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You are the best user
researcher ever
Tips and tricks for teams new to conducting interviews
Talisa Chang | @talisa
Real interviews aren’t as simple as asking a
question, getting an answer, and moving on to
the next question on your list....
Formulating useful questions
Formulate
Avoid leading questions
X Would you say ellipticals are better than treadmills?
X Do you like to use felt tip pe...
Formulate
Avoid leading questions
X Would you say ellipticals are better than treadmills?
→ What type of exercise gives yo...
Get some context
X So as a designer, you use photoshop a lot, right?
Get some context
X So as a designer, you use photoshop a lot, right?
→ What do you do for a living?
→ How long have you be...
Probe behavior, not intention
X How many times do you plan to go to the gym?
X What type of features do you want in an act...
Probe behavior, not intention
X How many times do you plan to go to the gym?
→ Describe the gym schedules you’ve had in th...
Focus on specific instances
X How do you usually...?
Focus on specific instances
X How do you usually...?
→ Walk me through the last time you…
→ What were the steps you took t...
Avoid compound questions
X When you’re cooking, do you use a food processor, or a hand
mixer, or like, a Vitamix, or…?
Avoid compound questions
X When you’re cooking, do you use a food processor, or a hand
mixer, or like, a Vitamix, or…?
→ W...
Ask for comparisons
→ Do your co-workers also do it that way?
→ How are things different than they were last year?
→ What’...
Force them to prioritize (as a means for getting to WHY)
→ Based on the 2 experiences I just showed you, which would you c...
Create a scenario
→ If you had to explain to a 5-year old how to use this remote control, what
would you say?
→ Let’s say ...
Conducting the interview
Team Roles
● One moderator
● One note taker
● One observer/photo-taker
If in-person: maximum 3 people in
the room
If remot...
Make them
comfortable
● Offer water, a snack, etc
● Thank them for their time
● A little small talk to break the ice
● Get...
Set the stage
Why are they here?
● Give some context: “We here to learn
about you and people like you as it
relates to XYZ...
Tone matters
● In person: use active listener body
language, smile, keep it casual but
professional
● Over the phone is ev...
A conversation
that isn’t
Put your researcher hat on
● Should feel like a conversation to them
(don’t be a question robot!...
Silence is
golden
…
● Pause after you say something
● Pause after they say something
● Let silences hang and make them fil...
Be confident
You are the best researcher
ever
● Trust the question!
● Don’t trail off
● You can be open-ended and direct a...
Clarify
Because you can’t ask a
recording later
● Repeat (just be careful about putting
words in their mouth)
● “What do y...
A note on
paraphrasing
The gateway to leading
Paraphrasing can seem like a helpful way to clarify, but
you run the risk of...
Probe
The only questions you need for
a great interview
● So do you mean…
● What do you mean by “thing
they said”?
● Tell ...
Beware of the query
effect
People can make up an opinion about anything, and they’ll do so if
asked. Users can comment at ...
On hitting the
key topics and
features
Because sometimes you gotta.
● Keep a list of your “must have” topics or features
h...
“Would you use
this?”
Other ways to get at the burning
questions about your designs
and prototypes
● Why is it “cool”?
● H...
Wrap-up
You made it!
● Final Q: “Based on all the things we
talked about/you’ve seen today, what
are you most excited abou...
Debrief
immediately
While it’s fresh!
● Right after each session
● Collect and summarize major high and
low points
● Ident...
A note on being
notetaker
You’re just as important as the
moderator
● Be present (get off email)
● Take notes, including r...
Resources & h/ts
Liz Danzico, @Bobulate
Steve Portigal, @StevePortigal
General Assembly, @GA
Want more tips on how to interview users?
View the slideshareView the slideshare
Talisa Chang is an interdisciplinary
product and UX consultant who
specializes in helping teams learn
before they build.
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You are the best user researcher ever

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On the ground tips and tricks for teams new to conducting user interviews, including: formulating useful questions, how to clarify and probe, and getting to your burning questions (without leading).

