Talking to Strangers: An Introduction to User Interviews | Jason Yuan | Skillshare

Talking to Strangers: An Introduction to User Interviews

Jason Yuan, Designer

Talking to Strangers: An Introduction to User Interviews

Jason Yuan, Designer

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10 Lessons (25m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Interviews in Context

    • 3. Finding Participants

    • 4. Assembling a Team

    • 5. Writing a Script

    • 6. The Big Day

    • 7. Taking Notes

    • 8. Shaping the Conversation

    • 9. Class Project

    • 10. Finale

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About This Class

Design is nothing without the user, and the best way to find out what the user wants is to talk to them face-to-face.

In this class, we will cover everything you need to get started with conducting user interviews to collect valuable qualitative data that will help you humanize your designs. You’ll learn how to write a script...and how/when to veer off the script. You’ll learn how to listen to the user’s stories, and how to respond on the fly to a constantly adapting conversation. We will also discuss how to make your interview an inclusive and ethical experience so that your data represents the diversity of your users. I will also share some tips and tricks that I picked up during my time as an actor on how to (gasp) talk to strangers!

This class is intended for designers of all levels who are looking to inject their process with a healthy dose of empathy—all you will need is something to write on and something to write with!

Meet Your Teacher

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Jason Yuan



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1. Introduction: Hello, I am Jason Yuan. I am a graphic and User Experience designer, currently live in [inaudible] where I attend RISD, and prior to that I was in Northwestern University studying theater and also industrial design. Along the way, I was able to put all my skills to use in becoming a product and user experience designer. You might know me actually from my apple music case study that I conducted last year, which led me on this really strange journey that ultimately ended up with an internship offer from Apple for US design. Which is super exciting, but the most important takeaway from that entire experience is the importance of conducting great user research. In fact, my case study took three months to complete. Two of those months were spent on user research, specifically semi formal user interviews, or as I like to call them, conversations with strangers and I know it's really scary, it's so intimidating, strangers are unpredictable. But it's so important and it can be a really great tool in your arsenal as a designer to learn how to connect and empathize with people you don't know to really understand their point of view know where they're coming from so that you can really design products for the people, for the user, hence, user experience design. In this course, we will be covering the basics of getting started with conducting semi-formal user interviews. We will talk about everything from planning your interview to the date of the interview. How to ask questions. What kind of questions you might want to avoid. How to write a script, how to veer off the script when the situation calls for it. How to make your interviewer very comfortable, ethical, inclusive experience that will really help your design reflect the diversity of our community. Along the way, I will also be sharing some tips and tricks I learned as an actor in the theater on connecting with strangers and really learning to empathize with people. So who should take this class? Anyone interested in learning about talking to people, whether you're a novice designer or you are my [inaudible] But if you're watching this video, user interviews are helpful for any profession. Keep in mind though that I must do them myself. I'm also learning and so I look forward to learning from each other and look forward to supporting you guys in discussion section. We will also be working on a class project, which is putting together a very basic outline of script on mock interview that you might conduct with fans, and so without further ado, let's jump right in. 2. Interviews in Context: A lot of people seem to think that interviews are the really structured question, answer thing. Those are what we consider formal interviews. They have their place and user experience design. But I'm here to talk to you about semi-formal user interviews because I feel like those can turn into conversations and conversations can yield valuable insights that you might have missed. Let's face it as much as we'd like to predict everything we can't. Semi-formal interviews embrace the unpredictable nature of human beings, so that your design is prepared for the unpredictable nature of human beings. Now I like to think of user experience design as delivering someone a present. Let's say you're putting together a Christmas present for your mom. What you probably would not do is send her a Survey Monkey or a Google form being like, "What would you like for your? " Because you know your mom, you know what she liked. You are able to put together a really thoughtful present and when she opens that present on Christmas day, she's like, "Oh my God. I have the best child in the whole world and only better than I know myself." That's what you want your user to feel like. You want the user to feel like you know them better than they know themselves. That's where the phrase, "Designed something that a user doesn't even know they want yet comes from." But I think user interviews, especially semi-formal ones, are a great way to get started into getting to know your user base in a very intimate one-to-one level. For these semi-formal, semi-structured user interviews, they can really fit anywhere in your design process. At the beginning of a design process, you might use user interviews to really help narrow down the scope of your project. Really help find out what kind of questions that you want to be asking as a designer. What kind of questions you want to be answering as a designer. Get a sense of perspective on where your products should be headed, where whether there needs to be a product at all, is something that we should consider, and move forward. It can help you construct user persona, journey maps, all of those great things that we need as product designers to help guide our journey. During our design, let's say during wire framing, ideating, prototyping, you should also be conducting user interviews to figure out if we're going in the right direction or not. So that we can turn around before it becomes too late and we spend too much money and we're like, "Oh my God, our product is behind launch date." Now, after your product has launched, you want to continue doing user interviews so that you can make sure your product is up to date on the user's expectations. In fact, you want to make sure your product is leading the way, your product is raising the user's expectations and leading the charge. To summarize, you really should be conducting user interviews throughout your entire design process. 