Nutrition profile

At any stage of your project, learn directly from individual users about their relevant experience to inform defining, understanding, and designing a product or feature.

Cooking time

User interviews can be done in person, on the phone, or using videoconferencing software. Allow 1-1.5 hours for in-person interviews, and 30 minutes for phone or video interviews.

Perfect for

Exploratory research, such as capturing the user's perspectives and opinions, or what they think about using a product. User interviews usually focus less on the product’s usability.

Prep work

Write a script

Think of the script as a framework that guides your conversation. It should include necessary context for your participant and questions you want to probe into. Ballpark the time needed to answer the questions and make sure you allow room for digression, as you’ll always want to hear more thoughts from your participant.

Find a notetaker and/or observer

User interviews can theoretically be done one-on-one, but it’s challenging. You’ll want to capture as much thoughts as possible, so it’s better if you can find someone else to take notes while you focus on the conversation. They might also come up with good follow-up questions in case you miss any. If your setup allows extra observers, consider inviting one or two stakeholders or other people who drive decision-making to the conversation.

Recruit participants

Define your audience in advance to make sure you're meeting with the right people who can speak to your research questions. You can either find people who are familiar with your product, or recruit other users who have expressed interest. Having a set of screening questions when recruiting may also help you reach those who fit better.

Consider offering appropriate incentives such as gift cards or company swag to encourage participation.

Plan to interview only one participant at a time. User interviews are different from focus group sessions (where you sit down with a group of participants)—you’ll not want one opinion to influence another. You may occasionally interview with two people who are familiar with each other, but one-on-one sessions are best suited for capturing individual voices.

<aside> 💡 How many participants do I need? It’s not always the more the merrier! It takes time to schedule, set up, conduct, and analyzing each interview, so having more participants than necessary may not be a good use of your time.

The number of participants you need depends on the scope of your project. If you’re helping a company explore a new market, it’s probably beneficial to talk to more participants. However, if you just want to understand how a small group uses a lightweight smartphone app, you likely need a much smaller sample.

For an average project, use 5 as your “magic number." Start with talking to 5 participants and normally you’ll start to notice the same patterns being repeated. Then use the patterns as a guide to decide if you need more participants.


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