How to get more than opinions: Interview techniques and advice


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Given at the intro evening of Lean UX Machine Tel Aviv ( &, this short talk on interview techniques introduces basic principles of how to facilitate qualitative research. Aimed at lean startups, I hope it will be relevant advice for 'getting out of the building'.
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  • Getting out of the building  UX!UX research is useful for Customer discoveryCustomer developmentValidating your hypothesisMaking something that solves a problem or addresses a needMaking something usable and delightfulIt’s “generative” and “evaluative” It’s all about people skills!
  • Explain quickly that UX offers tons of methods, techniques and materials. You will have to get out of the building as part of this event, so we’ll focus on these (click).
  • Not an interrogation!
  • !
  • Non-leading interviews allow you to capture what a person is thinking in their terms, with their structure and vocabulary intact. Indi deliberately writes prompts rather than interview questions. Also easier to parse quickly. if you go for a non-directed interview using prompts, make sure everybody in your team has a shared understanding of the intent behind each topic. Janice calls this topic map.
  • Non-leading interviews allow you to capture what a person is thinking in their terms, with their structure and vocabulary intact. Indi deliberately writes prompts rather than interview questions. Also easier to parse quickly. if you go for a non-directed interview using prompts, make sure everybody in your team has a shared understanding of the intent behind each topic. Janice calls this topic map.
  • begin interviews with a 'softball' question - a question that is simple to answer and puts the participant at ease. 
  • Make people feel comfortable and they will tell you all kind of thingsPeople generally like to talk about themselves, and being listened to!
  • !
  • !
  • RASA (sanskrit word for juice, essence)Receive - pay attentionAppreciate - making little noisesSummarise - 'so’Ask - questions afterwardsAnother thing that makes it challenging: people want to keep the conversation balanced – you have to break that a bit
  • Be careful with WHY. ‘How did you know that X?’ ‘What were you thinking at the moment when X?’ This does not interrupt the recounting process. So ‘tell me how it was that you came to be looking for this site that day’ does the work of ‘why were you looking... ?If you’ve made people comfortable, Why should be ok.
  • on remote/using the phone. won't be able to rely on body language, which makes the moderator's responsibilities more complex. Active listening - practice of regularly nodding and saying mm-hmm to demonstrate you get what they're saying - may encourage people to keep going in person, but over the phone, moderator should cut back active listening because it encourages people to wrap up what they're saying. Don't be afraid to sit back and listen!Reflecting = paraphrasing or repeating things the user has just said. This can be risky, as 1) it almost always has same suppressive effect as active listening, and 2) if your paraphrase is inaccurate, it can lead users to agreeing to propositions or coming up with ideas that they may not have otherwise. Better alternative: begin as if you're going to paraphrase them but then have them do the bulk of the work by trailing off and letting them fill in their own thoughts, for (example on this slide)Achieves the same as reflecting, with less moderator bias.Over the phone, all you are is your voice. 
  • let your statements trail off and end in an upward pitch, as if you were asking a question. the other person will naturally complete your statement. this is another way to 'take your turn' in the conversation and toss it right back at them.
  • n quiet participants, who probably forget to think aloud as they are engaged in a task: You want to strike a balance between engagement and talking so that users are speaking undeliberatively about what they're feeling and doing, and what problems they're facing in the moment, rather than their opinions about the interface. Encourage participant to speak up.
  • Come up with questions that are both specific and hard to give short responses to. Ask about specific on-screen behaviours.
  • Manage expectations
  • How to get more than opinions: Interview techniques and advice

    1. 1. How to get more than opinions<br />Interview techniques and advice<br />Johanna Kollmann- @johannakoll<br />Lean UX Machine Tel Aviv, 4 August 2011<br />Photo by NASA Marshall Space Flight Center<br />
    2. 2. UX helps you to get out of the building<br />Photo by Bottleleaf<br />
    3. 3. (Some) research methods (yeah we have a lot)<br />Quantitative<br />Qualitative<br />Contextual inquiry<br />Mental models<br />Interviews<br />Diary studies<br />Surveys<br />Interviews<br />Generative<br />Usability testing<br />Moderated card sort<br />Wizard of Oz<br />Automated card sort<br />Surveys<br />Automated studies<br />Analytics<br />A/B Testing<br />Multi-variant testing<br />Evaluative<br />Adapted from figures by Janice Fraser, Nate Bolt, Christian Rohrer<br />
    4. 4. Non-leading interviews are a conversation<br />Photo byDave Gilbert<br />
    5. 5. Non-leading interviews<br /><ul><li> Are generative
    6. 6. Focus on people’s behaviours and goals
    7. 7. Capture their way of thinking and vocabulary
    8. 8. Are about listening to stories
    9. 9. Can be conducted in-person or remotely
    10. 10. Should be done with people who haveimmediate experience</li></ul>Mental Models byIndi Young<br />
    11. 11. Planning the interview<br />Photo byangelamaphone<br />
    12. 12. Define your goals<br /><ul><li> Who do you need to talk to?
    13. 13. What do you need to observe?
    14. 14. What do you hope to find out?
