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Meet the interviewee in his/her typical
environment, so you can see them in context.
In-context interviews give the participant greater
ease and allow you to see the objects, spaces, and
people that they talk about in the interview.
Ideally no more than three people should attend
any single interview so as to not overwhelm the
Conversations should be conducted without an
audience, since the presence of neighbors, friends,
or others can sway what the person says or what
they are able to reveal. Privacy can often be
difficult to accomplish, however.
However, sometimes a second person helps the
interviewee be more confident.
Guidelines for the interviewer
Enter the interview without an agenda
Refrain from passing judgments
Ask the interviewee for permission to ask certain
Ask for clarification when in doubt
Let them do the thinking – do not lead them to the
Be aware of both yours and their body language
Listen actively; allow for silent pauses & let them think
Remind the interviewee that there is no “right” answer
Int erview Prep
Int erview f or E p t hy
WHY prepare for an interview
W want to understand a person’s thoughts, em
otions, and m
otivations, so that we can determ how to
innovate for himor her. By understanding the choices that person m
akes and the behaviors that person
engages in, we can identify their needs and design for those needs.
Tim with users is precious, we need to m the m of it! While we always m allow roomfor the
spontaneous, blissful serendipity of a user-guided conversation, we should never abdicate our responsibility
to prepare for interviews. Especially in following up with users (after testing, etc.), it is im
perative to plan
your interviews. Y m not get to every question you prepare, but you should com in with a plan for
HOW to interview
HOW to prepare for an interview
W down all of the potential questions your teamcan generate. T to build on one another’s ideas in
order to ﬂesh out m
eaningful subject areas.
Identify and order them
S ilar to “grouping” in synthesis, have your teamidentify them or subject areas into which m
questions fall; once you’ve identiﬁed the them of your question-pool, determ the order that would
allow the conversation to ﬂow m naturally. This will enable you to structure the ﬂow of your interview
decreasing the potential for hosting a seem
ingly-scattershot interaction with your user.
Once you have all the questions grouped by them and order, you m ﬁnd that there are som redundant
areas of conversation, or questions that seemstrangely out of place. T a few m ents to m sure that
you leave roomin your planning to ask plenty of “why?” questions, plenty of “tell m about the last tim you
___ questions, and plenty of questions that are directed at how the user FE LS
:: 9 ::
As why E when you think you know the answer, ask people why they do or say things. The answers
etim surprise you. A conversation started fromone question should go on as long as it needs to.
Never s “us
ay ually” when as
tion. Instead, ask about a speciﬁc instance or occurrence, such as
“tell m about the last tim you ___”
tories Whether or not the stories people tell are true, they reveal how they think about the
world. Ask questions that get people telling stories.
Look for incons
istencies S etim what people say and what they do are different. These
inconsistencies often hide interesting insights.
Pay attention to nonverbal cues Be aware of body language and em
Don’t be afraid of s
ilence. Interviewers often feel the need to ask another question when there is a pause.
If you allow for silence, a person can reﬂect on what they’ve just said and m reveal som
Don’t s es answersto your ques
tions E if they pause before answering, don’t help themby
suggesting an answer. This can unintentionally get people to say things that agree with your expectations.
tionsneutrally. “What do you think about buying gifts for your spouse?” is a better question than
“Don’t you think shopping is great?” because the ﬁrst question doesn’t im that there is a right answer.
Don’t as binary ques
tions Binary questions can be answered in a word; you want to host a conversation
built upon stories.
Only ten wordsto a ques
tion. Y user will get lost inside long questions.
Only as one ques
tion at a tim one pers at a tim R
e. esist the urge to am
bush your user.
Make s you’re prepared to capture. Always interview in pairs. If this is not possible, you should use a
voice recorder— is im
possible to engage a user and take detailed notes at the sam tim
:: 1 :: Visual adapted fromMichael Barry, P
• Prepare enough questions for 1520 minute interview with at least
• Test questions by asking them to
• Create a plan for interviewing
When interviewing, assign the following
• 1-2 people to lead the interview(s)
• 2-3 note takers
• 2 photographers
• 2 “Storytellers” and quote-capturers
**Capture as much data as possible!
Using the Interview Guidelines, students ask each other
about life before ALA.
Pair up and interview for 5 minutes each way.