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User Interviews Vs User Testing

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The Optimal Sample Size

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When conducting user interviews, the optimal sample size is typically five participants. The more users you interview, the less new information youll learn. Additional users will just say the same things.

However, there is one case in which you need to interview additional users: when your product has several distinct user groups. But, in this case, you dont need to interview five people in each group. If you have two user groups, interview three or four participants belonging to each group if three or more user groups, three participants.

Remote Research: How To Conduct Better User Interviews Online

Last but not least, your location has a huge impact on how you conduct user interviews.

With so much of the world moving to remote work, its most likely that youll be conducting user interviews online. And while all of the tactics and best practices weve covered can be applied to remote user interviews, there are a few more remote-only ones you should know.

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  • Make sure your video is on and youre prepared when the interview starts. You want to create a comfortable space for the user from the second they join. For example, you can invite them to a Planio project and use Planio Meet for the interviews. Being already prepared is a good place to start.
  • Send your subject a pre-interview checklist. This is as simple as confirming the date and time and making sure any software is installed that theyll need to perform specific tasks.
  • Test your connection and have a back-up plan for if it drops out. Keep your phone ready to hotspot if your wi-fi connection becomes unstable.
  • Mute your notetaker after introductions to reduce distractions. The less background noise, the better.
  • Practice transitioning the conversation using your words only. Theres a chance your subject wont want video turned on . Think through how youll transsition, show youre listening, and guide the overall interview if you cant use non-verbal cues.
  • Maintain the silence. Allow the interviewee space and time to answer. Keep quiet until youre ready to move on.
  • Questions For Gathering User Behavior:

    • What are the most important tasks you or other people need to perform in using ?
    • How would you describe your past and current experience with ?
    • How often do you use or see yourself using ?
    • How do you normally get to ?
    • If answer is direct URL ask Do you use a bookmark for this?
    • If answer is web searching ask What terms do you typical search for?
    • If answer is a link on another site ask What sites?
    • If answer is a bookmarked link ask Do you remember how you first obtained the URL?
  • What devices do you typically use when visiting ?
  • Do you or did you in the past use other websites and resources for the same purpose as ?
  • Is there anything you or your users often look for on that is missing or hard to find?
  • Is there any way isn’t supporting your needs currently?
  • If you had a question regarding do you know who to contact?
  • If yes how do you know?
  • If no how would you go about contacting someone?
  • Recommended Reading: How To Write A Thank You Email Interview

    Set A Goal For The Interview

    Ask product stakeholders what they want to learn. From their desires, determine the main goal, ensuring that its realistic. Too broad of a goal, like learn about users, is a likely to make interviews fail, because it will not focus your questions in a direction relevant to your design needs. A concise, concrete goal related to a specific aspect of the users behavior or attitudes can bring the team to consensus, and direct how youll construct the interview.

    Examples of good interview goals:

    How do nurses feel about logging medical data, and what are the processes they believe they use?

    Learn how architects share CAD drawings with engineers, and where they feel there are challenges and opportunities.

    Find out how bicycle couriers get the best route directions, and what they feel works well, where they think there are issues, and how they think things could be improved.

    Where Do You Conduct A User Interview

    User Testing and Usability Testing User Testing is testing users

    The environment of the interview room can set the tone for the rest of the interview. If you were being interviewed, youd like to be in a comfortable, warm, and inviting environment that is semi-formal in appearance where you can relax.

    Whether the interview is in your office, in a rented space, in the users own environment, or in public, choosing the right environment can help you have a good user interview. Here are some considerations to remember when choosing your location:

    Is the space comfortable?

    Is there access to a toilet and heating? Can you spend an hour sitting comfortably? Can you provide a glass of water or tea as a refreshment?

    Is the location convenient for your target users?

    If your user is vulnerable or unable to commute to the interview location easily, this will delay the interview process and may prevent you from getting the information you need from your target audience.

    Is the location a brand-neutral zone?

    If your location shows favouritism to a particular brand or company, it can unconsciously bias the interviewee, who may feel more inclined to favour the brand in their answers also.

    If users are remotely being interviewed, consider whether technology would be a challenge for them and what the best communication method is for carrying out the interview.

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    Make The User Feel As Comfortable As Possible Create A Rapport With The User

    People are more likely to remember, talk, and let their guard down if they feel relaxed and trust the interviewer and the process. Here are some tips for an effective interview.

