User Interviews: How to Gather Meaningful Insights With User Testing
User interviews have a few key purposes: to gather demographic information, to test user experience, and to test usability. No matter what your goals are, user interviews are quick, easy, and produce valuable customer insights.
You can conduct user interviews at several stages of the product development process. First, you can interview users prior to designing your product to gain an understanding of user needs and come up with ideas to solve user problems.
User interviews also assist in the early stages of development to examine user perceptions of your early designs and product features. And finally, you can conduct user interviews after usability testing to gauge responses and reactions to your product and how it works.
The benefits of interviewing users are clear, but you'll only be able to reap these benefits if you get your interview strategy right. A bad user interview can lead you off-course with information that won’t benefit your target users.
So, let’s take a look at how to conduct user interviews the right way.
User Interviews vs. Focus Groups
The first step of user testing is to figure out which testing method is most suitable to your product and target audience. People often ask questions regarding the nature of user interviews and focus groups. Which is better and why?
Focus groups are beneficial for exploring broad topics. Groups are also a good choice if you wish to spark ideas or debate. Yet, user interviews are the superior choice when you hope to gain in-depth responses that aren’t influenced by the opinions of others.
Furthermore, user interviews are better for testing the usability of a product as you can take a more granular approach. One-on-one interviews allow you to go into detail about specific design elements and ease of use. Solo users tend to give more thorough explanations of their experiences.
User interviews are also easier to conduct from a logistical perspective. Scheduling is more flexible. Plus, the user doesn't have to travel if you opt for an unmoderated user interview.
Now that you know why you should conduct user interviews, let’s move on to how to get started.
Define a Goal for Your User Interviews
The first thing to remember when conducting user interviews is that you’re not just chatting to your Aunt Sally — this is an important conversation.
According to user research expert Steve Portigal, “Great interviewers leverage their natural style of interacting with people but make deliberate, specific choices about what to say, when to say it, how to say it, and when to say nothing. Doing this well is hard and takes years of practice.”
What we’re trying to say is that making sure you get the most out of interviews isn’t easy. However, thorough preparation takes away some of this difficulty.
Start by consulting with the right people to see what they hope to achieve through user interviews. This might include stakeholders and members of your design team, for example.
When defining your goal, make sure it’s specific. Let’s say you’re conducting a pre-design interview. The goal “to learn about our target market” is too broad.
Your interview goal should mention target users specifically and refer to their thoughts and behaviours. For instance, your goal could be, “Find out which platforms millennials use for online shopping and which aspects of the journey they think could be improved.”
Once you have a statement like this, you can start creating questions that will help you acquire the information you’re looking for. This brings us to the next step.
Come Up With Great Interview Questions
Your interview questions will determine the amount of useful information you get from users. Thus, you should put a lot of effort and careful consideration into coming up with meaningful interview questions.
You need to create a discussion guide, the direction of which should be closely tied to your overarching goal.
But remember your discussion guide doesn’t always have to be a strict script that you stick to. And the way you interview users will differ depending on which stage of the design process you're working on.
Moderated user interviews are best when you wish to learn about your target users prior to creating your first prototype. In this case, you should start with simple questions about the user and their experiences. An example question would be, “What products do you use on a regular basis?”
Then you can move on to questions that are more specific to the user’s experiences and needs.
The purpose is to gather insights that will help you create a better solution and better user experience than others provide. So you might ask, “How did you feel the last time you used (platform/app/service/website)?”
If you hope to interview users after they complete usability tests, then unmoderated user testing is the better option.
Unmoderated testing allows you to ask users questions about their experiences at scale, even early on in the development process. Many companies use a user testing platform like Teston to gather feedback during the prototyping phase.
You should follow up on usability tests with interview questions that relate to the tasks users completed. And you should include open-ended questions about their overall experience with your product.
Naturally, the goal is to improve usability in the next iteration of your product. After a usability test, you might ask questions like, “What can we do to make (task) easier?” or “Were there any frustrations when trying to complete (task)?”
All in all, well thought out questions lead to more valuable responses.
Best Practices for User Interviews
Veronica Cámara at UX Planet sums up the nature of user interviews perfectly. She writes, “Asking questions is easy. Gathering meaningful insights is not.” But you can learn from the work of experienced user researchers. So, we’d like to share with you Teston’s three best practices for conducting user interviews.
1. Avoid Leading Questions
At Teston, we value quality, unbiased responses in user research. Questions that lead the user in a certain direction will result in biased responses. For instance, if you ask “How much did you enjoy using this product?”, you’re making the assumption that the user did, in fact, enjoy using the product. It would be better to ask an open-ended question like, “How did you feel while using this product?”
2. Keep Your Discussion Guide Flexible
You may discover insights that lead to follow-up questions you hadn't previously thought of. Or you may find the way you've phrased your questions doesn’t illicit a deep enough response.
3. Create a Structured Report
Interviewing users is a qualitative UX research method. You’re dealing with opinions and attitudes as opposed to numbers. This means there’s a lot of information for you to collate after user interviews.
A structured approach to reports and analysis will help. For example, you could divide your questions or group questions into categories to organise your results. If you just want to share a quick finding with your team, the Teston platform allows you to send links to user recordings with timestamps.
Get the Most From Your User Interviews
User interviews can be informative at multiple stages of the product development process. You just need to make sure your interview technique is effective if you hope to get the most from interviewing your target audience.
It starts with establishing the main goal of your user interviews. Then you can formulate thoughtful questions to gain valuable responses. Make sure you ask the right kind of questions, dependent on the goal and stage of development.
Avoid leading and closed questions to get the best results, and don’t forget to be open to improving your user interviews as you go along. As you can see, there are tonnes of ways to ensure you gather meaningful insights from user research.