Saturday, August 16, 2008

User interviews - A basic introduction

Using interviews discover user needs ...

"So you know your users. You understand them, what they do and what makes them tick. Really?

It's surprising how few people have a real understanding of who's using their site. Yes, there is demographic data but to really know your users you must have direct contact. Knowing your users means you know what to do to keep them happy, and keep them returning to your site. Knowing your users is the first step in a fast track to a successful site.

Why interviews?

The aims of interviews are to discover:

* Users' needs and goals
* How users complete tasks on your site (or would do if functionality was available)
* What users think the site offers them (and what more they really want/need)

Interviews help guide future site development by highlighting user needs through increased understanding. This understanding helps you make better decisions, both in general site management and when developing your site further.

“Why not just put out a questionnaire? I'll get the opinions of more people.” You will, but interviews give you so much more detail. It's depth versus breadth. Interviews give you access to greater levels of information and a more complete picture than you could ever gather from a questionnaire.

Questionnaires help you know about users, interviews help you understand them.

Planning and recruitment

It's best to run user interviews with specific targets in mind. What do you hope to gain? This can be simply one or two questions that cover your aims. For example, “Do people understand our delivery options?” or “What do people need from the redesign of our site?”

The number of people you interview depends on several factors:

* How long you can put aside for the interviews
* How detailed you want the data
* What the aims of the interview are

Try and get a group of interviewees who fit each of your key target market segments. You want to talk to at least 4 people per segment, but the basic rule is to interview people until you stop getting new insights. It's also vital that you interview some people who are not existing users of your site. If you can understand why people don't use your site you're well on your way to knowing what needs to change.

Getting in touch

Take care when recruiting. What are you looking for in people who use your site? Do you want people from the marketing industry? Must they have an interest in conservation? You must have an idea of the demographic split of users you are looking to survey, encompassing everything from gender to their level of education. Essentially you need to find a balance between being too prescriptive and too open.

Finding current users should be relatively easy. Raid you customer/client database and mailing lists for potential “victims”, ask directly on your site and offer incentives. Non-users are harder to get hold of, friends and family can be a possible source or try placing requests on some related forums. If all else fails get a professional recruiter involved.

Remember your interviews can only be as good as the quality of the interviewees."    (Continued via Webcredible, Usability News)    [Usability Resources]

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