  • Have a video call or phone call with the user before the interview itself.
  • Before the interview day, and also at the start of the actual interview, explain the reason for the interview, and how the data from it will be used.
  • Make the user feel heard by taking notes, nodding, frequent eye contact, offering acknowledgments like I see, and repeating the words the user said.
  • Let users finish their thoughts. Do not interrupt them.
  • Dont rush the user. Pause. Slow down your pace of speech. Talking slowly has a calming effect and indicates that you are not anxious and that you have time to listen.
  • Start with questions that are easy to answer and that are unlikely to be interpreted as personal or judgmental. For example, instead of What was the last book you read? try What do you like to do in your spare time? The latter is open-ended, while the former assumes the user read a book recently those who did not may feel stupid.
  • Be authentic, and dont fake empathy. Acting can make you appear disingenuous. It is better to be yourself dont say something if you dont genuinely feel it.
  • Why Do We Use User Interviews In Ux Research

    Conducting user interviews helps us understand what a user thinks of an app, a process, or a website. User interviews can tell us what a user finds convenient and difficult about a product or service. Since these interviews take place as one-on-one sessions, individual concerns and frustrations can be analyzed easily.

    A user interview can be done in the following situations:

    • Based on a context : Observing the user while they actually use a product.
    • At the end of a usability test: To collect verbal responses following the observed behaviors.

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    Avoid Leading Closed Or Vague Questions

    Ideally, your questions should elicit rich, unbiased answers from the interviewee.

    • Leading questions prime the user by inadvertently suggesting a response. For example, a question like Why do you enjoy using the Acme product so much? suggests that the user uses the product and enjoys using it. A better question might be Why do you use the Acme product?
    • Closed questions elicit yes or no answers. For example, if an interviewer asks, So, you use the Acme product each morning? then the participant could sincerely respond with just a, yes, and not elaborate. A better question might be Can you tell me about how you use Acme?

    A caveat: while closed questions are less likely to elicit wordy answers, they are easier for users than open-ended questions. Sometimes, you can precede an open-ended question with a closed one to ease the user into a topic or protect users from feeling stupid when they dont remember an event.

    For example:

    • Do you remember when that happened?

    Vague, ambiguous questions are difficult to understand and often confuse participants. They can also make people feel uncomfortable or guilty for not understanding what you mean. To figure out if a question is too vague, consider informally testing it with random people to see if they understand what you mean.

    How To Run A User Interview

    When to Use Which UX Research Method

    Good notetaking is one of the most important parts of a user interview, but its also something thats really easy to get wrong.

    Reframer is a qualitative research tool weve developed to simplify the process of capturing notes from your interviews. It allows you or anyone else in your team to capture observations and keep all your notes in one place. By using tags such as positive or confused to later filter your data, you can quickly analyze your findings with ease. Reframer makes it easier to find the insights youre looking for.

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    The Role Of The Interviewer

    The success of in-depth interviews very much depends on the competencies of the interviewer. According to“Conducting an in-depth interview” by the University of Florida, such a person should have the following characteristics:

    • Open-mindedness

    • Advanced attentiveness the ability to summarize, paraphrase and reflect back to the user

    A perfect candidate for an interviewer is a highly empathetic person with strong soft skills. The right person for that job ensures the participant feels comfortable during the interview whilst collecting all relevant feedback and avoiding any data loss. These are uncommon skills.

    Without them, an interviewer may jeopardize the interview process, in which case the involvement of an external specialist may prove the superior option.

    At Startup Development House, we turn ideas into real-life products. As part of the process of user and usability testing, we conduct a series of tailor-made in-depth interviews. We believe that this is an ideal way of gaining honest, insightful feedback.

    Our experience proves that properly organized, in-depth interviews have the power to truly validate a business concept, challenge and test it with user experience, and ultimately increase its chances of market success.

    Do you have an idea for an application or other digital product? Contact us and together we’ll explore its users’ genuine perspectives.

    When To Conduct A User Interview

    Through user interviews are helpful during any phase of the product development process, they are particularly helpful during the following three stages:

  • During the beginning phase: To know about the wants and needs of the potential users.
  • During the early phases: Conducting interviews with an early model will help get valuable feedback from the users.
  • After shipping: Contextual interviews could be conducted during this stage to know about the users interaction with the product.
  • Also Check: How To Get Better At Job Interviews

    Create A Topline Report

    A topline report is a conclusion to fieldwork, its first deliverable. Suggested by Steve Portigal in Interviewing Users, this high-level document keeps your early impressions, notes, interesting patterns, and correlations. Its created as if, after each interview, you sat at your desk and dumped all your thoughts onto a piece of paper.

    A topline report doesnt contain any data yet. You start with reviewing recordings, transcripts, videos, screenshots, or any other documents. As you start to notice patterns and identify interesting areas, you may write them down. You can also make bold assumptions about users even if you dont currently have data to prove them.

    Then, you present these observations to your team. Its important to tell your colleagues that these are just surface findings and they shouldnt rush for implementation. Upon reviewing the report, team members are encouraged to lead conversations and formulate a vision of a user before the next step.

