Conducting a user interview

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You’ve done your prep, now it’s time to conduct your interview sessions!

Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your sessions:

Include your team and notetakers in your session

User interviews are a meaningful and rewarding way to connect with and hear directly from your participants, not only for you as the researcher, but also for anyone who’s in the room observing or taking notes. 

We tend to encourage researchers to bring on their team or stakeholders for note taking. This not only helps researchers capture data more effectively, it’s also a practical way to help your team develop empathy for your end-users, get buy-in from your stakeholders about the research and your findings, and build shared understanding with first-hand experience.

Prep yourself and your team
It’s always a good idea to do some prep work before you bring your team into an interview session.

We suggest holding a briefing session with your team members or notetakers and cover the following topics:

  • The expected code of conduct when interacting with participants (i.e. being respectful and kind) and their role as part of the research team (i.e. staying open minded and maintaining a neutral friendliness so as not to influence what the participants may say or share)
  • The goals of your research
  • The questions and topics you want to cover off
  • The intended flow of the interviews
  • How to take effective observation notes (more on that shortly).

Inviting notetakers in Reframer
In Reframer, you can invite other people to your study as notetakers. If the person you want to invite already has a license to your Optimal Workshop account, you can simply invite them to the study in the ‘Study members’ tab. They can then take notes, tag and help analyze.

Example of study members tab

If they haven’t got a license, you can invite them to your study as a guest notetaker. They’ll be able to take notes and create or add tags to their own observations, however they won’t be able to edit your study or take part in analysis. Also, they will only have access to the specific study you invite them to.

Make sure you invite your notetakers before the session starts, so that they’re ready to go when you meet your participants.

Taking notes during a session

Reframer’s ‘Capture’ feature is built for taking notes easily and effectively. There are many different ways to utilize it:

  • Use it to jot down your own notes as you moderate a session
  • Have dedicated notetakers type in observations
  • Capture debrief discussions with your team after the session
  • Take notes afterwards when reviewing a recording of the session.

When you’re conducting an interview session, it’s crucial that you engage with your participant. You want to make sure you ask relevant questions and do so effectively, build rapport with your participant, and help them feel comfortable articulating their thoughts and feelings.

To do this successfully, we recommend either having a dedicated notetaker or recording your session and taking notes afterwards. This way you can give the participant your full presence and attention, as well as alleviate the pressure of having to take notes and moderate

Tips for effective note taking 
Taking good notes takes a bit of practice. Here are a few tips on how to do it effectively for better analysis and record keeping:

  • Write verbatim and use words that your participants use
  • Give context to your observations
  • Write one point per observation
  • If you have to add some interpretations, make sure you mark it as your interpretation so as not to get confused with factual data.

Taking notes in Reframer
Reframer is designed for you to capture and tag your observations quickly as you move through your session. It encourages you to capture everything you see and hear.

Here’s how to capture observations efficiently:

Capturing observations: Type in your observation and hit ‘Enter’ to save it. Or you can hit ‘Shift+Enter’ to start a new line in the same observation. Keep your observations succinct; don’t use ‘Shift-Enter’ too much or it will make subsequent analysis harder.

Adding observations to a question or topic: Reframer’s discussion guide has a function called ‘tasks’ which, when conducting usability tests, allows you to pre-fill the tasks so that you can associate the participant’s responses with the task they’ve been assigned. 

You can also use this function when conducting interviews, but instead of there being specific tasks the participant is being set, there will be key questions or topics that your questions cover that you can associate with the participants responses.

If you have pre-filled the questions or topics in Reframer’s tasks, you will see tasks in the discussion guide in the sidebar on the right. You can either click ‘Start tasks’ and add observations to each task as you move through, or click on the relevant task if you’re not moving through the guide linearly. 

If you end up with any observations that aren’t assigned to a task, don’t worry, you can go through and do this later.

Tagging observations: If you’re taking notes, we recommend tagging your observations afterwards in the ‘Review and tag’ mode so you can focus wholly on note taking during the session.

However, sometimes you might want to quickly add tags for later reference while capturing observations. 

To create tags during observations, place hashtags in front of keywords (for example, #focus). You can also create a ‘quote tag’ (indicating that this is something that the participant said, verbatim) automatically by adding speech marks to the observation (for example, “It’s hard working remotely”).

These tags will appear under the observation when you save it and will be added to the tag management area, giving you a complete picture of all the tags used by you and your team.

For a more in depth look at how to add and manage tags, check out our Help Center article.

Highlighting important observations: Highlight any important observations using the star icon. This is useful for identifying observations that may be particularly relevant, or quickly identifying observations you want to review later on.

To do this, simply click the star icon in the top right hand corner when capturing the observation.

Moderating your session

Moderating an interview is essentially the “interviewing” itself and as you conduct more sessions, you’ll get a feel for what works for you and your participants. Perhaps for your first few interviews you feel more confident sticking to your prepared discussion guide or questions. But as you continue to do more, you’ll find it easier to naturally guide the conversation in different directions as you pick up on things the participant says.

Remember though, when you created your research objectives, that there were certain key notes you had to strike, or issues you had to tackle, otherwise your interview will be a ‘nice chat’ that doesn’t give you the facts and insights you are looking for.

Here are some tips to get you started with moderating a session:

  • Navigate the session with a clear mental map of the topics you want to cover
  • Get comfortable with silences
  • Give participants explicit permission to disagree
  • Lead the discussion, not the participant
  • Do a practice run and get feedback about how you ask questions
  • Look at how you can reduce bias – leading the participant, or giving the game away –  by changing the order of your questions or being more careful about what you say
  • Practice asking follow up questions in your everyday conversations.

For more tips on how to successfully moderate interview sessions, take a look at the following resources: