How to Talk to People: Conducting Focused Interviews for Design and User Research | Ryan Hunt | Skillshare

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How to Talk to People: Conducting Focused Interviews for Design and User Research

teacher avatar Ryan Hunt, I'm a UX Researcher based in Austin, TX.

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

7 Lessons (18m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Interview Types

    • 3. Interview Structure

    • 4. Conversational Probes

    • 5. Interview Mindset

    • 6. Good Questions

    • 7. Wrapping Uo

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About This Class

When I started learning about User Experience Design, I noticed that there came a time when teachers would typically say, “ … and then you test it with users.”

Most UX Design courses don’t spend a lot of time teaching the fundamentals of conducting user interviews. This course is designed to start to close that gap and give students a foundation to begin developing their research methods. In this class, you'll learn how to write a study protocol for user interview sessions for both generating product ideas and evaluating product designs.

Students will learn how to:

  • Frame a study session
  • Structure an interview
  • Write good research questions
  • Build rapport
  • Keep interviews moving forward
  • Note taking strategies
  • Documenting sessions
  • User Research Methods.

This class is for anyone interested in getting started with user research.


  • No special software required. Google Docs & Sheets or Word/Excel are recommended

Meet Your Teacher

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Ryan Hunt

I'm a UX Researcher based in Austin, TX.


