I have recently hit my 1 year mark in Australia (woo!) and since then I have facilitated or participated in close to 40 user interviews. These interviews included customers, potential customers, and internal colleagues.

Interviews are a powerful tool that can bring a large product team together, so all co workers are invited to participate in the interview process. Product owners, stakeholders, and graduates all have an interest in how customers interact with our products, and it can be incredibly beneficial for them to hear feedback directly from customers.

We couldn't deliver quality products without customer interviews and testing, it is such a pivotal part of the process and an opportunity to get invaluable insights into the minds and needs of our customer base. To ensure you come out of a user interview with tangible insights to help improve the design of your product, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

“Don't show potential customers your product, you want to learn what is already in their head.”

Emmett Shear, Co-founder TwitchTV

Set the context

Just like any great meeting, setting context in the beginning of the interview is crucial to the outcome. We try to cover these topics at the beginning:

  • Summary of the business
  • Who and what is the UX team
  • Who the interviewee is
  • What exactly we are testing
  • I try to run through the definition of a prototype if we are showing one
  • Beginning with a few questions also helps the interviewee to become more comfortable with the interviewer. It also sets the scene for what to expect out of the session and it gives you an opportunity to learn more about the interviewee. Make sure to confirm with your customer that you understand what they are saying by summarizing and repeating back their feedback or comments. Clear communication can make a huge difference.

    Try not to use leading questions

    This may seem obvious to a veteran, however it still surprises me how often this happens, and is an easy mistake to make. A good interviewer knows how to navigate the client through the interview questions without leading or getting off track. I have witnessed inexperienced interviewers making the mistake of not having clear enough questions to gather the insights that they are looking for. I often leave the open ended questions towards the end of the interview.

    Collaboration with colleagues

    While not everyone needs (or will have the time) to be apart of the interview itself, we try to get everyone's input during the interview prep to ensure we cover everything the team needs in the session. This includes which questions to ask, the types of customers we will be interviewing, and how we will be gathering and using the insights afterwards. For example, we often have product owners review questions to help us understand particular problem. We always make the interview videos internally available to everyone and this can be another helpful learning tool.

    Conclusion and resources

    Before beginning the customer interview process, each time I try to review these tips to make sure I am set up for success. Often we will use a template to work through during the sessions to help keep things on track, which I would highly recommend. I hope you find this helpful for your next customer interview.

    A few resources and tools if you want to learn more:

  • How to conduct user interviews
  • Customer recording tool
  • Stanford University lecture