3. Finding Participants: Right now you're probably wondering, takes it all sounds amazing, but how can I get started? Well, it's actually pretty easy. The first thing you want to do is figure out exactly what it is that you want to take away. That really depends on where you are in your design process. Maybe you're just trying to figure out what you're trying to create, what kind of problem are you trying to solve. We'll have questions trying to ask. Maybe you're already further along and you want to show people where you already have. After deciding on what you want to take away from the interview, it's time to find your interviewees. I typically start with just 5-10 if I'm by myself, because I really like to have deep conversations. I like to get to know the person. You can make Facebook ads, Twitter ads, list if you're smart, and other thing you might want to do if you're already further along, is reach out to existing heavy users of your product and say, "Hey, we noticed that you use our product a lot. We'd like to bring you a for an interview. Would that be okay?" If your app is already launched, you could also do some interviews with people who that have maybe use your app in the past and maybe have unsubscribe or have left your app, to figure out what exactly went wrong there and how you can make it better. What I actually like to do is I just like to go into coffee shops or public gatherings, and nightclubs and probably not appropriate. I just like to meet new people and say, "Hey, I noticed that you're using Spotify. I'm trying to design a new music experience, can talk to you?" I find that people more often than not, are likely to be receptive, because people like talking about themselves, myself included. You can start the conversation in an informal place at a coffee shop and you can say, hey, here's my business card. Can we circle back to do more sounded formal interview. The most important part of this entire process, is making sure that your sample pool is representative of the diversity of the world that we live in. This is why you don't want to just interview your friends, or your family or the person next door. You really want to make attempts to cast a wide net, okay? You want to be able to include people of different races, religions, ethnicities, political views, ages, sexes, genders as much as possible. Because the more inclusive your interview process is, the more inclusive your ultimate product will be. 4. Assembling a Team: Now that you've decided what you want to take away and you've gathered your participants, you want to build your dream team. We're not going to be the Avengers and not that cool. You want to bring along a friend or a coworker to take notes? Because I noticed that when I'm having a conversation with someone, I tend to get carried away with the conversation and then I forget to take in notes, which is really bad because you want to record everything. Once you have all of the above, you want to set up meeting times and space. A studio such as this might not be the most appropriate because you want the interviewer to feel at home and ease, comfortable, right? You really want to be like a somewhat natural environment. By natural, I don't mean like you wanted to mount a hike for just somewhere that you feel comfortable and at ease. All in all, figure out what you want to take away from the interview. Build your pool of participants, pick a time and space and find a team. After you finish that, you are ready to write your script. 5. Writing a Script: Erase your script. This is very different from a theater where a film script and that you want to be able to veer off the script because you want to be able to have an honest conversation. You don't want to have a very tightly scripted introduction of who you are, who your partner is, what your goal is, what's the interview, and what the participant can expect from the interview. In this section, makes sure you emphasize that the participant can not make any mistakes. It's not an examination, you're just trying to have a conversation. Make sure to remind yourself in the script to ask you interviewee if they need anything before beginning and if they have any questions. Second half, make sure you list some short questions to help guide the flow of your interview. It goes without saying, don't ask anything too personal, don't ask leading questions. Leading questions are questions that suggest an answer or a set of answers. For example, a leading question might be, do you like Spotify? There's really only two answers. You don't want to ask that. What you want to ask them instead, actually is take a step back and say, what I want to find out by asking someone who likes my product work, if someone likes Spotify. What I'm really trying to understand is, their feelings towards music streaming. Instead I might phrase the question as, "How do you feel about music streaming? How do you feel music? What role does music play in your life?" Something that we should keep in mind is that a really great question can get a story out of someone. Generally the rule of thumb is to keep your questions as open as possible. Avoid leading questions at all costs. Avoid questions that have a yes or no, a sort of a binary component to it. Leave room in your scripting and interview to ask questions that pop up as your interview goes on. Because you don't want to limit your interview, just what's on your script. You want to be able to expand on certain subjects that pop up. Better than questions I would write down specific talking points so that you can make sure you cover all the points in your interview, but not necessarily feel the need to phrase them as written. After the questions make sure you ask them if they need anything, if you know how to contact you and all of that. As an overview in your introduction, you want to talk about who you are, what you do, it's what you expect from the interview and certain things that will reassure you interviewee and in the question section keep things as bullet points as open as possible. Finally, end the conversation on a good note and just leave people a way to follow up with you. You pretty much have your script right there and then just keep it short like your resume. 