Related Skills

Creative UI/UX Design

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1. Intro: Hi, My name's Ryan and I'm a user experience researcher. When most people start learning about user experience, there comes a time during their courses where someone will say, Well, take this and go test it with users. But most courses don't spend a lot of time teaching the fundamentals of conducting user interviews or doing user research. So this course is designed to close that gap and give students a foundation to start to begin to develop their user research skills and their user interview skills. So what are we going to cover? I'll go over preparing for an interview, framing and structuring your interview sessions, and then we'll spend the bulk of our time talking about how to actually conduct these interviews. So building rapport, different types of questions you can use, how to keep these interviews moving forward. And then we'll talk a little bit about no taking strategies and how to document these sessions. I'll talk a little bit about different ways to recruit participants and also a couple other ways to do the analysis once you're done. But the bulk of our time is going to be focused on conducting user interviews, so let's get started 2. Interview Types: There are a few types of interviews that are used in designer user research. Structured, semi structured and unstructured structured interviews are formal interviews where a script is really strictly followed. They're easy to replicate, and it's easy to compare the data once you're done. But they kind of lacked the flexibility and lack some of the new ones that you might get from these other kinds there, like surveys done in person on the other end, there are unstructured interviews, which are more kind of guided conversations. So these rely on open ended questions. And there's not like a defined order. Um, in what? You ask the questions. So you get a lot of nuance, and it's more of a conversation that happens organically so you can get a lot of new information and a deeper understanding of whatever you're studying. But that could be really time consuming and kind of hard to analyze once you're done so right in the middle. There are semi structured interviews, which are made up of a list of open ended questions This allows for you know, a deeper conversation with your participants, where you'll still get all the nuance from the unstructured interviews. But because it follows a script in a four man, they're easy to compare when you're done. So we're gonna talk about conducting these semi structured interviews. 3. Interview Structure: Okay, So with all that taking care of, had he actually do this? When you're structuring your questions, you want to start your your scripts really broad. You want to start your line of questions really, really broad, with maybe a couple of warm up questions and then moving into sort of theme or focus questions in your study area? Um, you know, after that conversation happens for a little while, you want to keep focusing in on the very specific things that you're interested in. Once you spend some time there, you want to broaden back out and talk about the larger issues, the larger concepts, and start talking about sort of what the future of your topic might be like. So if you if you envision your script, um, you know, it should look kind of like an hour glass. So you start with some really broad warm up questions, and then you narrow down and focus into the specifics of your study, and when you finish, you want to broaden back out so you can be sure to end with some new information that you might not have planned for 4. Conversational Probes: So how do you keep these conversations moving forward? Conversational probes are questions that you can use during these interviews to get respondents to clarify points, explain things in more detail, to go in more depth or to shift the direction of the interview. So there's a couple of different conversational probes that you can use to sort of keep things on track and keep things moving forward. So the first couple of conversational probes I'm going to talk about are used to start a conversation and then Teoh get depth on a conversation. So the 1st 1 is called a Situational probe. So a situational probe. You might say something like, I think back to a time when you last used this kind of product. Eso it's it's used to jog the participants memory and and have them go over there prior experiences using that thing. Um, once you've got them talking about that experience, you can start to use what's called an addition probe. So that's, you know, simply when you say, Oh, that's interesting. Or tell me more about that. So you know this. This is a a probe used in a conversation to keep them talking about that specific thing, Whatever they're talking about at that time. Eso that's really good to get some depth if they bring up something interesting, Um, and to start to get them to go deeper, another thing you might use is what's called a reflection probe. So reflection pros require some really active listening. You have to be paying close attention to what what you're participant is saying, and you kind of echo their responses back to them to get them to keep talking about whatever it is they're talking about. This is another great way to get more breath on and more depth on a particular thing and uncover sort of what's important to the participant about about the particular conversation At that time, you might also use an emotional probe. So, you know, if if you're participant mentions something was really frustrating for them, you know, you can ask Well, what what was frustrating about this for you? So using basically any time you start to probe in Maura about whatever feelings they were having, um, that those are emotional probes. The next couple of probes I want to talk about are for keeping your participants conversation on track, so there's two different kinds of probes will talk about one. Is tracking probe the others at clarity probe. So for keeping on track, you know, you'll want to try to guide your participant back to a previous point of the discussion before they got off track by saying something like, You know, earlier you mentioned something about this or, you know, simply saying, going back to what we were talking about before these kinds of things will, you know, que your participant into them noticing that, like all right, I really went off into the weeds there. Let's get back to what we were talking about before. So you have to be really mindful. Uhm, when you're doing these interviews because they are relatively conversational, they can go in any number of directions. Another probe you might want to use is something called a clarity probe, where you know you'll need to get a little more definition out of your participants. So, you know, tell me more about them or could you be more specific? You know, asking for examples is a great way to have participants really clarify what they're talking about. So your shore to capture all the information that you need to from them. You know, another way to do that would be to say like, Oh, well, let me just repeat back to you what I'm hearing to make sure I'm understanding correctly saying that tear participant and then, you know, repeating what they just said to you, we'll let you know right right away if if your understanding what they're trying to say. So as you're writing your script, I've found it a good idea to include a couple of not specific probes, but queues for probes for you to remember Which points of your script are the areas that you actually do want depth of which are more kind of warm up or framing questions. So, you know, next to your question, you might say like, okay, probe for depth and then write out a couple of different ways to ask that question so that , you know, they're right there ready for you when you get to that point of the interview. So, um, example might be, you know, a question that where you ask, what is your normal day look like from the time when you get into the office to when you go home at night eso after you ask that question, you might ask a couple of follow up questions like, What are the best parts of your day? Where the worst parts of your day. That way, you can make sure to get enough depth, Um, and enough specificity out of your participants response. 5. Interview Mindset: So before you conduct your user interviews, you want to try to get into like, the interview mindset. Now this whole thing is gonna feel really weird, but you really just have to kind of trust the process and go with it. So try to approach each interview with kind of a bland curiosity. Be sure to start off with some warm up questions and some kickoff questions and really focus on embracing your participants world and their experiences. Remove all the distractions around you, you know, obviously silence your phone. You know, try to get into a headspace where you know you can just focus on your participant. When you're doing this, try to take your own notes. Don't rely on someone else to take notes purely for you because you'll have a tough time going back and and reviewing and trying to understand what their notes mean. Um, as your kicking off your interview, Really, Just try to build a report with your participant. You know, make them feel comfortable. If you're uncomfortable, you're participant is also going to be uncomfortable, and that's really gonna impact the quality of interview that you conduct. You want to try to focus on actively listening throughout this whole time instead of just looking at your questions. Because if you're just focusing on the next question and you're not listening to what they're saying, you're missing the point of the whole interview. Um, and as your as you move through your list of questions, you wanna work towards storytelling. You want to try to get your participant to start telling stories about their experiences because that's kind of the bread and butter of qualitative research. You know, think about reflecting your participants comments back at them toe, you know, prove your understanding on and you know you can also use silence as a tool, so you know as you're taking your own notes, um, take a pause, take a breath, complete your notes and you know these openings and the conversation will encourage your participant ing to give you more of their insights. And as you move towards the end, you want to try toe, not end really abruptly. You wanna have a soft clothes just to leave room for any extra discussion that happens after the kind of pressure of the interviews off and get a lot of really good insights at the end. Um, once the pressure has kind of been relieved 6. Good Questions: So at this point, you might be saying, Well, all this is great, but how do I come up with good questions? So I'm gonna go over a couple of different types of questions that you can use to build out your study protocol. The 1st 1 I want to talk about is a grand tour question. So grand tour questions are you know, when you ask your participant to walk you through an entire experience so you know, you might ask, you know, walk me through your day Like, what is your typical day Look like from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed , water, all the things that you usually do throughout the day. Um, you can put some boundaries on this a little bit. You know, ask, you know, mawr of a specific tour question like walk me through your usual day at work or a task tour question where you say walk me through the process that you use to complete this task on. These are great ways just to get the participant starting to talk about, um, different things that they do throughout the day or the ways that they do all different tasks at hand. There are also another type of question called a mini tour, which is, you know, when you can kind of focus in on the smaller test that they might accomplish through the day. So, you know, if you ask them the Grand Terre question about their work, you might ask a follow up, smaller tour question, you might say, like Oh, you said that you spin up a dev environment. Can you walk me through the process that you normally go through to spin up this kind of dev environment? There is also another type of questions. Another temple question called taxonomic questions. So this is where a taxonomic relationships describe different categories of things like attributes and features. So, you know, you might say something like, Can you briefly outline all the different steps that are involved with completing this task or, you know, outline all the different possible solutions for this problem that you normally phase? You know, you want to start to get people describing the way that they understand, um, certain processes or or tools that they might use another technique you might want to try to incorporate into your user interviews is something called free listing. Now there's a couple of different types of free listing that will talk about, but the goal behind free listing is to get an understanding of how your participants think about a particular domain. So something you might ask your participants is, you know, name all of the things that frustrate you with this product and for each of your participants, you'll get a variety of answers, but it will be easy to, you know, check the frequency of things that frustrate your group of participants about the product. So you know you might, depending on what you're looking at, you might say, like, what are all the different prototyping tools out there? What are all the different ways to solve this problem? Questions like that. So the goal free listing is too really start to build a sample set of items with a particular you know, a single level of contrast. So more salient items are going to be mentioned more frequently than others, and you can use that to build a case, um, on what's really important in your study. Another way to do free listing is to ask similar questions in a variety of ways to try to get different responses. So you might ask a list of questions like, Why do you think some people are vegetarian? Why did you decide not to eat meat? What did the advantages of being vegetarian? What are the disadvantages of being vegetarian? So asking the same kind of question in different ways will allow you to get different types of responses and really get a lot of nuanced information. These kind of techniques. While they're not part of an ordinary conversation, they'll feel a little bit awkward when you're doing it. It will allow you to capture a lot of really, really interesting data that you wouldn't have come across otherwise. Another technique you might want to consider using is what's known as the Magic wand question. Basically, the magic wand question is, you would ask someone if you could change anything about this, what would it be? And you know, the point isn't to find exactly what someone wants to change. The point of that question is toe. Understand how people are thinking about the product that you're studying, so you'll be able to get a pretty good understanding of what people's priorities are with that type of question, 7. Wrapping Uo: So those air just a couple of kind of foundational techniques that you can use to start putting together your user interviews so remembered to start broad with your questions. Have some nice warm up questions just to get the conversation started and start really broad before focusing in on the specifics of your study. Once you get some some detail about the finer points, zoom back out and try to open it back up so you can continue to gain some nuanced insights from your participants. So take a stab at putting together a script and shared here, and we'll help you fine tune it to make it work the way you want it to. And once you're happy with that, try to schedule a couple of people to talk with and actually run through your script and see how it goes. You might find that you need to make some adjustments along the way, but that's part of the process, and cherry results here, too. All right, that's it for me. Good luck