The Interview

An Experience

By Brendon Hull

UX interviews, one of the best sources for data collection on a project, but also one of the most challenging.

Interview basics

UX interviews don't just involve sitting in front of a user and asking them a set of surface - level questions while making notes. First of all you need to find the right interview subjects based on personas agreed upon by stakeholders as well as the whole design team.

UX interviews are useful when you want to explore users' general attitudes or how they think about a problem. They are also great for asking about detailed accounts concerning frustrating experiences with a task performed on a website or app.

We find it important to combine observation with interview questions. Usaully only asking people how they perform a task, delivers an 'perfect world' workflow without the real world problems and twists. Observing how people really perform a task along with asking them about the problems they have faced helps us design for the way people actually do stuff.

Best practises

Before starting the interview, it's essential the we communicate a few points to the interviewee.

Blog post Image

Image source:   Picjumbo

  •   The length of the interview (usually between half and hour and an hour)
  •   What questions and activities to expect. Tell them upfront that you'll be asking them to take them through a task online.
  •   All of their answers are confidential. Only the design team and stakeholders will have access to them.
  •   Let them know that you'll be recording the interview or that a co-worker will be sitting in on the interview to take notes. The interview has to feel natural, you can't listen effectively to the interviewee while also taking notes yourself.

Once the interview has begun it's essential to remember a few key points.

  •   Memorize the questions. The questions you prepare should only be used as conversation starters, further more in depth questions will pop into your mind as the interview progresses. The whole process should be organic.
  •   To get the best answers, you need to ask questions that can't be answered by a yes or no answer. These are know as open-ended questions. 'Where do you go to do that?' is way more effective than 'Do you go there?'
  •   Never interupt the interviewee, pause as often and for as long as possible after asking aquestion. It might feel uncomfortable, but silences make people want to add to their answer. Especially if they feel expanding on an answer will it more understandable to the interviewer.
  •   Don't keep your questions to yourself. The last thing an interviewee needs is an ego. Even if you think you know everything about the system or website you're studying, pretend you don't, get the user to make them think they are teaching you something new.

Conclusion

Once the interview is over it's essential that you consolidate all notes and discuss the interview with your team. This helps see where you went wrong and how you can improve your next interview. Analysing recordings should be done as soon as possible too, preferably by one of your colleagues who wasn't present during the interview.

If you're about to perform your first set of interviews, good luck and remember - It takes a lot of practise, listening to your own voice (it sucks, we know) and shining a massive spotlight on your faults and insecurities. The more you put yourself out there, the better you'll get.

Brendon Hull

Brendon's love for user experience was born back in the day sitting in front of a boxy Phillips TV set blasting 8-bit aliens away with grubby paws covered in Monster Munch dust (Yes, he's that old). The simple, flat interfaces of these early TV games created an obsession with simple, colourful design and one dimensional women (until he met his fiance, love you my 3D lady!)