6. The Big Day: You have your participants, you have your team, you have your script, you are ready for the big day. On the day off, keep these thoughts in mind as you approach the interview. Number one, on time is late but early is on time. You want to always arrive before your participants so that you can seem prepared and even better actually prepare, maybe set the scene for a really nice casual conversation with a friend. As far as interview attire goes. I always just to keep things a little casual but still clean. Don't wear anything too awkward or extra because it might distract from the interview itself. Actually I'm just going to, remove this jacket I have here because as much as I love it not entirely appropriate for an interview because you want the user or your participant to feel like they're the star. You want them to feel like they have all of your attention, that they are the shining star in the show, they are the spotlight, you want them to feel special. If you can make someone feel special, they will trust you more. Make sure you have everything from the script to some stacks of paper. If you're interviewing needs to write down something. You can be prepared even if they're not and now all you have to do is wait for them to arrive. While once they do arrive, makes sure you shake their hand, introduce yourself and invite them to where the interview will take place. 7. Taking Notes: There are several ways to document during interview as you might know, some people choose to use audio and video recording. I typically stay away from using these recording devices, but don't let that distract you. If you want to, that helps you, do it just to make sure that you are informing the participant beforehand, that you are receiving their written and verbal consent and that they know that the information is only going to be used for the purpose of the interview and only going to be sharing amongst your team. I do not like taking those to my laptop. This is not just because I get distracted by Facebook, I do. But this is also because I've noticed that when you're typing something and you're interviewee is trying to talk to you, it can feel like you're blocking off the connection with this metal thing in the middle, we're focusing on your screen, you're focusing on transcribing. You're not really paying attention to what you're saying. This is especially important if you're by yourself, it's less of an issue to have a partner helping you. If you're on your own, I would highly suggest using some writing utensils so that you can keep your eye on the interviewee so that they will feel more compelled, more engaged. I actually like to use sketch noting or doodling. There's a really great TED talk by Sonny Brown. I will list the link for that below. Please check it out. The advantage to sketch noting over just transcribing everything is you have more agency over the page. You can formulate pathways from the talking points. You can really have a visual map of everything that you are doing instead of just a list of questions and the answers. Just to make sure that you're doing it in a way that does not distract from the conversation, that does not break the intimacy and connection you have with the interviewee. 8. Shaping the Conversation: Now it gets fine. This is shaping the conversation. You, as the interviewer, hold a certain level of power that you might not even be aware of. We're going to do a few things to help flip that power dynamic because really you want the interviewee to be the center of attention. They're the important ones you don't know about you. I have here five general guidelines to ensure a really great interview and conversation experience. The first one is to pay attention. A lot of people seem to think that an interview is like a lecture. That is wrong, in fact they're your teacher. You've got to like sit down, you've got to listen, you got to let them talk. When you're paying attention and listening, and you want to be able to look them in the eye as much as possible, I know it can get really hard. I find it difficult too because it's quite vulnerable to like get someone in the eye. A good trick that I learned from theater is to, let's say this is their eye level just a little bit above that. Or just little bit below actually, till it looks like you're talking to them and looking at them in the eye, but really, you can focus on another aspect. Just to make sure that your face is pointed towards their face so that they know you're interested in paying attention. Point number 2, is that tangents are amazing, we love tangents as listening intently to the interviewees stories, they might start to talk about something else. Now, your natural instincts, might kick in, can we bring it back. I would advise him to sit and wait and just listen to what they have to say first, because sometimes tangents completed somewhere unexpected and unexpected is great. I have found that these tangents and side conversations leaving to consider things I'd never even thought about as a designer. I want to be open to these new experiences and these new stories so that I can incorporate all of these unexpected findings into my design. If you're open to the unexpected, you can design for the unexpected. You know what, even pull it up on a tangent. Say, hey, that was really interesting, what you just said, "Can you tell me more about that?" This leads onto our third do not ask why, ask instead, "Can you tell me more?" Now I've heard a lot of people say, oh yeah, in an interview always ask why and follow up of why. Well that makes logical sense, unfortunately, as human beings, we are not logical creatures we are very emotional and we can be impulsive. When we are asked why immediately in a virulent oh my God, I have to justify this we get defensive or like, I just I don't know, am I doing something wrong? If you ask someone why they might feel like they're doing something wrong, but actually you're just curious on the reason behind what they're doing. Instead of asking why, I would rephrase it as I noticed that you just did where you just add this. Could you tell me more about that? I don't know, even though I have all Apple products, I just don't like Apple Music, I just don't like how it works, like it's too static. Can you tell me more about static? I don't know every time I use it, I feel like I don't understand how to use it that well. It just seems like it takes more time to do the same thing on Apple Music that it doesn't Spotify. I find that that's just a friendlier, more open-ended way to phrase the question. You'd learn their motivation behind doing so. Perhaps you can even design for that in the future. Now, there's a really great phrase that