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How to salvage a
“bad” user interview
Tips and tricks for how to get the most out of any session
Talisa Chang | @talisa
When it feels
like you’re
pulling teeth
Yes.
I don’t know.
Umm…
● Keep them confident. Remind them there
are no wrong answ...
When you’re
talking to a
people pleaser
Everything’s great!
This is awesome!
● Encourage honesty. Remind them you didn’
t ...
When they’ve
got an axe to
grind
Everything sucks.
● Let them vent. Be sure to time-box it.
● And actually listen. Tell th...
When they’re a
little spacey
Yeah… well… so, last time… that
must have been… uh… March...
my sister was in town, and...
● ...
When they’re
not your target
user
I don’t have a smartphone.
I never XYZ.
That’s someone else’s job on my
team.
● Don’t fo...
When they start
solutioning
● Ask why. Not just once! Keep asking why
until you’ve gotten to the heart of the
problem.
● G...
When you have
no idea what
they mean
● Repeat what they said verbatim and pause.
● Probe
○ “Tell me more about that”
○ “Is...
When you
have a million
follow-up
questions
● Don’t interrupt them (even if it’s tempting!)
● Jot down key phrases as they...
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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How to salvage a "bad" user interview

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You’ve formulated excellent questions, created the perfect interview guide, and practiced your pauses and ‘tell me more’s. So why does this interview feel like it’s tanking? Here’s how to course-correct when you feel like an interview is going off track.

Published in: Design
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How to salvage a "bad" user interview

  1. 1. How to salvage a “bad” user interview Tips and tricks for how to get the most out of any session Talisa Chang | @talisa
  2. 2. When it feels like you’re pulling teeth Yes. I don’t know. Umm… ● Keep them confident. Remind them there are no wrong answers and that you’re just the researcher – they can’t offend you. ● Keep it moving. Trust your questions and be assertive. Don’t mirror their uncertainty. ● Keep it concrete. Reference previous instances or examples that have already come up, or info from a screener or survey. ● Keep digging. “Tell me more. What do you mean by that?” ● Keep trying. “How would you explain this to a 5 year old?”
  3. 3. When you’re talking to a people pleaser Everything’s great! This is awesome! ● Encourage honesty. Remind them you didn’ t make it. “You won’t hurt my feelings” ● Get them back to the task at hand. If showing designs or a prototype, repeat the scenario or goal. ● Dig deeper. Ask how or why a feature is useful, when or where it would fit into their process, or how it would change a previous scenario they’ve described. ● Force them to prioritize. ○ “If you could only have one..? (why?) ○ “If this page were loading really slowly…what would be the first thing you want to see?” (why?) ○ “If you only had the budget for…” (why?)
  4. 4. When they’ve got an axe to grind Everything sucks. ● Let them vent. Be sure to time-box it. ● And actually listen. Tell them you’ll pass it the feedback along, then refocus. ● Stay neutral. Thank them, but don’t take sides either way. ● Get them back to neutral. Now that they’ve mentioned negatives, ask about a positive experience they’ve had. ● Refocus. “We value your opinion, so how about we talk about xyz.” ● Preempt. If it’s an issue that’s been coming up a lot, acknowledge briefly at the start of the interview and say it’s being addressed. ● End early if necessary.
  5. 5. When they’re a little spacey Yeah… well… so, last time… that must have been… uh… March... my sister was in town, and... ● Remind them of the overall objective (mentioned at beginning of interview) and why their opinion is so valuable. ● Instill structure. “The first of 3 scenarios I want to walk you through is…” ● Remind them the task at hand. “Remember, you’re trying to find a gift for your friend.” ● Use body language. Glance at your notes/questions, start setting up the test… ● Cut them off politely. “That’s really helpful. I want to switch gears to talk about X.” ● Reference the time: “Since we only have x minutes, there are a few more things i want to get your thoughts on…”
  6. 6. When they’re not your target user I don’t have a smartphone. I never XYZ. That’s someone else’s job on my team. ● Don’t force it. Their answers will unhelpful and even misleading. ● Make the most of it. Is there anything else you can explore that might be useful to your team, another team, a previous or upcoming sprint, etc.? ● Cut it short if you need to. Reassure them they’ll still get their incentive. Don’t make it feel like it’s their fault. ● Refer them to another team. (And do it!) ● Ask for referrals. They may know someone else who is in target.
  7. 7. When they start solutioning ● Ask why. Not just once! Keep asking why until you’ve gotten to the heart of the problem. ● Ground it in specifics. Ask when and how something like that would be useful. Ask how it would change a previous scenario you’ve discussed. ● Don’t belittle them. Encourage their thinking by probing, don’t just shut them down or tell them it’s not their job. ● Don’t take their idea verbatim, either. It’s tempting to say “users said they wanted X,” to justify building something. Make sure you’ ve dug into the why’s behind their suggestions first. You should make an app that… It would be awesome if…
  8. 8. When you have no idea what they mean ● Repeat what they said verbatim and pause. ● Probe ○ “Tell me more about that” ○ “Is there something that makes you think that?” ○ “How do you mean?” ● Clarify ○ “What do you mean by XYZ?” ○ “Who is Bob?” ??????
  9. 9. When you have a million follow-up questions ● Don’t interrupt them (even if it’s tempting!) ● Jot down key phrases as they’re speaking so you can bring them up again (verbatim if possible). ● Triage. Decide what’s most important to dig deeper into now and what can wait till the end, a follow-up email, your own google search, etc. ● Slow it down. “Just a sec. I want to make sure I captured everything you said.” ● It’s ok to jump around a bit. “A little bit earlier you mentioned XYZ. Can you tell me more about that?” Talking so fast! So many nuggets!
  10. 10. Want more tips on how to interview users? View the slideshareView the slideshare
  11. 11. 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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