Have you ever wondered why some researchers are able to collect more incisive and robust qualitative data from their interviewees than others? The art of conducting an effective user interview is both an art, as well as a science. On one hand, there are proven strategies such as those from Interaction Design Foundation. On the other hand, we sometimes witness uncomfortable and awkward silences when reviewing collected video records. The fact is, conducting an effective user interview is not hard, if you can practice these few tips before and during the day of the interview.

Tip 1. Call your respondents and do a quick screening prior to the interview

Before an interview, one practice that we have internally at Techsumption is to always call a potential respondent prior to the day of the interview and to assess if they will be suitable for the interview. There are some points that we look out for:

  • Can the respondent articulate effectively? They do not have to speak like Tony Robbins but must be able to communicate their ideas sufficiently fluently.
  • Is the respondent open or evasive? It is hard to get insightful results from someone who is guarded and unwilling to share transparently and openly.
  • Is the respondent legitimate? Sometimes, respondents can misrepresent themselves to get the incentives for a study and it is the role of interviewers to validate who are the legitimate respondents, especially when qualitative user interviews usually have a lot fewer data points than a panel study and one bad data point can affect the whole study quite a bit

Tip 2. Put the interviewee in a comfortable and open environment

It is extremely important to put interviewees in a comfortable and open environment when they are either waiting or/and doing the interview. We have heard anecdotes about how metal chairs without backrest have been provided in some studies. Imagine you were the respondent doing the study for an hour or more. How willing and eager will you be sharing while experiencing a stiff neck? People need to be in a state of comfort to share and a little consideration goes a long way.

Tip 3. Ask open-ended questions

When carrying out a survey, you want to hear as much as possible from the respondent. You do not ever direct the respondent to answer in a certain way. Asking directed questions can negatively impact the responses. For example, asking a question such as “how do you feel about this car?” versus “do you feel like buying this car?” is different. One seeks a conscious and accurate feeling of the person at the specific time while the other induces a response subconsciously. You can frame a question, but never ask directing questions. Some examples of good questions are:

  • What do you think about…? to define actions taken
  • How often do you do…? to investigate frequency
  • How do you feel about…? to explore emotional responses
  • When do you…? to ask about frequency
  • Why do you…? to ask about motivations

Tip 4. Build trust and rapport

Trust and rapport are crucial for a successful interview. The key to building trust and rapport is empathy. Empathy is the ability to not just relate to the person, but to feel his or her perspectives when the respondent is sharing his thoughts and opinions. This is the most crucial building block for a successful user interview. Without the ability to empathize with the user’s opinions and feelings, it is hard to ask follow on open-ended or clarification questions.

We hope that this article helps you in planning a successful user interview. If you are planning to launch a product or investigate a problem and would like additional assistance, do reach out to us here and our team of experts will get back to you shortly.