Published in: Design

You are the best user researcher ever

  1. 1. You are the best user researcher ever Tips and tricks for teams new to conducting interviews Talisa Chang | @talisa
  2. 2. Real interviews aren’t as simple as asking a question, getting an answer, and moving on to the next question on your list. You need a range of tools and techniques. And you need to feel when you haven’t gotten the answer yet so you can keep going. – Steve Portigal
  3. 3. Formulating useful questions
  4. 4. Formulate Avoid leading questions X Would you say ellipticals are better than treadmills? X Do you like to use felt tip pens?
  5. 5. Formulate Avoid leading questions X Would you say ellipticals are better than treadmills? → What type of exercise gives you the best workout? X Do you like to use felt tip pens? → What types of tools do you use to draw?
  6. 6. Get some context X So as a designer, you use photoshop a lot, right?
  7. 7. Get some context X So as a designer, you use photoshop a lot, right? → What do you do for a living? → How long have you been doing x? → In your survey you mentioned you work at Company X. Tell me about that.
  8. 8. Probe behavior, not intention X How many times do you plan to go to the gym? X What type of features do you want in an activity tracker?
  9. 9. Probe behavior, not intention X How many times do you plan to go to the gym? → Describe the gym schedules you’ve had in the past → How many times have you been to the gym in the last 3 months? → How many times have you been to the gym in the last two weeks? X What type of features do you want in an activity tracker? → Walk me through a time you had a positive experience doing… → Walk me through a time you had a negative experience doing...
  10. 10. Focus on specific instances X How do you usually...?
  11. 11. Focus on specific instances X How do you usually...? → Walk me through the last time you… → What were the steps you took to…and then what did you do? → Take me through your day yesterday… → Show me how you (when screen sharing) … → Can you give me an example? (After they mention something)
  12. 12. Avoid compound questions X When you’re cooking, do you use a food processor, or a hand mixer, or like, a Vitamix, or…?
  13. 13. Avoid compound questions X When you’re cooking, do you use a food processor, or a hand mixer, or like, a Vitamix, or…? → What kitchen item do you use the most? → List all of the equipment you used to make dinner last night
  14. 14. Ask for comparisons → Do your co-workers also do it that way? → How are things different than they were last year? → What’s the difference between receiving that info via text versus an email? Ask for quantity → How many times did that happen last week? → How many projects fall into that category?
  15. 15. Force them to prioritize (as a means for getting to WHY) → Based on the 2 experiences I just showed you, which would you choose? … WHY? → On a scale of 1-10, how easy was it to complete this task? (ask for each) … WHY?
  16. 16. Create a scenario → If you had to explain to a 5-year old how to use this remote control, what would you say? → Let’s say I just arrived here from another country. How would you describe a typical American breakfast?
  17. 17. Conducting the interview
  18. 18. Team Roles ● One moderator ● One note taker ● One observer/photo-taker If in-person: maximum 3 people in the room If remote: as many observers and note takers as possible!
  19. 19. Make them comfortable ● Offer water, a snack, etc ● Thank them for their time ● A little small talk to break the ice ● Get permission to record (and explain how you’ll use it) ● Let them know if others are listening in ● Re-mention the NDA ● Remind them it’ll be fun! Be a good host
  20. 20. Set the stage Why are they here? ● Give some context: “We here to learn about you and people like you as it relates to XYZ” ● But not too much: “We’re having problems getting customers to convert on the checkout flow” ● Let them know you didn’t design what they’re looking at (lie if necessary), so they can be honest (“you can’t hurt my feelings”)
  21. 21. Tone matters ● In person: use active listener body language, smile, keep it casual but professional ● Over the phone is even harder: don’t affirm to eagerly (“that’s interesting!”), but be careful of coming off curt or monotone (“Ok.”) ● Use transitions: “That’s very helpful. Now I want to move on to…”; “I want to switch gears a bit and talk about…” ● Listen to the recording afterwards and/or ask your peers for honest feedback for how you sounded Not too effusive, not to robot-y
  22. 22. A conversation that isn’t Put your researcher hat on ● Should feel like a conversation to them (don’t be a question robot!) BUT: ● Avoid talking about yourself, explaining the way the product should be, or saying “me too!” ● Be careful about paraphrasing their statements, finishing their sentences, or putting words in their mouth ● They shouldn’t be able to figure out exactly what you’re working on/what your assumptions are (a sign that you may be leading them)