    15. 15. What’s your hypothesis?</li></ul>Also, make sure you identify your own bias and beliefs!<br />
    16. 16. What topics shall the interview cover?<br />Dieting<br />Buying food<br />Exercise<br />Preparing food<br />Eating out<br />Busy lifestyle<br />Struggles<br />
    17. 17. Prompts rather than set questions<br />Day-in-a-life (today, yesterday)<br />Decide what to eat<br />Last time on a diet<br />How active (want vs. do)<br />Preparing food for oneself<br />Preparing food for family/friends<br />
    18. 18. Have a ‘softball question’ ready<br />Please tell me a little bit about your cooking this week.<br />Could you tell me about the last dish you prepared yourself?<br />
    19. 19. During the interview<br />Photo by Anders Zakrisson<br />
    20. 20. Photo byJitter Buffer <br />We are so used to being interrupted that we have developed highly effective interruption defense mechanisms. <br />
    21. 21. Photo byEd Yourdon<br />Really listening lets you understand someone, or a situation, on several different levels. <br />
    22. 22. Active listening<br />Receive<br />Appreciate<br />Summarise<br />Ask<br />From Julian Treasure’s TED talk ‘5 ways to listen better’<br />
    23. 23. Ask open questions – don’t lead<br />YAY<br /><ul><li> Who
    24. 24. What
    25. 25. When
    26. 26. Where
    27. 27. Why
    28. 28. How</li></ul>NAY<br /><ul><li> Did
    29. 29. Have
    30. 30. Are
    31. 31. Were
    32. 32. Will</li></ul>Were you trying to do A or B?<br />What were you trying to do?<br />
    33. 33. How to keep people talking<br />Can you tell me the story about that?<br />What else can you tell me about…<br />Help me understand better<br />What do you mean by…<br />Tell me more…<br />
    34. 34. Echoing and rephrasing<br />This is confusing...<br />Confusing...<br />Yes, confusing. I wasn't sure whether...<br />Example from ‘Storytelling for User Experience’ by Whitney Quesenbery & Kevin Brooks<br />
    35. 35. Echoing and rephrasing<br />…and so I decided to click on that link to go to the next page.<br />Okay, so let me get this straight: first, you saw the link, and...what, again?<br />I saw the link, and I thought to myself....(paraphrases self)<br />Example from ‘Remote Research’ by Nate Bolt & Tony Tulathimutte<br />
    36. 36. Conversational disequilibrium<br />I wanted to download that application, but the instructions were so confusing… (trails off and stops talking)<br />The instructions were confusing?<br />And you expected…<br />Confusing?...Because….<br />So then you…<br />Mmmm hmmm.<br />Example from ‘Storytelling for User Experience’ by Whitney Quesenbery & Kevin Brooks<br />
    37. 37. How to deal with difficult people<br />Photo by David Anderson<br />
    38. 38. The quiet one<br /><ul><li> So, tell me what you're trying to do here
    39. 39. What are you trying to get done right now?
    40. 40. How does this (part/page) compare with what you were expecting?
    41. 41. If the user falls quiet repeatedly: And by the way, if you could just let me know what's going through your head as you’re doing this...</li></ul>Example from ‘Remote Research’ by Nate Bolt & Tony Tulathimutte<br />
    42. 42. The bored one<br /><ul><li> I noticed that you just hesitated a bit before clicking on that button. Can you tell me why?
    43. 43. Why don't we back up a bit? I was curious about what drew your attention to the tab you just clicked on?
    44. 44. Before we move on from here, I wanted to ask you about this part a bit more. What do you think about the range of choices they give you here? Is anything missing?</li></ul>Example from ‘Remote Research’ by Nate Bolt & Tony Tulathimutte<br />
    45. 45. The chatty one<br /><ul><li> That's really interesting, thanks for telling me about that. To come back to....
    46. 46. Can I interrupt you? Sorry, I was actually curious if you could...</li></ul>Example from ‘Remote Research’ by Nate Bolt & Tony Tulathimutte<br />
    47. 47. Do’s and don’ts<br />Photo by Hilde Skjølberg<br />
    48. 48. Do<br />Be the learner, not the expert<br />Ask naïve questions<br />Ask for specific stories<br />Allow people time to think<br />Listen!<br />Take notes or record<br />Take photos or collect artefacts<br />Photo by Tomas Hellberg<br />
    49. 49. Don’t<br />Be an interrogator<br />Ask questions that sound like blame, or argumentative<br />Ask for solutions<br />Try to solve problems during the interview<br />Ask what features people want<br />Ask people to imagine theoretical situations<br />Photo by G Meyer<br />
    50. 50. Have fun!<br />Photo by Ed Stevenson<br />
    51. 51. Resources<br />Mental Models by Indi Young<br />Storytelling for User Experience by Whitney Quesenbery & Kevin Brooks<br />Remote Research by Nate Bolt & Tony Tulathimutte<br />Undercover User Experience by Cennydd Bowles<br />Designing for the Digital Age by Kim Goodwin<br />LUXrresources and materials by Janice Fraser ( and Lane Halley (<br />User Interview Techniques - Guidelines for Obtaining Better Results by Michael Hawley in User Experience, Volume 8, Issue 3, 3rd Quarter 2009<br />How to ask ‘why’ without asking ‘why by Karl Sabino (<br />Articles on User Interface Engineering (<br />
    52. 52. Thank you<br />Janice Fraser, Lane Halley & Josh Seiden from LUXr for sharing their materials under a CC license<br />Flow Interactive alumni friends for sharing their advice<br />Graham Uff for feedback<br />And big thanks to everybody who made Lean UX Machine Tel Aviv happen!<br />