A Quick Guide to User Interviews

Extracting information from users for better usability and experience understanding can be costly. Luckily, user-interviews are great tools to do so cheaply and easily. It often just requires someone who can ask questions and record the answers.

There are times when you have to conduct a user interview urgently, and the timing of it might not be ideal. In those instances, use this guide as a quick and dirty way to conduct interviews with internal/external stakeholders. This guide can be used by both novices as well as new interviewers.

Just take a deep breath and start!

“You cannot understand good design if you do not understand people; design is made for people.”

Dieter Rams


  1. Make interviewees feel comfortable: Start by asking a few casual questions. Once you have everything set, introduce the research background, thank them for the interview and inform them that you’re recording the session for research purposes.
  2. Interview like a smooth conversation: Make the transition from introductions and warm-up questions to your central topic smooth.
  3. Listen and ask clever questions: Silence is a great tool, but if participants say something interesting, you can find out more by guiding them to share more. Ask open-ended questions that can lead to more descriptive answers. Avoid asking Yes/No type or leading questions that are framed to verify an assumption.
  4. Close the conversation: Express gratitude and ask participants about the interview experience. Ask them if they have any thoughts connected to the topic which you hadn’t raised.
  5. Please write down your notes/remarks/impressions: It is important to collect your reflections at this point. Because the experience is fresh, you remember things you might not like when listening to your recording.


  1. Is holding back: Be aware of the participant and his style of communication. Is he really holding back, or is he just slow to open up and quiet? Take turns with the second researcher to establish a better connection. Be willing to explore what might be making the participant uncomfortable, adjusting your style, and questions to accommodate.
  2. Isn’t holding back: If the participant really likes to talk, they might feel their stories are taking over the interview and pushing the conversation off-topic. Instead of interrupting, let the participant finish their story or tangent and then ask a question that redirects them back to your original question. As long as you’re getting what you need from the participant, it’s better to wait it out than interrupt the conversation flow.

Documenting Interview

  1. Capture exactly what was said.
  2. Use a combination of audio, video (if required), and written notes.
  3. Take lots of pictures.

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Product Designer who narrates stories. Top writer in Design on Medium. Connect with me on https://www.linkedin.com/in/djgarg/