Insights

Posted on 2/7/2023, 2:46:54 PM

When starting a project, it's essential to have a good understanding of your users and how they will use the product. User interviews give you a good insight into your users, their goals, perceptions, and experiences. 

When should I conduct a user interview:

  • Conduct interviews at the beginning of a project before you clearly understand what the product will look like. User interviews will provide you with a good understanding of your users' goals, perceptions, and experiences and help you develop a good solution.
  • During the initial stages of product development, it's a good idea to show users an early model of your product to get feedback.
  • After the product is implemented, users can give you essential feedback to help you in the iteration process.

How to conduct an interview

Prepare for the interview beforehand.

A good interview requires a lot of preparation. 

  • To prepare for an interview, set a clear goal. Why do you want to conduct the interview? What do you need to know about your users to improve the app? It's a good idea to involve your stakeholders early in the process so that you have buy-in.
  • Is a user interview the correct tool to achieve your goals? If you want to change the color of a button on your site, you can conduct a user test instead. 
  • Decide who to recruit. Recruit a representative sample of your target audience. Start with your user personas and try to find interview participants that match them. Start with five participants. If, by participant #5, you are not learning something new, stop recruiting more participants.
  • Prepare your interview questions beforehand. Have a guide as a reminder of the questions you want to ask during the interview. When asking questions, make sure that you keep it short to less than ten minutes. Ask clear questions. Avoid long questions. Don't ask questions about the future, such as How will you use X when it's released? Test your questions with one of your peers. Iterate on your questions.
  • Create a good and relaxing environment for your interviewee. 
  • Conduct the interview with a partner who can write notes and do the recording.

When conducting the interview:

  • Put yourself in a good mood. Think positive thoughts. Smile. Use eye contact. 
  • Stick to a semi-structured interview. You want to make sure you are not asking question after question. The interview should be more like a conversation with the interviewee. Make it natural.
  • Build rapport with the interviewee. Make them feel welcome. Greet them by their name. Offer them a drink. Initiate friendly small talk before asking questions. Learn about the interviewee. Ask them questions such as, "Can you tell me about yourself"? These questions are ice-breakers and a great way to get context about your interviewee.
  • Use positive body language to make your interviewee feel comfortable. 
  • Start by explaining the purpose of the interview. Give your interviewee context about why you want to speak to them and what questions they will be asked. What are you trying to achieve? How do you plan to use the results?
  • Keep it focused on the product. Don't make it seem like you are testing the interviewee. 
  • Refrain from judging or educating the interviewee. Keep an open mind. The interviewee is teaching you and not the other way around.
  • Ask permission to audio or video record. If the interviewee feels uncomfortable, stop the interview. 
  • Start with easy questions. Make it easy for the interviewee. Ask 3-5 easy questions before moving to the main topic. 
  • Focus on open-ended questions such as What were your challenges with X?
  • Ask follow-up questions. Dig deeper to understand the interviewee's point of view. Use the Five Whys and ask why five times to understand the interviewee's point of view. 
  • Avoid leading questions that lead the user to answer in a particular way. Questions like How often do you use Airbnb assume that they are an Airbnb user.
  • Ask users for clarification about their answers. Don't wait until the end to ask them for more information.
  • Ask your partner to take notes. You need to pay full attention to the interview.
  • Finish the interview with a wrap-up summary. Give the interviewee a sense of closure. Allow them to ask questions and thank them for their time. 

Analyze the results

Congrats on conducting a successful interview! Now is the time to analyze the results. 

  • Conduct a retrospective to reflect on how the interview went and what you can improve next time. 
  • Structure the information gathered visually using mindmaps to make the data more accessible.
  • Combine the interview with other techniques, such as usability testing or user surveys.

Need more help?

Book a call with a mentor at mentordial.com if you need help conducting an interview. 

Here are a few mentors who we recommend:

Nir Froimovici is the Principal Product Manager at Microsoft. Book a call with Nir Froimovici.

Priyanka Thakkar is the Senior Product Manager at Amazon. Book a call with Priyanka

Tristan is a Senior Product Manager at Amazon. Book a call with Tristan

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