User interviews are two-way conversations with individuals who fit your target market.

When are user interviews typically used?

User interviews help you uncover the deep challenges and motivations of why users behave a certain way. What drives and motivates a person, and why they behave the way they do is a deep-rooted matter, and so user interviews are better than some other research methods to get at that “why?”

A user interview is the most common method used when beginning to try to solve a problem. Often, in the strategy phase, your team is starting out on gaining understanding of the current state of affairs and what user problems you should be addressing. That can mean you don’t have the data you need or perhaps any data at all. User interviews can be an efficient way to get the data.

How to Conduct a User Interview

Developing Questions to Answer

You’ll develop an outline for the conversation, but first you’re going to focus on making the user comfortable and willing to share. You’ll ask follow-up questions to guide the conversation toward the answers you want to know. The user shouldn’t feel like they're verbally answering a survey with a long list of questions.



Determine who to interview

Now that you have the questions you'd like to answer, the next step is to determine the correct segment of individuals to talk to to answer these questions. 

This could include (but is not limited to) leads, current customers, recently churned customers, competitors' customers, or people who have never heard of your company. 

Source Participants

Find people who match the segment of folks you'd like to talk to. Start by finding people who may fit your idea segment, then send them to a screener survey to dig a little deeper. This screener survey will ensure you're finding the best people to chat with. 


How many user interviews do you need to conduct?

You may be wondering how many user interviews should you conduct? Well, this example has space for up to ten user interviews. More often than not, patterns start to emerge with five users. Conduct at least five, but no more than ten user interviews. You’re aiming to reach theoretical saturation, which is when the responses no longer surprises you.

Accounting for no-shows, you'll likely want to schedule 10-15 interviews knowing 25% will not show. 

Prepare for the interview

Get any required prototypes, paperwork, and documentation ready so you can jump right into relationship building and the interivew with the user. 

Ideally, have the users complete any required paperwork or releases before coming into the interview. Make sure to send out a reminder to each user 24 hour before their interview to ensure they don't forget.


Run the User Interview

First thing's first, you want to make the person you're interviewing feel comfortable, safe, and open. 

Explain the purpose of the interview and what you're looking for from them. Explain that you're looking for honest feedback: the good, the bad, the ugly. 

Ask if you can record the interview, do so, so you don't have to scramble to take notes. This allows you to focus on smart follow-up questions, good conversation, and relationship building.

You can start with personal questions, or simple questions, and put yourself out there — be vulnerable.

Remember that your prepared quesitons are simply a guide for the conversation. The real gold comes from digging deeper using follow-up questions and asking for stories. 

If you're looking for a great read on running user interviews, check out The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick. 

Check out this role-playing example of a Jobs to Be Done interview by Kevin Kupillas



Post-Interview Recap

Directly after the user interview wraps up, block off 15 minutes to chat with your team, discuss what was talked about, and create some summary points. 

Doing this immediately after the interview is key while everything is fresh in your minds.  

Analyze Results and Build Summary

Once all of your user interviews conclude, it's important to step back, compare and contrast the interviews, and look for patterns and themes. 

One way to quantify the user interviews and dig into the responses is to create a rainbow spreadsheet. This research tool helps you identify patterns in user responses. By using a rainbow spreadsheet, you’ll be able to visually mark users with similar responses, and quickly identify common responses in user interviews.

Get a free rainbow chart template, along with more UX research videos and training in the free Growth-Driven Design Certification course. 

And ultimately, that’s the goal of all your user research. You’ll look for patterns and common themes rather than focus on the outliers or those users who do things differently than most.

User interviews are the truest form of connecting

with your audience to get to the core of why they do what they do.

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Additional Resources

Growth-Driven Design Certification

A free certification covering the Growth-Driven Design methodology for building and optimizing a peak-performing website. Lays out processes for UX research and includes many tools and templates.

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Interviewing Users (book)

"Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights"  is a great walkthrough of how to conduct user interviews, written by Steve Portigal. 

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The Mom Test (book)

"The Mom Test: How to talk to customers and learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you" is a wonderful read about how to properly develop questions and conduct conversations with users.

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