How To Conduct an Effective User Interview (with 7 Tips to Succeed)

Discover the step-by-step process for conducting effective user interviews. From recruiting the right users to preparing questions, this article will guide you in gathering valuable insights from your users.

Reshu Rathi
April 27, 2023
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When done effectively, user interviews can be one of the most valuable tools in creating successful products. This might sound like an exaggeration, but it's not. Why?  

As humans, bias is inherent in our nature, and as a product team, it's easy to make assumptions about how things are supposed to be without even realizing it. However, to avoid the common pitfall of creating products that don't meet the actual needs of your users, it's crucial to understand what your users want.

“Supposing is good, but finding out is better.” Mark Twain

The only way to know what users want is to conduct user interviews. When you go straight to the source and interview your users, you'll learn things you could never have known on your own. And this feedback can help you make better decisions about your product or service.

In this post, we'll talk about how to conduct user interviews effectively, some potential challenges to be aware of with user interviews, and some tips for running them at your company. Let’s start with the potential challenges.

Potential Challenges to Be Aware of When Conducting User Interviews?

Conducting user interviews is easy, but conducting them effectively isn't. Like any research method, you need to plan the interview process and follow the best practices to conduct them effectively. But you also need to be aware of these challenges when conducting user interviews:  

1. Recruiting the right participants

The quality of your user interviews depends heavily on the quality of your participants. But sometimes, finding participants who fit the requirements for the study can be challenging, especially if it requires a specific demographic, behavior, or skillset. This can lead to a smaller sample size or biased results if the participants do not represent your targeted users.  

2. Overcoming interviewer bias

Recognizing and addressing your biases during user interviews can be challenging. However, it is crucial to obtain unbiased and accurate insights from participants. To avoid bias, ask open-ended questions, avoid leading questions, and diversify the participant pool.

3. Not everyone knows the art of interviewing

Successful user interviews require various skills and techniques, from active listening and empathy to effective questioning and observation. Less-experienced interview moderators may not be able to gain the same information from a user interview as a seasoned pro.  

Despite these challenges, well-conducted user interviews give you deep user insights and can supplement your user research.

How to Conduct User Interviews

1. Set Clear Goals

Before you begin your user interviews, setting clear goals is essential. By defining your goal in advance, you can tailor your questions to elicit the most relevant insights from your users. For instance, you may want to understand why users aren't using a particular feature on your app as much as you had anticipated.  

To understand the 'why' you need to formulate a goal for your interview, and the following questions can help you do that:

  • Have you tried out the feature ‘X’ on our app?
  • Did it help you accomplish what you were doing?
  • How can we make the feature more appealing or useful?

Getting answers to these questions through user interviews can help you better understand your users and will ultimately improve your feature engagement.

Having a clear sense of what you want to achieve with your interviews helps you stay focused and on track. Also, it will ensure that your interviewees are engaged and feel valued for their contributions.

In short, by establishing goals up front, you can create a more efficient and productive interview process for yourself and your users. Plus, you're more likely to extract insights that can drive meaningful improvements in your business.

2. Recruit the Right Users

Recruiting the right participants is a vital part of the interview process. Your user interviews will only be helpful if you choose the right people. So, it's essential to recruit users who represent your target audience. To do that, create user personas and then try to recruit participants that match the persona.  

Also, decide whether you want to have only one particular group of users or users from many different groups.

Once you decide on your persona, you have to determine the number of people you should interview; there is no fixed rule here. But you can follow the principle established by Jakob Nielsen for usability testing. According to his principle, you can start by interviewing five participants. If you notice that you've stopped getting new insights after interviewing five participants, you don't need to recruit more participants.

The effectiveness of user interviews depends solely on the people you recruit to participate, so take your time with this step.

3. Write a Discussion Guide

If you want valuable insights from your user interviews, get started with a discussion guide. A discussion guide is a written document of questions to ask participants during a research study. Make sure you align it with your research objectives and base it on the intended learning outcomes.

As you craft your interview questions, opt for open-ended ones for more detailed and helpful insights. If you have to start with a yes or no question, follow that up with open-ended questions to let them explain their answer.

