Once you’ve convinced everyone of the importance and viability of the user interview in the software development process, it’s time to consider how to structure and conduct your user interviews to maximize the benefits to your and your client's organizations.
Designing the user interview correctly is integral to making the most out of your and your interviewee’s time. Establish rapport with your interviewees. Let them know from the get-go how integral their feedback is to the process.
Teamwork brings out the best in these types of engagements. Having multiple people in the room can help facilitate conversation in a way that opens everyone up to being more expressive and honest in their interview. Furthermore, user interviews can be fun! If injected with a little levity, they could also be more useful. Pointing out something that was a poor experience for you or an area that you misunderstood allows you to show common ground and a shared goal to make it better. One example from our interviews was a certain login user experience; all of us could laugh and relate to the nonsense of a forgotten password. Especially when the recovery process used obscure personal questions asked months ago during the creation of the account.
Prepare the Users
Once the group of ideal users has been identified, we like to give our users a little get-to-know-us activity in the form of a short, friendly electronic survey. This serves as our digital introduction which we hope will provide some basic user feedback while building trust and credibility between us and the interviewee. When presented correctly, the survey also establishes basic expectations for what we’re looking for when we meet in person.
Another one of our little secrets to help make the users comfortable is to provide short bios (with casual pics) of the UX staff who will be performing the live interviews. Try not to look imposing during the photoshoot. We want to look like regular, approachable people (which we are, we swear!)
Ask the Right Questions
Asking the right questions gets to the heart of it all when it comes to user interviews. Dig into what you want your user to feel when they are using your software to come up with the appropriate questions.
To conduct good user interviews, have an idea of how you want the users to feel about your product and ask questions about how their experience brings them closer to or further away from that feeling. Typically, people try to assess a user's “satisfaction” with the product. While this metric is important, it is not the overall goal. We want to assess the level of “delight” a user experiences with our product because these days “satisfaction” doesn’t make the grade anymore. Customers and end users must be truly satisfied with their experience and feel that they have accomplished their goal in an intuitive, logical way.
We employ the "Think Aloud" method where the user performs a given task, or set of tasks, while telling us what they are thinking as they go along. We interrupt as little as possible while taking notes of everything we see and hear. Recording the session is a great way to make sure nothing is missed.
When we do interrupt, we often ask pointed, open-ended questions such as, “what do you really like about the current application? What do you think needs to change? How can the experience be improved? What about the application is not up to par? What is excellent?” These questions encourage users to think about their particular experiences with the product and allows them to expand beyond yes or no answers.
It’s important to encourage users to be as specific as possible. Good, solid, specifics help make pinpoint exactly what needs to be changed or upgraded.
To accomplish this, employ some of these cues into your questions:
The power questions help your interviewees think more deeply about what they are asking for. Quick Tip: Repeat their answers back to them so they know you are listening and to ensure you record their feedback accurately.
With planning and clearly defined goals, designing a successful user interview can be accomplished with ease. Check out my other blog on the proper ways to analyze the new information these user interviews have helped you gain.
As Engagement Manager with Small Footprint, Tim McGuire continues to be impressed by the power software provides through innovation. By using Agile and Scrum best practices he enjoys the collaboration required to build successful software applications, and believes the most impactful software applications should make the user feel in control and reduce uncertainty leading to efficiency for accomplishing tasks.
After working 15+ years in product management, Tim uses past experience as a foundation to lead successful product development, because many projects share common hurdles. Tim was born and raised in Pittsburgh, but moved to North Carolina for graduate school where he met his wife. He lives in Greensboro, and enjoys sports, travel, and hanging out with family & friends.
the culture behind the code
Founded in 2003, Small Footprint is a software innovation company. We offer ideation, design, development and managed services to organizations that rely on innovative software to differentiate themselves and improve their businesses. Small Footprint makes custom software easy to manage through client partnerships based on collaboration, transparency and business value generation. We build intuitive software products, integrated enterprise systems and compelling digital experiences. Each of our employees shares the goal of being a part of innovation that impacts people’s lives and invigorates companies.
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