Intervieving your users

Observing is a great things to find out a lot about your end users, but in addition to this it is also valuable to interview them. Unfortunately, when it comes to the practise we make the same mistakes again and again. We are asking questions, which are difficult to answer – so the people we are interviewing are just sitting and looking at us, wondering about our intellectual potential. Or involving our relatives and get surprisingly good feedback about our ideas…:) Let’s go through the common recipe.

Find participants

It may seem obvious, but the most important thing is to find people who are representative of target users of your system. The people who are going to be the users of your system.

It is a great idea to interview people who are the users of the existing similar system ( one more reason to study the competitors). If you are creating a “better version” of something – the first idea will be to talk to people who are already using the “worth version”. They can share with you the information about their problems, what they care about.

There also should be a non-users.  If you want to broaden an amount of people who can do the certain task – you will find a lot about the barrios they see to start using some service and their goals.

You can’t get them all but you should find those representative for your particular application. Great tip is to use the Craigslist, use you social network. Using your network does not mean interviewing your husband or brother, but you can ask them who do they know.

If you will be able to convey people you are going to make the world better place with the help of your application – they will be ok with participating for free. If not – you can offer them some small payment or bonus.

Sometimes it is very difficult to get the users who you believe are the actual users of your system. Don’t give up and do the best you can.

Approximate if necessary. It is not ideal, but better than nothing.

Trick 1: Be curious

The main problem is that a lot of people think, that there is nothing new to be found – everything is known, everything is discovered. They are limiting themselves from discovering really interesting and unique things.

photo 1(19)Especially when it comes to some “obvious” things. The more “everyday” is the domain the more creative you should be. But it doesn’t mean there can be nothing new.

rick to finding ideas is figuring out the difference between power and knowledge. Of all the people you’ll meet in this volume, very few of them are powerful or even famous. When I said that I’m most interested in minor geniuses, that’s what I meant. You don’t start at the top if you want to find the story. You start in the middle, because it’s the people in the middle who do the actual work in the world. My friend Dave, who taught me about ketchup, is a middle guy. He worked on ketchup. That’s how he knows about it. People at the top are self-conscious about what they say (and rightfully so) because they have position and privilege to protect – and self consciousness is the enemy of “interestingness.”

Malcolm Gladwell, from What the Dog Saw

So, we have our participants. It’s only the beginning. You have to ask them some questions. Right questions.

Good questions

Avoid leading questions. If you ask “Is the feature A important to you?” I would definitely say “Yes! Why not?”. But if you really want to know if the feature A is important – users observation might be much more effective, because you can see whether people are actually using this feature. You can even use log files to record the users behaviour and then ask “I see that you never used feature A. Why?” You will find a lot of interesting facts. The more open ended questions are – the more interesting information you will get. Avoid yes/no answer questions – you’ll find out a few from this single answer. Make people talk.

photo 2(20)The other dangerous type of questions is “What would you like in a …?” Especially if it is the primary question. Users are experts in their own lives, but they are not experts in design. You are actually the expert – it’s your job to guess what they would like in this application 🙂 Instead, it is more valuable to ask users about their own lives and goals, as people are experts in their lives. they will happily help you with that.

Also you should avoid asking people what they would do/like/want in hypothetical scenarios. It is too hard to know. The same is for asking how often we do some things. People usually don’t tell you the truth in answer to such questions. They overestimate. Just say how often you exercise. Once a week?

This works better if you make the question more concrete. “How much do you exercise typical week” – hard to say. “How much you exercised last week?” – much better.

It is hard to answer the questions about comparing things on the absolute scale.

What are good questions? Definitely, open ended questions. Especially int he beginning of the interview.

Tip 2: Silence is golden

When you ask a question – give someone chance to respond. Don’t answer you questions by yourself – involve people into the process, give them the time they need.

Tip 3: Encourage but don’t influence

If you are too quiet or too loud – you can influence people you are interviewing. Be energetic, but not too much. You can keep things rolling with little motions of encouragement, such as nods, “I see”, “interesting”, etc. But do not say things that might steer or influence the interviewee.

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