Summary

 

A user interview is a 15 - 60 minute conversation with someone to understand their problem so you can design a solution.


Checklist

  Figure out who to talk to

  Write a list of questions you have

  Schedule a meeting

  Listen for pain points and problems they have


If speaking is silver, then listening is gold
— Turkish Proverb
Who speaks, sows; Who listens, reaps
— Argentine Proverb
If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame
— Proverbs 18:13

Overview

Listening to people and understanding their problems is one of the most valuable skill you can develop as a designer (Turns out it’s also one of the most valuable skills you can develop as a friend or spouse! So that’s great too…) Talking to people as the first thing you do will help you understand the problem you’re trying to solve, the people you’re trying to help, and guide the rest of your design decisions. Many designers rush to start designing solutions before listening, but it’s clear to me that the wise listen first.

There are two goals for your chat.

  1. Understand who the person is (details about their life that is relevant to your project)
  2. Understand the problems (also called “pain points”) they have

If you do those two things, you can complete the next set of deliverables; user stories. You should take a look at how to do those two deliverables before completing this step so you know what to expect.

☆ SUPER IMPORTANT POINTER HERE⤵

When you’re chatting with someone, the thing you’re looking for is when they express when something sucks or is painful or frustrating for them. That’s a pain point. Write those down. If they don’t have any pain points and a need to solve a problem, then they are not going to buy or use your software.

☆ SUPER IMPORTANT POINTER UP THERE ⤴

Sometimes people buy things spontaneously or without thinking, but often there is an underlying reason even if they don’t know it at the time.  Finding pain points is like finding gold. It takes some digging, but it’s incredibly valuable. Digging deeper is simple and often it’s just asking “why” over and over again until you get to the core.

Interviewing your users is the first thing you do in the Map stage and the last thing you do during the Test stage. We bookend the entire design process with real conversations with real people.


  Figure out who to talk to

Ask yourself-- who are my users?

 Every product has a target audience.

  • For Christy that was dog kennel owners.
  • For Kelsey that was money-conscious millennials.
  • For Patrick, that was intensive care nurses.

Don’t try to please everyone, it’s better to please a smaller group and then grow from there.  

One helpful way to think about your audience if you’re having trouble narrowing it down is by assigning at least 3 attributes to the group.

Examples of narrowing down your users

Christy

When Christy designed an app that helps dog kennel owners manage their business, she was looking for:

  • Dog-kennel owners...
  • with small businesses...
  • in suburban areas.

Kelsey

When Kelsey designed an app for that helps millennials be better prepared for unexpected expenses, she was looking for:

  • Millennials (18 - 34 year olds)...
  • who are money and budget conscious...
  • and want to prepare for unexpected future expenses.

Patrick Mann

When Patrick designed an app to improve the efficiency and the quality of care provided by nurses in intensive care, he was looking for:

  • Intensive care nurses...
  • Who currently work in a hospital…
  • and are comfortable using technology in their job.

  Write questions you have

When you’re chatting with someone, you want to ask open-ended, curious questions.

Keep these things in mind...

👀 You’re not looking for a right answer, you’re just looking.

🕵 Be curious about their current behaviors, habits, and patterns.

💬 Ask for specific examples

😊 Always be neutral (not critical) of their answers.

Since there’s no right or wrong answers, you don’t want to give anything away. You just want to encourage them to keep answering. The questions you ask should be related to an existing experience the customer has. You should try and ask questions to see how they currently solve the problem that they have.

If you’re designing a totally new product that’s never been built before, then they might not have looked for a solution. That’s okay. If it’s a real problem they have, then they must have tried something to solve it, and that’s what you’re looking for.

Here’s a list of the different types of questions you can find inspiration from, followed by an example question to get your brain chugging.

I would ask these if I was going to build a new communication or email app for busy professionals.

Complete List

  • What software do you currently use to communicate and collaborate with others?
  • What software do you currently use to manage your email?

Activities

  • What do you typically do when you check your email?

Reenactment

  • Please show me exactly how you do that.

Sequence

  • Walk me through a typical day. How do you start? Then what’s next?

Inputs and Outputs

  • What information do you need before responding to an email?
  • How and where do you get that information?
  • What do you do with it when you’re done?

Guided Tours

  • Can we take a look at your email account together?

Projection

  • What do you think would happen if important emails were delivered over SMS?

Changes over Time

  • How does your email usage today compare to the way you managed it a year ago?

Exceptions

  • Under what circumstances do you do that differently?

Outsider Perspective

  • How would you describe your email process to someone who had never used email before?
  • What advice would you give to somebody who was going to try it?

Successes and Failures

  • What would be the worst case scenario?
  • Can you tell me about a time when this didn’t work?

Fill in the blank

  • So in that situation, you... [pregnant pause]?

3 wishes

  • If you had 3 wishes to make email better for you, what would they be?

Apprentice Example Interview Questions

Christy

When Christy designed an app that helps dog kennel owners manage their business, she was looking for:

  1. What’s a typical work day for you?
  2. How do you track reservations?
  3. Are you satisfied with the software you use?
  4. Is there anything you wish it could do?
  5. How could an app help solve your business problems?

Kelsey

When Kelsey designed an app for that helps millennials be better prepared for unexpected expenses, she was looking for:

  1. Do you currently do anything to manage/organize your finances?
  2. How do you handle your paycheck when you receive it? Walk me through your typical payday.
  3. Do you budget? Why/why not? If yes, how?
  4. How do you feel about the way you manage your money?
  5. How do you feel when you think about your finances? (ie. stressed, relax, calm). Why?
  6. What has been your biggest financial worry in the last 6 months?
  7. Is there a way you could have prevented it?
  8. How has the way you’ve handled you money/paychecks changed since you first started receiving them?
  9. What advice would you give to someone who is just starting to handle their finances?

Patrick Mann

When Patrick designed an app to improve the efficiency and the quality of care provided by nurses in intensive care, he was looking for:

  1. As a nurse, what tasks do you typically do?
  2. Walk me through a regular day. How do you start? Then what’s next?
  3. How does they way you work today compare to the way you did a year or two ago?
  4. What processes, or things in your role do you find really frustrating?
  5. What takes up the majority of your time, that you wish didn’t?
  6. Where do you think the future of nursing is heading? What do you expect to change?
  7. If you had 3 wishes regarding your work or workplace, what would they be?

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