6 Top Tips for running insightful interviews

Rubini Gunaratnam
March 5, 2024

Why would someone want to run killer interviews?
Listening to your users is not only the cornerstone of effective product design - it’s the difference between building a product you like, versus your actual users. To achieve the latter, here’s 6 tips on how to run insightful interviews and get the best learnings to build your product.

1. Stick to the Test

Killer interviews start with asking what you need to ask. And not much more. It can be  tempting to dive into the weeds of users’ backgrounds or veer off-topic asking for feedback on other features, but that may lead to generating tenuous results, or retrofitting insights to match your objective. 

Before designing your questions, write down your objectives and hypotheses, so you consistently check to see if your questions ladder up to what you’re testing.  Before the interview, write a script in advance including the key questions you’re trying to answer. Being able to refer to these during an interview will help you differentiate from an interesting tangent, to an unwelcome diversion.

And finally, if you have additional burning questions about your product that are unrelated to this specific test, leave them for a quickfire round if you have time at the end. That way you can still take advantage of facetime with users, without jeopardising the most important problem you’re trying to solve.

2. Be like Switzerland

When conducting an interview, you’ve got to remain neutral! Asking leading questions is an easy trap to fall into and the quickest way to generate biased results. Lean on these question formats to avoid that.

Open-ended questions:
These avoid yes/no answers, encouraging users to open up and express themselves.
So rather than asking which of these do you like? (which is problematic as you are assuming that they like one to begin with), you could ask an open-ended question like “what do you think of this?”

Probing questions:
These are great to follow up an open-ended question with. Try highlighting something they’ve said in their open-ended answer, and ask them to clarify or elaborate. For example "You mentioned that you often use online forums to learn about new products. Can you describe a recent experience where you discovered a product this way?" This will help you understand not just their actions, but why behind them. 

3. Attract the right subjects 

It's easy to call in your mates or mother for a quick recruitment fix, but remember, if they don’t fit the persona, your whole test becomes invalid. To get the most value, invest in a recruitment platform and design some quality screeners.
The no-brainers include accounting for demographic and behavioural factors – age, location, occupation, level of experience when it comes to using your product. And when your personas are more nuanced, you can use certain behaviours or mindsets as screeners. 

I think movies are a waste of time
I think movies are a form of education. 

You can even interlink questions if you’re trying to attract a very specific subset.

Do you own pets?
Do you volunteer for organisations that help animals?

Only if they answer yes to both questions, do they qualify as a participant.

4. Build a community of testers

Try not to think of your users as one-off interviewees, but a helpful little community you can call on over time, saving you the time and money from recruiting again.  Always conclude your interviews by asking if they're keen to participate in future tests. Offering incentives can also encourage ongoing engagement. And remember to respect their time –. As much as they want to help make your product awesome, they have lives to get back to ;)

5. Don't Analyse Alone

Where’s the fun and neutrality in that? It’s super easy to project your own interpretation on users’ answers, which is why, if you can, bring another team member on to help listen, deduce insights, then sense check your perception and keep each other honest.

Bonus tip: if you’re taking notes for an online interview, turn your camera off. This way you can include another note taker, without overwhelming the interviewee.

For an even better analysis – try recording a transcript of the interviews, then sitting with your team to listen, group themes, cross reference notes, pull quotes and discuss what they really mean. 

Bonus, bonus tip: why not upload your transcripts into ChatGPT and ask it to also draw conclusions. See if it provides a different point of view, or picks up on something no one else did.

6. Optimise your scale

Forget the usual 1-5 Likert Scale. How boring. The 1-7 is where it's at when it comes to deducing insightful data. These extra notches not only give users more room to reflect and provide detailed feedback, but provide more variability which = a more robust analysis and understanding of users attitudes and preferences. The 1-7 also helps produce more dynamic data, as the more choices you provide, the less likely they are to choose the safe option, and give more pointed data.

So, on a scale of 1 to 7, how fabulous were these tips? If you're hungry for more or need help putting them into practice get in touch. Our team are specialists at designing tests and turning insights into a product your user (and therefore you) will love.

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