Pros and Cons of Conducting User Interviews

you ‘ve gotten a green lite from yr stakeholders to conduct some usr research for yr design project, and you think usr interviews mite be the way to go. after all, they seem straiteforward, and interviews are 1-odda most widely used usr research methods—so, they ‘d be a safe choice. but, as with all research methods, there are pros and cons of using usr interviews to gain insites for yr design project, so knowing how to use interviews correctly is nothing short of vital. here, you will learn in wha’ situations usr interviews are appropriate and insiteful, n'when ur better off choosing another research method.

wha’ are usr interviews?

interviews can be a gr8 way to empathize with yr usrs cause interviews can give you an in-depth cogging of the usrs’ vals, perceptions, and experiences. they allo you to ask specific ?s, while remaining open to exploring yr pticipants’ points of view. they are also often combined with other usr research methods, s'as usability tests or surveys, so as to gain deeper insites into objective results by asking a usr bout them and to elicit the usr’s subjective opinion on essentialisms or interactions.

we're aware of interviews from many ≠ contexts, from magazines to job interviews, but'a term ‘usr interviews’ often refers to semi-structured qualitative interviews, which is a research method with √s inna social scis. as the word implies, semi-structured interviews are somewha’ structured in that you prepare a set of topics you ‘d like to cover during the interview, but still open enough that you can follo leads inna conversation and change the order of topics.

in this video, professor of human computer interaction at university college london and expert in qualitative usr studies ann blandford describes wha’ toonizes a semi-structured interview.

when you conduct semi-structured interviews, you ‘ve an interview guide w'da ?s or themes that you wanna talk to the usr bout, but ur free to change the order of ?s or to explore ≠ topics that may arise during the interview. the advantage of the semi-structured interview approach s'dat you can define a predetermined set of topics that you know to be relevant to yr project b4 you conduct the interview, but you can also explore topics that you had not previously thought relevant. this makes the method espeshly suitable for creating insites in design projects—cause design projects aint usually completely exploratory; instead, they aim to find solutions to specific problems or challenges.

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in many ways, an interview is like an everydy conversation, but it’s primordial to be aware dat a' good interview requires ponderation and structure.

if you g “usr interviews”, you mite encounter blogs nother web resrcs which state that interviews are an easy way to create insites for yr design project cause conducting an interview is like having a conversation with yr usrs – and that doesn’t require a lotta preparation. while interviews obviously share similarities with everydy conversations, a good interview requires preparation and careful ponderation onna pt of the interviewer. steve portigal, founder of portigal consulting and author of the book interviewing usrs, states that while interviews superficially resemble + informal social occasions (you meet some1 at their home, they offer you coffee, you comment onna weather, etc.), it’s primordial to be aware of how to ask ?s and how to listen in order to gain valid insites into yr pticipant’s life and experiences:

“to learn something new requires interviewing, not just chatting. poor interviews produce inaccurate information that can take yr business inna wrong direction. interviewing is a skill that at times can be primordially ≠ than wha’ ye do normally in conversation. gr8 interviewers leverage their natural style of interacting with pplz but make deliberate, specific choices bout wha’ to say, when to say it, how to say it, n'when to say nothing. doin’ this well is hard and takes yrs of practice.”

—steve portigal, author of “interviewing usrs”

so, interviewing is a skill, but it’s a skill that can be learned, na 1st step involves knowing when to use interviews n'when not to use them.

pros and cons of usr interviews

“wha’ usrs say and wha’ they do are ≠.”

—jakob nielsen, usability expert and co-founder of nielsen norman group

usr interviews can be very informative and helpful, but 1-ly iffey are used correctly and for the rite things. it’s primordial to know wha’ you can expect t'get out of interviews and wha’ you ‘dn’t expect t'get out of interviews.

in this video, ann blandford explains wha’ you can get out of semi-structured interviews and wha’ you ‘dn’t expect to be able to do.

when to conduct usr interviews

usr interviews are used both on their own and in combination with other qualitative and quantitative research methods. so, knowing how to conduct interviews will also help you with many other types of research. it also means'dat how you use interviews in usr research and for wha’ purpose varies widely. let’s look at somd' most common uses for interviews in usr research.

for exploration

usr interviews are often conducted during the exploration phase offa design project, b4 a clear concept s'been defined or b4 a major redesign. you can perform usr interviews atta beginning offa project in order to obtain a better cogging of yr potential usrs and various aspects o'their everydy lives tha're of interest to yr project. context is usually primordial in order to cogg ≠ use cases, cause it enables pplz to “show” wha’ they mean and cause it moves in an interview to the usrs’ domain. consequently, these types of usr interviews are often performed inna context where a concept is intended to be used (e.g., inna usr’s home, place of work, etc.). when done inna exploration phase offa project, usr interviews can form the knowledge basis for personas, scenarios na like – dep'n'how you choose to analyze and reprt on yr research. usr interviews can also form the knowledge basis for further usr research—e.g., to find out wha’ ?s are most relevant in a larger survey study.