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    Begin by introducing yourself. Briefly explain the reason for the interview and how long you expect it to takeâyour interviewee may already know all of this from your prior communications, but always recap on the day itself.

    Make the participant feel comfortable. Create a rapport, assure them that there are no right or wrong answers, and get them warmed up with some get-to-know-you small talk. Remember, this is about establishing trust, not becoming BFFsâfocus on making sure they feel safe and seen.

    Talk slowly. Pause. Ask them if they have any questions of their own before you begin.

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    The Course Of The Ux Test Or User Interview

    For an individual face-to-face user interview, it is recommended not to exceed one hour. Beyond that, your user will start to lose concentration and his feedback will therefore be less relevant.

    For the same reasons as those mentioned above for recruitment, it is very important for the person who conducts the UX interviews and tests to be external to the project.

    Indeed, if you know the prototype or the tested website, you will, even unconsciously, give indications and bias the user feedback. Example: “Did you understand that the button on the right is used to do this?” .

    Ideally, there are professional facilitators, also called moderators. It is also possible to have an additional person to take notes.

    Apart from these two people and the user, it is important that there are no other speakers or even spectators present in the room. Rooms with one-way glass exist to allow other attendees without distracting the participant.

    The user should feel comfortable and free to speak, if they feel watched, they may either speak less or not truly say what they think. This is even more true if the people present are linked to the tested project.

    Write Questions That Are Direct Open

    Your guide gives you a structure, but questions are the core of any user interview. However, not all questions elicit the same depth of insight.

    Starting with easy questions that only require short, personal answers is a great way to build rapport. But once you get into the real meat of the interview, youll want to use some journalistic best practices. This means asking questions that are:

    • Direct: Dont bury or hide what youre after. Be direct about the question and then leave space for them to think about their response. Being direct also means keeping the question in the present. Dont ask about hypothetical future releases as most people have no idea what theyll do in the future.
    • Open-ended: Ask questions that start with How or Why instead of Which or Would you do X? This tells people youre looking for something beyond a short yes or no answer.
    • Short: Keep your questions short and to-the-point. Dont include extra information that might confuse or lead them to try to guess what you want to hear.

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    Tip: Do a practice run to hear your questions out loud. This will show you if your questions make sense or if youre tripping over your words as you try to get them out.

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    Probing In User Interviews

    Summary: Follow-up questions in user interviews gather more detailed information from participants than they provided in their initial answers to our planned questions. This video provides examples of two main forms of probing questions.

    3 minute video

    Despite many weaknesses, interviews are a valuable method for exploratory user research.

    Video Author

    is a User Experience Specialist with Nielsen Norman Group. She plans and executes independent research for NN/g and leads UX training courses. Her strength in various research methodologies enables Maria to derive in-depth insight and guide clients as they improve the UX of products and services.

    Start With The Easy General Questions

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    Start with questions that are easy to answer and contain no judgements or assumptions. Work toward more specific questions gradually, and save deeper probing about personal details and behaviors for later in the interview, once the participant has started to open up and feel at ease.

    For instance, if you are interviewing public school teachers who have to purchase classroom supplies with their own money, you might work toward the specifics by asking them:

  • Tell me about [town/city in which they teach.
  • Can you describe your school for me?
  • What does your classroom look like?
  • Can you tell me about the decorations in your classroom? Where did those come from?
  • What about supplies like pencils, markets, craft paper?
  • For the items that you purchased, with your own funds, what made you decide to buy those items in particular?
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    Prep Your Discussion Guide

    User interviews should stick to a semi-structured interview style. This means hitting a sweet spot between reading questions from a list and having an unstructured conversation.

    Free your time from busy work and get organized.

    Following a semi-structured style isnt easy, however. Thats where a discussion guide becomes your ultimate tool. Think of a discussion guide as a user interview template. It lists your objectives, specific questions, and which topics you want to discuss in a way that flows naturally.

    The key is that you dont have to ask every question on your guide. Think of it more as a set of guardrails to keep the interview from getting off track.

    A typical user interview discussion guide consists of two types of questions:

    1. General: These are the broader questions you ask at the beginning of the interview to set the stage and understand your users experiences and motivation.

    For example:

    • Tell me a bit about your work and your role at the company
    • What are some of the apps and tools you use on a daily basis?

    2. Product-specific questions: These are the more targeted questions about user behaviors, desires, and pain points.

    For example:

    • Whats the hardest thing about using this product?
    • What type of workarounds have you developed to deal with this?
    • Was there anything missing from this product that you were expecting?

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    For example:

  • Assumption: Users want more ways to customize their dashboard
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