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The interview is probably one of the most versatile and powerful methods when it comes to in-depth user understanding.
Basically, an interview first describes two people talking to each other, with one acting as the questioner and one as the interviewee.
In fact, however, an interview can also be conducted with several people at the same time, although the focus here will be on the conversation of two people.
An interview usually always pursues the goal of learning more about an area.
How is an interview conducted?
An interview guideline is usually drawn up for this purpose, and the interview is based on it.
How closely the interviewer follows the guide depends on the form of the interview: In a structured interview, only the questions on the guide are asked.
In a semi-structured interview, questions arising spontaneously from the interview situation are included in addition to the guideline questions.
In a free interview, the guide forms the entry point into the conversation, with the further course being open.
In product development, the semi-structured interview is used most frequently. In addition to the predefined questions, the interviewer can introduce additional questioning techniques such as laddering (in this method, the connections between product features and their subjective meaning are revealed through targeted and sequential follow-up questions). These are used to capture not only superficial responses about obvious features of the product (e.g., appearance), but also deeper needs of the user. Targeting these needs means measurably improving the product’s UX!
Even if the interview first appears to be a very common and easy-to-use method in itself, the quality of the results is fundamentally dependent on the experience of the interviewers, especially when conducting interviews, since it is very easy to unintentionally influence the answers of the interviewee in direct conversation.
Insert: Open and closed questions
Open and closed questions are two different types of questions that can be used in interviews. The choice between open and closed questions depends on the goals of the interview and the type of information to be gathered.
In stark summary, open-ended questions allow for a more comprehensive and detailed response, while closed-ended questions can provide specific and easily quantified information.
Let’s take a closer look at both types.
Open-ended questions allow respondents to give detailed and free-form answers.
They encourage detailed descriptions of thoughts, opinions, and experiences.
They often begin with words such as “how,” “what,” or “why” and open up possibilities that allow the interviewee to fully state his or her point of view.
Open-ended questions are flexible and allow the interviewee to build follow-up questions on what has been said.
Example of an open-ended question: “What is your experience with product X?”
Closed-ended questions require the respondent to select a specific response option from a limited selection or to provide a short, concise answer.
They provide specific information and can be useful for collecting data that is easy to categorize or quantify. Closed-ended questions often begin with words such as “Have you…?”, “Would you…?”, or “How often…?”.
They offer limited response options, such as yes/no, a scale of 1 to 5, or a predefined choice.
Closed-ended questions are also useful for making the interview process more efficient.
Example of a closed question: “Have you used product X in the last six months?”
Please avoid: Suggestive questions
Suggestive questions are questions that consciously or unconsciously imply a desired answer or a certain opinion. These questions have the following disadvantage in interviews to increase UX: The answer or opinion of the person being interviewed is steered in a certain direction or influenced in general. This, of course, skews your test results because you can’t find out the true needs and opinions of your users through leading questions.
Often, leading questions happen unconsciously and completely without bad intention of the questioner. An example of this: It could happen that you already know to believe what the interviewee will answer due to pre-assumptions from previous parts of the interview, and by mistake you then let that flow into your own question.
So, in order to gain valid insights into user opinions and needs in your interviews, you need interviewers who know their craft and specifically avoid leading questions!
An example of a leading question: “Don’t you think it would be better if this feature were in a different place?”.
Insert 2: Qualitative and quantitative interviews
For the “interview” UX method, you have two basic choices: You can conduct quantitative or qualitative interviews (and combine them if necessary).
Quantitative interviews aim to collect numerical data to identify general trends and patterns. They use standardized, closed-ended questions and require larger samples to produce representative results. Most often, they are structured interviews that include the same questions for each participant. The data are analyzed statistically to identify statistical relationships and differences.
Qualitative interviews, on the other hand, aim to gain deeper understanding about respondents’ experiences and perspectives. Open-ended questions allow for in-depth responses that provide a detailed description of the issues. Smaller samples are purposively selected to explore specific opinions and experiences. Data are analyzed using qualitative analysis methods to identify categories, themes, and patterns.
Both methods have their own advantages and disadvantages and can be combined depending on the research question and objectives to provide a more comprehensive picture.
So what questions should you ask in your interviews?
That depends entirely on your goal. If you want to learn how a person uses a product and why it is good or bad for that person, we mainly use open-ended questions. Open-ended questions form the core of most interviews.
If you want to specifically create comparability or create and compare concrete values, then you mainly use closed questions. Most of our interviews to increase UX include up to ten closed questions that ask users to agree with certain statements on a scale of 0 to 10.
Leading questions (see previous insertion) put answers in the mouth and manipulate responses-that’s not what you want to achieve. Therefore, you should avoid leading questions at all times.
What should you keep in mind when considering using an interview as a research method?
The following points are particularly important:
- The right users: You will only get valid data from the right users. So you should pay special attention to recruitment.
- The right guide: The guide must fit what you want to ask. For example, if you want to find out agreement with a concept, you should include closed scale questions. If what’s good or bad about your concept, you’ll learn about open-ended questions.
- Your questions should go from rough to fine. First, cover the issues at a more general level and then go into the details.
- Doing it right: If done incorrectly, it can create bias in users’ opinions and responses. Make sure you have interviewers who know how to avoid these biases.
- Create an interview situation where the user feels comfortable talking the majority of the time.
What are the advantages of the method?
- An interview can very quickly generate in-depth insights into the company’s own users and their needs, wishes and work processes. Thus, interviews are often also a good complement to other methods such as field observations.
- You get to know and understand user needs, by satisfying which you can specifically increase the UX of your product.
- You can ask about agreement or disagreement with concepts and get assumptions confirmed or proven wrong – all from the real users of your product.
What are the disadvantages of this method?
- Especially with qualitative interviews, the evaluation usually takes about three times as long as the interview itself. The resources must be available for this.
- Valid results can only be achieved with a properly prepared guide or questionnaire. So, you need someone here who is deeply familiar with the methodology and creation.
- The same applies to the execution: Here, too, you need someone who understands his subject and can avoid bias in the answers by the interviewer.
Interviews answer these questions
- Is my product understood by the user?
- How do users like the visual design of my interface?
- What features do my users really need?
- How does the use of my product change over time?
- Is there anything about my product that annoys or excites my users?
- What requests for change do my clients have?
- Does the user want to use my product?
How do we conduct an interview?
Let us find out together whether an interview is the right method for your question and how a cooperation proceeds in detail. You can find our contact details here. Let us find out together whether an interview is the right method for your question and how a cooperation proceeds in detail. You can find our contact details here.
This is not the right method for your question?
In our Design Method-Assistant we have compiled the most important methods for the most typical questions. Try out the method assistant and find exactly the right method for your question.
Choosing the right method is also made easier by the decision matrix in our book on usability and user experience design. There you will also find a lot of background knowledge about the method itself as well as UX & UI in general.
An interview is the perfect method to generate qualitative insights about users or to collect quantitative data. Interviews are also often a very important complement to other methods such as field observations (for example, in the course of a context of use analysis).
Are you sure that an interview is the right method to improve your product? Then please contact us and together we will find out what we can do for you.
You are welcome to contact us directly via our contact form. We look forward to hearing from you!