Unleash your inner 4-year-old that wants to
ask “why?” and then upon hearing the
answer, immediately follows up with another
Question even the things you think you know
already. It can be enlightening to hear it
described in someone else’s words, and may
help you discover unmet needs and ancillary
Treat “Who, What , When, Where, How” as
your best friends. Get the user talking and
then look for patterns, trends, and
Bottom line: There are no dumb questions.
Dig Deeper For Insights
Don’t ask binary questions. Use short
questions or prompts that encourage your
users to tell stories.
Gently guide the conversation to delve
deeper into interesting topics as they
emerge. Explore, but don’t lead – For
Example “Tell me about the last time you
Expressions such as “Help me
understand…” and “I’ve never done this
before…” put the participant into the teacher
role while you become the student.
(So, you’d better take notes).
Bottom Line: Everyone loves a good story.
Listen, don’t just hear
Prepare….to listen and soak into the user’s
world. You don’t always need a pre-defined
set of questions. In fact, worrying too much
about the next question to ask may impair
your listening skills.
Especially for exploratory research , it is
better to prioritize high level topics and
design questions that solicit examples and
stories related to those topics. This way you
don’t have to memorize a list of questions
and you are free to listen.
Do not treat a feedback session as a product
demo or a pitch.
Bottom line: If you listen attentively the rest
will come naturally.
Sometimes five seconds of silence are worth
ten questions. Try this. When it is your turn
to speak, don’t. Instead, pause for five
seconds. Odds are the interviewee will
notice the gap in conversation and continue
speaking to fill that otherwise potentially
Don’t offer to help right away if a user is
stuck. Put on a poker face and you may
learn much more by observing user’s
struggles and frustration. When you finally
decide you are ready to interject, wait five
more seconds before you, do just in case.
Remember it is not about flaunting what you
know but learning what the user knows (or
Bottom Line: The less you talk the better.
Feel the Pain
Keep yourself small in the relationship, with
a friendly tone and smile. Converse, don’t
Observe and engage users without the
influence of value judgments.
Don’t be afraid to discuss emotions, as they
may drive behaviors. Pay attention to cues,
even non-verbal ones.
Assume a tone and pace dictated by the
persona in front of you. Most importantly, be
open to feeling the “pain.”
Bottom line: Empathize.
Acknowledgements: Alan Galindez and Christopher Bertrand