User Interview Tips for Non-UX Designers

Laura Sweltz, Director of UX Research and Strategic Initiatives

Article Categories: #Design & Content, #Research

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Talking to users is an important part of the design process because it provides us with the opportunity to gain insight and validate our ideas.  If we have a solid understanding of what users need to achieve and the challenges they face, we can make better design decisions and craft stronger solutions.

Sometimes it is necessary for other team members, such as a project manager, to jump in and help conduct an interview.  For individuals that don’t have experience conducting interviews with users, this can feel like a daunting task.

By keeping a few key points in mind, however, you can conduct an interview that will lead to insightful results.

Make it feel natural.  

Getting interviewed can be an awkward experience.  Users often feel uncomfortable, or like they are being grilled.  The more relaxed and comfortable they feel, the more likely it is that they will provide beneficial feedback. Try to make them feel at ease by using natural, conversational language.

Don’t influence the user.  

Be conscious of how you frame your questions and think ahead about how you will phrase them.  The words you choose to form your question could influence the user’s answer, so be on the lookout for unintentional bias.

Focus on challenges and goals.  

Ask questions that help you get to the root of the problems that users are trying to solve or that help you gain an understanding of what users are trying to accomplish.  This will arm the design team with the information they need to find the right solutions.

Ask open-ended questions.  

Don’t ask questions that the user can easily answer with “yes” or “no”.  Asking questions that will require them to give an in-depth answer will provide much more insight.

Probe for additional information.  

One of the main benefits of conducting interviews as opposed to sending out a survey is the ability to ask follow-up questions. Make sure that you take advantage of that opportunity and probe the user for additional information.

If you follow these tips, you’ll be able to conduct a worthwhile user interview.  One way to become more comfortable is to practice these tips while interviewing your friends or co-workers before conducting a real user interview.

For more in-depth information on conducting user interviews, please see the following presentations:

Laura Sweltz

Laura is Viget's Director of UX Research and Strategic Initiatives. She works from our Durham, NC office, where she helps clients like Rotary International, AARP, and Time Life understand the needs and behaviors of their users.

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