Monday, July 07, 2008

Preparing for User Research Interviews: Seven Things to Remember

Tips for conducting user interviews ...

"Interviewing is an artful skill that is at the core of a wide variety of research methods in user-centered design, including stakeholder interviews, contextual inquiry, usability testing, and focus groups. Consequently, a researcher’s skill in conducting interviews has a direct impact on the quality and accuracy of research findings and subsequent decisions about design. Skilled interviewers can conduct interviews that uncover the most important elements of a participant’s perspective on a task or a product in a manner that does not introduce interviewer bias. Companies hire user researchers and user-centered designers because they possess this very ability.

There is a wide variety of literature regarding best practices for user research interviews. For example, in their book User and Task Analysis for Interface Design, Hackos and Redish devote an entire section to the formulation of unbiased questions. They advise interviewers to avoid asking leading questions, to ask questions that are based on a participant’s experience, and to avoid overly complex, lengthy questions.

... Seven Interview Best Practices

Given everything there is to remember to ensure we conduct successful interviews, I find it helpful to remind myself of the following seven key best practices immediately before an interview session:

1. Set proper expectations. Generally, interview participants are not experienced with the user-centered design process. A recruiter may have given them a brief description of the purpose of an interview during the recruiting process, but it’s very likely participants don’t have a clear sense of why they are there. They may be apprehensive, nervous, or skeptical about your intentions. Business stakeholders especially may come to a session with a negative attitude if they believe a researcher is there to check up on them. All of this will serve to influence the responses they give to interview questions. To minimize this impact, be sure to describe the intent of the interview, your role in the design process, and how the interview process will proceed. Include details such as why you will be taking notes and how you will compile the results.

2. Shut up and listen. As a researcher, it is easy to get wrapped up in the interview script you developed, all of the questions you want to ask, and your own ideas about the salient points to uncover. It is easy to dominate the conversation and move through the interview at a pace that is too fast for a participant to keep up. In my experience, participants often raise the most interesting points only once they’ve had a chance to internalize and think about a researcher’s question. Listening appropriately involves minimizing interruptions and slowing down the pace of the interview to give participants an opportunity to qualify their statements or provide additional insights."    (Continued via UXmatters, Michael Hawley)    [Usability Resources]

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