Interviewing Users (Catapult Labs event)


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Interviewing users is undeniably one of the most valuable and commonly used user research tools. Yet sometimes we forget that it's a skill we need to learn, because:

● It's based on skills we think we have

● It's not taught or reflected on

People tend to 'wing it' rather than develop their skills. Without good interviewing skills, insights may be inaccurate or reveal nothing new, suggesting the wrong design or business responses, or they may miss the crucial nuance that points to innovative opportunities. Steve will share best practices for asking questions and listening and then lead a “safe” interviewing exercise.

Published in: Design, Technology

Interviewing Users (Catapult Labs event)

  1. 1. 1Interviewing Users How to Uncover Compelling InsightsSteve Portigal@steveportigal
  2. 2. www.portigal.com2 @steveportigalWe help companies discover andact on new insights about theircustomers and themselvesPortigal
  3. 3. www.portigal.com3 @steveportigalResources, presentations and to purchase Users book now available
  4. 4. www.portigal.com4 @steveportigalWhat tomake or doRefine&prototypeLaunchIterate & improveGet data from users throughout developmentTake a freshlook at people Use existing ideasas hypothesesExplore newideas
  5. 5. www.portigal.com5 @steveportigalDefine theproblemParticipantsandmethodologyDosomethingwith the data!Our insights-based processScreeningcriteria,recruiting, fieldguide, stimuliAnalysis,synthesis,divergence,convergenceFieldworkInterviews, self-reporting,debriefsTrends, strategicinitiatives, marketdata,stakeholders
  6. 6. www.portigal.com6 @steveportigalDefine theproblemParticipantsandmethodologyDosomethingwith the data!Focus for this sessionScreeningcriteria,recruiting, fieldguide, stimuliAnalysis,synthesis,divergence,convergenceFieldworkInterviews, self-reporting,debriefsTrends, strategicinitiatives, marketdata,stakeholders
  7. 7. www.portigal.com7 @steveportigalThe interview guide (or field guide)A detailed plan of what will happen in the interview• Questions, timing, activities, tasks, logistics, etc.Transforms questions-we-want-answers-to intoquestions-we-will-askShare with team to align on issues of concern• Especially with multiple teams in the fieldHelps you previsualize the flow of the session• Include questions as well as other methods that you‟ll use
  8. 8. www.portigal.com8 @steveportigalUse a range of methodsInterview “Tell us about how you‟re using this product…”Tasks “Can you draw me a map of your computer network?”Participation “Can you show me how I should make a Whopper?”Demonstration “Show us how you update your playlists.”Role-playing“I‟ll be the customer and you be the receptionist, and youshow me how they should respond.”
  9. 9. www.portigal.com9 @steveportigalUse a range of methodsLoggingParticipant takes regular digital photos or fills out a bookletdocumenting their activitiesHomeworkParticipant saves up all their junk mail for two weeks toprompt our discussionStimuli Review wireframes, prototypes, simulations, storyboardsExercisesWhat‟s in your wallet? What‟s in your fridge?Sketch your idealized solution
  10. 10. www.portigal.com10 @steveportigalObservingNotice what… people, placesNotice how… processes,sequences, interactionsSuspend your point of viewAvoid conclusionsAllow confusionDo it “out loud” Steve, practicing his “noticing.” You can tellbecause he looks like he may be a littleconfused.
  11. 11. www.portigal.com11 @steveportigalYou‟re observing peoplewithin their culture. Noticehow cultural artifacts reflectand define the environment;and reveal what is “normal”Normal isn‟t “right or wrong”– it‟s the set of backgroundrules that define much ofwhat people choose orignoreMediaProductsAdvertisementsStreet CultureTrends/ FadsCultural contextWhat are they selling?
  12. 12. www.portigal.com12 @steveportigalCultural context
  13. 13. www.portigal.com13 @steveportigalCultural context
  14. 14. www.portigal.com14 @steveportigalCultural context
  15. 15. www.portigal.com15 @steveportigalExplore solutions in the fieldConsider the difference betweentesting and exploringAvoid “Do you like this?”Don‟t show your best guess at a solution;instead identify provocative examples tosurface hidden desires and expectationsParticipatory designDoesn‟t mean we implement the requestedsolution literally“I wish it had a handle”Many ways to solve the underlying need (“Ineed to move it around”)Designers work with this data to generatealternativesImage from Roberto and
  16. 16. Click to edit Master title stylewww.portigal.com16 @steveportigalPrinciples inform tacticsI dont skate to where the puck is, I skate to where the puck isgoing to be – Wayne Gretzky
  17. 17. Click to edit Master title stylewww.portigal.com17 @steveportigalInterviewing principlesCheck your worldview at the doorEmbrace how other people see the worldBuild rapportListen
  18. 18. Click to edit Master title stylewww.portigal.com18 @steveportigalCheck your worldview at the doorBefore you start doing interviews, do ateam-wide brain dump of all yourassumptions and expectations• Get closely-held beliefs out of your heads• You needn‟t go back to verify your assumptions;goal is to make assumptions explicitMake the interview about the interview• As a transitional ritual, agree explicitly that you aregoing to Learn about Paul rather than IdentifyNextGen Opportunities for Roadmap
  19. 19. Click to edit Master title stylewww.portigal.com19 @steveportigalEmbrace how other people see the worldGo to where your users are rather than asking them tocome to youNip distractions in the bud• Eat!• Leave plenty of time so you aren‟t rushed when you arrive• Find a bathroom beforehandBe ready to ask questions you (think you) know theanswers to• Think about: “When are your taxes due?”• What do you know? What are you afraid they‟ll say? What might youlearn?