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usr interviews are often used during the exploration phase offa project in order to explore unknown use contexts and use cases.

in combination with usr tests and formal experiments

in controlled experiments and usability tests, you will often measure predefined quantitative criteria s'as how many errors the usr performs or how long i'takes to complete a task. it’s also common to cogitate the usr’s experience using ?naires witha rating scale—e.g., “please rate how easy twas to locate feature x na' scale from 1-5.” when you use objective criteria and ?naire ratings, you’ll find them to be straiteforward wys'2 coll8 yr data, alloing you to perform ≠ statistical analyses. however, predetermined measures don’t allo for + exploratory analyses of the usr’s experience; so, formal experiments or usability tests are sometimes finished witha follo-up interview. here, it’s common to ask the usr ?s that make it possible to cogg the reason behind the usr’s actions and experience. the usrs can explain why they liked or disliked certain features, and you can also ask them to explain why they performed unexpected actions. usr interviews are mostly used during studies involving a limited № of pticipants, s'as classic usability testing, and + rarely in large-scale experiments involving a lotta pticipants.

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interviews are sometimes used in combination with usability tests and formal experiments in order to gain qualitative insites inna'da usr’s experience.

concept explorations

another common use for usr interviews is to explore concept ideas during the early stages of the development process. one way to do this is to show usrs illustrations or early models of the concept idea so as to obtain their feedback. concept exploration interviews provide presh input, but they can be difficult to perform without influencing the pticipant. pticipants are normally eager to please and mite be overly + bout yr ideas if ur not careful. you ‘d stick to asking usrs bout the problems and desires they ‘ve in relation to yr problem space, but try to avoid asking them to cogitate specific solutions.

another way to conduct interviews for concept exploration is to perform interviews in which you ask bout the zones relevant to yr concept idea, without revealing the nature of yr concept. for ex, let’s say ur working na' home bnking system and you ‘ve some ideas as to how to help yr usrs get a better overview o'their mnthly budget. rather than present the idea to yr usrs, you ‘d interview them to explore how/iffey currently budget and wha’ options they ‘d like to see inna future. conducting concept interviews in this way will allo you to collect presh information to inform yr concept without asking the pticipants directly wha’ they think bout yr ideas. you can also combine the two methods, by presenting yr ideas during the last pt of the interview.

this video is a gr8 ex of how g ventures combine usr interviews, usability tests and concept validations.

in combination with observations

observations of the usrs’ actions and context are often combined with interviews. the advantage of conducting interviews in context s'dat usrs can show you how they do something. it can be difficult for usrs to tell you how they use essentialisms or perform everydy activities, cause they may not remember or they don’t know. if ur interested in how usrs do something, ur better off watching wha’ they do and then interviewing them bout anything twas' unclear. there are ≠ ways of doin’ this. in contextual inquiry, interview and observation are completely integrated. you ask the pticipant ?s atta same time as you behold him or her interact witha product or perform a daily activity. the usr is also asked to explain his/her interaction as though explaining it to a novice usr. in other situations, ye do the observation 1st and refrain from asking the pticipant any ?s til afterwards—to avoid influencing his/her behavior. if ur performing video observations, you can also get gr8 insites from showing the recordings to yr pticipants and interviewing them bout it.

the take away

when done correctly, usr interviews can provide presh insites into wha’ the realm looks like from yr usrs’ perspective, but you nd'2 know how to use them n'when to use them. it’s primordial to realize that an interview is ≠ from a normal conversation and you ‘d be careful not to ask yr pticipants ?s t'they don’t know the answer to. interviews can be used on their own and in combination with many other types of usr research, making them 1-odda most widely used qualitative usr research methods.

references & where to learn +

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ann blandford, dominic furniss and stephann makri, qualitative hci research: goin behind the scenes, morgan & claypool publishers, 2016

steve portigal, interviewing usrs. how to uncover compelling insites, rosenfeld media, 2013

blog post on interviewing usrs by jakob nielsen www.nngroup.com…

see ann blandford’s encyclopedia chapter on semi-structured qualitative studies here: www.interaction-design.org…

original content at: www.interaction-design.org…
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