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Also, avoid asking leading and loaded questions that direct the interviewee toward a particular answer. For example: "Is the old version better than the improved version of the app?"

Last but not least, use the discussion guide as a reference point - don't use it as a strict script. Be prepared to ask impromptu questions to stimulate meaningful discussions.

4. Creating a Welcoming Environment for Remote Interviews

Most of the time, when people plan in-person interviews, they try to ensure that interviews are comfortable and relaxed. They try to create a good environment but forget to do the same with remote interviews.  

If you're conducting remote interviews, remember it's essential to create a welcoming environment that puts participants at ease. Here are some tips to help you create a good environment:

  • Choose a quiet and comfortable setting for the discussion, with minimal background noise and distractions.
  • Use a warm and friendly tone to greet participants.
  • Engage in a bit of small talk to lighten the mood before you dive into the interview questions.
  • Explain the purpose of the interview and what people can expect during the session.
  • Mind your body language and tone — greet participants with a smile, keep steady eye contact, and avoid fidgeting or crossing your arms.
  • Test your technology in advance to avoid technical difficulties that may disrupt the interview.
  • Encourage participants to ask questions and provide feedback throughout the interview.

5. Take Permission Before Recording Your Meetings

When conducting interviews, respecting the privacy and comfort of your participants is essential. While recording meetings is a common practice these days, obtaining consent before beginning any form of recording is essential.  

Always ask for permission beforehand and be prepared to stop the recording if your participant expresses discomfort or objections during the interview. By doing so, you can ensure that your research is done ethically and with the necessary consent from your participants.

6. Use The Right Tools to Get Insights from Data

After conducting interviews, you may have hours of recorded data to analyze. Reviewing these recordings and extracting valuable insights manually from them can be daunting. That's where using the right tools comes in handy.  

By leveraging AI-powered tools, you can efficiently and effectively analyze your data to uncover key findings and draw meaningful conclusions. This article is helpful if you want to learn more about how to turn research data into usable, meaningful insights.

Remember, choosing the right tools can make all the difference in the quality of your analysis.

7 Tips to Conduct User Interviews

Now that you're familiar with how to conduct user interviews, let's look at some tips that can help you get valuable insights from them.

1. Listen Actively:

Be fully present during the interview and actively listen to your participant's responses. By carefully listening to the user's responses, you can ask follow-up questions, which will help you get to the root of the issue.

2. Ask Follow-up Questions:

When participants provide short answers, follow up with additional questions to encourage them to elaborate on their responses. This way, you will allow them to clarify any of their answers - you can even ask them to give examples of what they mean.

3. Stay Neutral:

Avoid expressing your own opinions or emotions during the interview, as this can influence your participants' responses.

4. Stay Flexible:

As we've discussed, you should go into an interview with a discussion guide (script), but don't be glued to it. Ask the questions you want but be open to the conversation going in a different direction. Sometimes following a loosely scripted approach will give you mind-blowing insights you didn't even know you were looking for.

5. Start with easy questions:

Begin with easy questions to help your interviewee feel comfortable.

6. Thank Your Participants:

After the interview, thank your participants for their time and valuable insights. This will encourage them to participate in future research studies.

7. Reflect on the Interview:

After the interview, take some time to reflect on what you learned and identify any areas for improvement in future discussions.

Power up Your Business with User Interviews

By strategically planning your user interviews, you can uncover valuable insights that have the potential to propel your business to new heights of growth and success.

So, ensure you're putting critical thought into your interview goals, questions, and participants. But don't just stop there - use the right tools to pull meaningful conclusions from your data to get value from these interviews.

Remember, conducting user interviews is an art. Once you master the art, you can tap into a new world of developing and improving your products, services, and overall business. And these steps and tips will help you do that.


Supercharge your research with actionable insights faster on Decode's integrated consumer research platform with Insights AI.
Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
Build the Right Products, the Right Way: Elevate your UX with Qatalyst's integrated user research platform with Insights AI.


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Author Bio

Reshu Rathi
Reshu Rathi is an online marketing and conversion rate enthusiast. She specializes in content marketing, lead generation, and engagement strategy. Her byline can be found all over the web

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