  20. 20. Click to edit Master title stylewww.portigal.com20 @steveportigalBuild rapportBe selective about social graces• Just enough small talk• Accept what you‟re offeredBe selective about talking about yourself• Reveal personal information to give them permission to share• Otherwise, think “OMG! Me too!” without saying itWork towards the tipping point• From question-answer to question-story• You won‟t know when it‟s coming; be patientAcknowledge the interview as something…unusual• “What I want to learn today…” over friendly chat
  21. 21. Click to edit Master title stylewww.portigal.com21 @steveportigalListenYou can demonstrate that you are listening by askingquestions!• Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up• “Earlier, you told us that…”• “I want to go back to something else you said…”Signal your transitions: “Great, now I‟d like to move onto atotally different topic”This level of listening is not how we normally talk to eachother• Remember that you are interviewing, not having a conversation• This is really hard
  22. 22. Click to edit Master title stylewww.portigal.com22 @steveportigalListening body languageYes! Not so much.
  23. 23. Click to edit Master title stylewww.portigal.com23 @steveportigalSilence defeats awkwardnessAfter you ask your question,be silent• Don‟t put the answers in thequestionAfter they‟ve answered you,be silent
  24. 24. Click to edit Master title stylewww.portigal.com24 @steveportigalUse natural languageTalk like yoursubject talks!
  25. 25. Click to edit Master title stylewww.portigal.com25 @steveportigalIf you want to fix something, wait until the endIt‟s frustrating to watch usersstruggle with your product• Remember, you are there tolearn from themYou will lose the interview ifyou start taking theirquestionsWhen it‟s time to go, show ortell them only what will helpthem
  26. 26. Click to edit Master title stylewww.portigal.com26 @steveportigalQuestions to gather context and collect detailsSequence“Describe a typical workday. What do you do when you firstsit down at your station?…Then what do you do next?”Quantity “How many files would you delete when that happens?”Specific examples“What is the last movie that you streamed?” – Compare thisto “What movies do you stream?”Complete list“What are all the different apps you have installed on yoursmartphone?” – Will require follow upRelationships“How do you work with new vendors?” – General question isappropriate when you don‟t even know enough to ask aspecific questionOrganizationalstructure“Who does that department report to?”
  27. 27. Click to edit Master title stylewww.portigal.com27 @steveportigalQuestions to probe on what‟s unsaidClarification“When you refer to „that‟ you are talking about the newestserver, right?”Code words/nativelanguage“Why do you call it the „Batcave?‟”Emotional cues “Why do you laugh when you mention „Best Buy?‟”Why“I‟ve tried to get my boss to adopt this format, but she justwon‟t do it…” “Why do you think she hasn‟t?”Probe delicately“You mentioned a difficult situation that changed your usage.Can you tell us what that situation was?”Probe withoutpresuming“Some people have very negative feelings about Twitter,while others don‟t. What is your take?”
  28. 28. Click to edit Master title stylewww.portigal.com28 @steveportigalQuestions to probe on what‟s unsaidExplain to an outsider“Let‟s say that I‟ve just arrived here from another decade,how would you explain to me the difference betweensmartphones and tablets?”Teach another“If you had to ask your daughter to operate your system, howwould you explain it to her?”
  29. 29. Click to edit Master title stylewww.portigal.com29 @steveportigalQuestions to uncover mental modelsCompare processes“What‟s the difference between sending your response byfax, mail or email?”Compare to others “Do the other coaches also do it that way?”Compare across time“How have your family photo activities changed in the pastfive years? How do you think they will be different five yearsfrom now?” – Not intended to capture an accurate predictionbut break free from what exists now
  30. 30. Click to edit Master title stylewww.portigal.com30 @steveportigalWhy so many types of questions?Real interviews aren‟t as simple asasking a question, getting an answer,and then moving onto the nextquestion in your list.You are unlikely to get to the actualanswer without asking a few differentquestions a few different ways.You need a range of tools andtechniques. And you need to feelwhen you haven’t got to the realanswer yet so you can keep going.
  31. 31. Click to edit Master title stylewww.portigal.com31 @steveportigalPrepare for exploding questions• Coping techniques• Wait until these issuescome up organically,without you having to ask• Make notes on your fieldguide about what youwant to loop back to soyou don‟t forget• Triage based on what‟smost pressing for yourtopic• Triage based on whatmakes the best follow-up,to demonstrate listening
  32. 32. Click to edit Master title stylewww.portigal.com32 @steveportigalExploding questions can lead to a flow state
  33. 33. Click to edit Master title stylewww.portigal.com33 @steveportigalWe learn from mistakes and mishapsCollect and sharewar stories withother
  34. 34. Click to edit Master title stylewww.portigal.com34 @steveportigalInterviewing exerciseGet in groups of 3Use the field guide handout• Imagine you are in a startup looking for opportunities in (news,food, media)• Treat it as a guide, as a starting place• Let yourself follow-upThree rounds of interviews, ~8 minutes each• One interviewer, one interviewee, one observer• Each person plays each role once• Stay in the exercise!Group debrief
  35. 35. www.portigal.com35 @steveportigal discount code: PORTIGAL
  36. 36. www.portigal.com36 @steveportigalPortigal you!