  23. 23. Silence is golden … ● Pause after you say something ● Pause after they say something ● Let silences hang and make them fill it (they will!) ● Don’t jump to the next question ● Try not to interrupt ● Avoid affirmations/acknowledgements (they can be leading) ● “Let people speak in paragraphs” – Steve Portigal
  24. 24. Be confident You are the best researcher ever ● Trust the question! ● Don’t trail off ● You can be open-ended and direct at the same time ● It’s ok to pause, regroup, take notes (the silence isn’t as long as it feels) ● They have no idea how the interview is going
  25. 25. Clarify Because you can’t ask a recording later ● Repeat (just be careful about putting words in their mouth) ● “What do you mean by that?” ● “What did you expect to happen? ● “Why do you call it ‘the Hellmouth’?” ● “How do those departments work together?” ● “When you say “her,” who exactly are you referring to?” ● There is no such thing as an obvious answer (Always ask why!!!)
  26. 26. A note on paraphrasing The gateway to leading Paraphrasing can seem like a helpful way to clarify, but you run the risk of introducing your biases: User: “I often browse through 30 or 40 pages of results before I find what I’m looking for” Researcher: “So searching is pretty time consuming for you.” User: “Um… yeah, I guess so.” Instead, try clarifying questions like: ● “Why do you do that?” ● “How do you feel about that?” ● “How often does that happen?” ● “When you say XYZ, what do you mean by that?”
  27. 27. Probe The only questions you need for a great interview ● So do you mean… ● What do you mean by “thing they said”? ● Tell me more about that… ● Can you give an example? ● Help me understand... ● Why? ● Why? ● Why? ● Why? ● Why?
  28. 28. Beware of the query effect People can make up an opinion about anything, and they’ll do so if asked. Users can comment at great length about something that doesn’ t matter to them, and which they wouldn’t have given a second thought of if left to their own devices. It’s dangerous to make big design changes because “users didn’t like this” or “users asked for that.” If you ask leading questions or press respondents for answers, they might make up opinions that don’t reflect their real preferences in the slightest. – NNG article, Interviewing Users
  29. 29. On hitting the key topics and features Because sometimes you gotta. ● Keep a list of your “must have” topics or features handy, including related questions ● Check items off as they come up organically in the session. If the user doesn’t bring something up or notice a feature, don’t push it (see: the query effect) ● At the end of the session, check to see what hasn’t been touched on, and choose only 1 or 2 areas to ask about (and take those answers with a grain of salt!) ● Be sure to write out any questions related to your “must haves” in advance to prevent as much bias/leading as possible ● Afterwards, brainstorm better, less-leading ways you could have gotten to these topics
  30. 30. “Would you use this?” Other ways to get at the burning questions about your designs and prototypes ● Why is it “cool”? ● How is it “helpful”? ● How would this change what you do today? ● Can you give me an example? ● Going back to that time you searched for happy sloths, how would this have fit into that process? ● When wouldn’t you use this? ● Is this more helpful than X? ● If you could only have 3, would this be one of them? (Why?)
  31. 31. Wrap-up You made it! ● Final Q: “Based on all the things we talked about/you’ve seen today, what are you most excited about?” ● Thank them and express how valuable the session was ● Let them know when/how they’ll receive the incentive ● Ask them if you can follow up with further questions ● See if they know anyone else you could speak to!
  32. 32. Debrief immediately While it’s fresh! ● Right after each session ● Collect and summarize major high and low points ● Identify surprising learnings and invalidated assumptions ● Share quotes ● Flag themes to look out for ● The debrief isn’t the same as a findings report
  33. 33. A note on being notetaker You’re just as important as the moderator ● Be present (get off email) ● Take notes, including relevant quotes that strike you ● Jot down follow-up questions for the moderator to ask ● Take note of things to consider that impact your work ● Based on what you heard, write “How might we’s” to discuss with the team
  34. 34. Resources & h/ts Liz Danzico, @Bobulate Steve Portigal, @StevePortigal General Assembly, @GA
  35. 35. Want more tips on how to interview users? View the slideshareView the slideshare
  36. 36. Talisa Chang is an interdisciplinary product and UX consultant who specializes in helping teams learn before they build. Find her on Twitter, Linkedin, Medium, or her website.

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