I want you to remember. Its "Shown me". Let's say a user is talking about how they listened to the radio. They say, "Oh, I go on my phone, I open this app and I go on this have blah blah". That's not the most engaging way to conduct an interview or to have a conversation. In fact, what we do as people, as we like to show people things, show instead of tell. Keeping this show and tell them mentality in mind, you might ask someone, "Hey, could you show me how you did that?". Or "Can you show me how you achieve this with our app?" Or can you show me how you do this right now? In Spotify radio, it starts off with like the artist that you choose to my show me. I mean, he's got a radio and then down here, it's really easy. Then you press this button on the top right, that the plus sign. Then you search for who you want to listen to Minsky. Then you press the artist name again. Then it's just like this radio with well, first plays like the person that you chose, and then it's just a bunch of people that have the same bio. The only thing I would say is that like, I don't know, sometimes the radios have a limit, like a limit themselves and the songs I want to play, I wish there were more songs or like the daily mixes, again, like those fields so sure sometimes. This simple question of asking someone to show you something can help you observe how users actually use your app in real time. Finally, you want to make sure that you're considering the physicality of your interviewee as well. I noticed that a lot of people are just very concerned with what they're saying and that's very valid. But I think there's also this other dimension of how they look or how they move when they're talking about something or thinking about something that can really tell you a lot about how they are feeling. That's really big aspects of empathy that is learning to internalize their movements, their joy or their pain, so that we're able to channel that into our designs. Basically just keep an eye out for any physical changes, any exchanges and expressions or emulate gestures that might indicate something of interest. You can follow up with, hey, I noticed that you grimaced when you talked about this. What's really great about that is it shows that you're paying attention. Those are just some tips on how to shape a conversation to ensure the optimal interview experience both parties. Number 1, make sure you're paying attention and not talking over anyone, but listening to their stories, really absorbing them. If you find it hard, again to look at them in the eye, you can live just above or just below. Make sure that your face is pointed towards the face in some way, most of the time. Number 2, if someone goes on a tangent, that's amazing, let them go on a tangent. In fact, I would even continue on that tangents and see where the conversation goes because you never know. Number 3, avoid asking why and instead, ask them one to tell you more so that people are less defensive and more open and more honest. Number 4, whenever possible, ask the participant to show you what they're talking about so that you can both be engaged. This way, you might learn a little more about how they feel about a certain aspect of a product as they are using it. Finally, do not forget about physical cues so that you can and really get a whole picture. A really great way to practice the tips and trips above is to just role play with her friends, not that kind. Just role-play in a sense that one of you plays the interviewer and one of you plays the interviewee.. Perhaps for a product you might formulate a list of personas that the interviewee can embody and can take turns embodying different personas to be hot seeded or interviewed. In this way, you get a sense of both, what it feels like to be an interviewer and also what it feels like to be interviewed so you know what questions you like being asked, and what questions you don't like being asked. By taking this bottom intervened even really learn to empathize with the person on the other side of the table to help you conduct better interviews and hopefully become a better designer. If you do this role-playing exercise? I'd love to hear what you think in a discussion below. It's also a really great when you get into acting, you might be interested in that. 9. Class Project: For our class project we're actually going to be working on an interview script. This should be pretty short, one or two be two pages like a résumé. For more information on how to compose a script and what kind of questions to ask in it, you can look at the classes above. I'm just really looking forward to meeting your outlines and giving you feedback in the class project section down below. Make sure you upload them and I will get back to you with feedback as soon as possible. 10. Finale: If you've reached the end of the course, but know that this is really only the beginning because there's so much left for all of us to learn. Indeed, I'm still learning too, I'm by no means the master with the expert in the subject. I'm just here to guide you in the beginning of this journey and give you some resources that you can use to help yourself become a better interviewer and designer. Before we end, I'd just like to conclude with the following takeaway. Interviews are a way to show that you care about someone. It shows that you're listening to them and listen to what they want and listen to what they need. You're paying attention to those stories, you're caring about them. In that sense, what you're designing will also take care of these people what you're designing will be humanized. It will be fueled by your empathy for the user, for the people that you've interviewed. That's really what excites me about design is just human beings solving problems for each other and helping each other out and just really shown in care for each other. Interviews are a really, really great way to start doing that. You can find me here on skill share and make sure to follow my page and see any new continent. Follow me on Twitter, on Instagram where I post trash, but I can also be helpful if you need me to through DMs. What the comments below makes sure that you give our projects a try. I'm sure you'll find it helpful and I'm very open to give me feedback in fact I'd love to give you some feedback. I would love to hear your feedback too. Please leave in the comments below or send me a DM. The reason why I'm teaching this course is I really want more and more designers to start really considering empathy and the user and start caring for the user. I'm really excited and I'm really happy that you're here and I'm excited for what you will do for the future of design. Good luck, and I will always be here if you need me.