Interviews get you deep into the emotional experiences of a user. They focus more on feelings than actions, and allow the interviewee to express their inner thoughts while using your products. Interviews are an invaluable tool for understanding and empathizing with your users.
Interviews are one-on-one conversations between researchers and subjects. They uncover qualitative (how are you feeling) rather than quantitative information. That makes them great for getting at user attitudes and emotions.
Interviews are used to dig deeper into an individual experience or viewpoint. They produce rich qualitative information that you couldn’t get in a survey, and allow you to go deeper into emotions and experiences than you’d be able to while merely observing someone’s behavior.
That makes them an ideal tool for asking follow-up questions during design ethnographies, and for empathizing with your user base.
Product designers sometimes forget how important it is to know the qualitative data as well as the quantitative. Interviews allow the designer to understand why a person did something.
Google Analytics is an excellent tool for gathering quantitative data. It will show you how many people came to your website, and how many left after a few seconds. But Google Analytics can’t tell you why they left. And if you don’t know why, you can’t fix the problem.
Without asking users why they did something, you’re likely to come to the wrong assumptions about why users are bouncing off the home page. You might think it’s because they don’t like the colors, or the banner ad is too prominent and assume a full redesign is required.
But it could be something entirely different; users could be confused about the purpose of the site so the copywriting needs work. Or it might not be mobile friendly, so a mobile redesign is required. Or it may turn out they were looking for an architect for their house, not for a website and advertising is to blame.
Without the qualitative information, the product designer only knows something went wrong — but not what, or how to fix it.
Prepare a list of questions in advance
Know what you’re trying to find out. Think carefully about what you need to know, then write a list of questions in advance. Don’t read the questions off the paper during the interview. Just use it as a prompt to keep you on track.
Try to make the interview feel like a conversation so your subject gets more comfortable and is willing to speak openly.
Don’t ask leading questions
Be sure to ask open-ended questions if you want honest answers. Subjects tend to tell you what they think you want to hear.
Ask: “What do you like to do on weekends?”
Not: “Do you like to exercise or go to movies on the weekends?”
Ask them to describe, rather than fill in the blanks.
When you ask someone to describe what they do, they’re more likely to give you detailed and authentic answers.
Ask: “Describe a perfect weekend.”
Not: “Would a perfect weekend include going out to dinner or hanging by the pool?”
Avoid pointing out specific issues.
Be careful you don’t influence your interviewee with your own biases. Subjects will more likely agree with you, whether or not they really do agree. Or, if you hit a nerve, they’ll stop talking all together.
Better to keep your opinions to yourself. Remember, the goal is to hear about their ideas and experiences not to express your own.