User interviews are as much an art as they are science.
Interviews are a fundamental technique of user research and often used during the design thinking ‘discovering’ phase.
When done well, people willingly share some of their closest held beliefs and thoughts leading to greater insight.
When done poorly, people close off, telling you what they think you want to hear.
The thing is, there is a path to follow that will greatly improve your interviews and the insights that you generate.
Unfortunately, most people go in without understanding how to get the best from interviews.
Smarter interviews lead to greater insights.
Today, I’m going to cover:
- The anatomy of an ideal 3 step discovery interview.
- 4 interview tips for greater insights.
- 2 questioning frameworks to build your interview confidence.
Read time: 3 minutes 👇
Let’s get going!
The Anatomy of a Discovery Interview
Although all interviews have a life and shape of their own.
There are some best practices that will help you to gain the trust of the participant and lead to more revealing information.
Step 1 - Building Rapport
Building rapport is the most important part of the interview.
Without rapport people won’t trust you and won’t share their perspectives and experiences.
I use this 3 step process:
1) Introduce yourself. Thank them for taking the time to meet with you and let them know who you are.
Naivety is important. So, if you are a product manager or business owner, leave that to one side and play the ‘curious student’ role.
2) Keep building rapport. Be curious on your journey to and into the home so you can call upon a point of reference to talk about.
3) Introduce the project. Outline the project, complete any paperwork and answer any initial questions.
Step 2 - Prompt, Probe and Observe
Stories help us to understand others.
By evoking stories from the interviewee you will get deeper meaning and connection about how the person thinks about the world.
I use the PPO framework:
1) Prompt. Have some prompting questions ready to get the conversation started.
Often, I’ll start with the phrase “Tell me about when you …” to gain context.
2) Probe. When something interesting is shared and you want the person to expand more, then try to probe further using “Tell me more about …”
Often, this is when you get the persons attitudes, values and emotions emerging.
3) Observe. Get people to demonstrate what they actually do. This could be physically showing you or drawing what they are meaning.
Things like habits, routines and shortcuts can come out during observations.
Step 3 - The Finale
When the interview is nearing conclusion it is a good time to dig deeper on something that really struck you and to gather their reflections.
I use this 3 part method:
1) Dig deeper. You may really want to focus in on something so try to have the person expand on the point by using “Talk me through what you were thinking at …”
You are trying to uncover the raw tensions and emotions.
2) Reflection. Ask the person to reflect on why they think something is the way that it is.
Relection helps to understand more of their mindset and behaviours.
3) Thanks and close. Always remember to thank them for their time. Turn off any recording equipment, pack up and prepare to leave.
Sometimes people will give you one last gem as you are leaving and the recorder is off.
4 Interview Tips for Greater Insights
Interviewers should use open-ended questions that create space for people to share stories, thoughts and feelings.
Use these 4 tips alongside of open questions:
1) Start with general questions and then go deeper. This will help the person to relax and enjoy the conversation before you go after the big question.
2) Embrace silence. You’ll likely feel the need to speak and ask another question. But, if you resist that urge, the person has more time to reflect and form a deeper answer.
3) Avoid generalisation. Ask the person specific questions like “Tell me about the last time you …”
4) Watch their body language and emotions. Allow people to vent and get things off their chest which might provide a key frustration. Make a note of any interesting reactions.
2 Questioning Frameworks
When I started interviewing I was very nervous and uncomfortable, which meant that I didn’t get the insights needed.
These 2 frameworks will help give you confidence in an interview.
The 5WH Framework
Ask questions that explore and get to the heart of the issue.
Frame them around:
The TEDW Framework
Get people to expand on the topic and uncover more depth using:
- “Tell me more …”
- “Explain …”
- “Describe …”
- “Walk me through …”
The Short of It
- Follow the anatomy to follow a path for the interview.
- Use the interview tips to extract greater insights.
- Rely on the questioning frameworks to build your confidence.
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🔥Field Research Quote🔥
“… because it’s easier to design for a customer you understand.” – Nick Bowmast, Design Reacher & Author