Conducting user interviews

Identify target segments

A target segment is a group of users with certain traits or attributes that may determine how they use a product or service. These are sometimes referred to as archetypes, and can lead to the development of personas.

In the Discovery phase, target segments determine which customers are the best to talk to before conducting interviews.

The main purpose of target segments is to:

  • refine the focus of your market
  • understand the patterns and behaviours of users
  • reveal gaps in research

How to create a target segment:

  1. In your team, define who is part of your service process and who you would like to talk to (for example, citizens, mediators, public servants).
  2. Clarify the various types of demographics you would like to talk to. Ensure there is a geographic spread to avoid bias (for example, if your audience is based in NSW include users from both rural and metropolitan areas).
  3. Determine how many individuals you would like to interview within each segment.

In this step, a minimum of five individuals within each segment is recommended. This way there is enough information to observe overlapping issues and enough variation to gain new insights. Often, after five interviewees the variations discovered are slight. It is more beneficial to use this budget in interviewing different target segments.

Interview guide

An empathy interview guide outlines how to get to the core of an issue being solved. Rather than having a script, the interview guide is a general method of approach for the interviewer.

The benefits of an interview guide are:

  • different employees conduct interviews in a similar manner
  • more personalised feedback can be gathered from users
  • it's easier to stay on task during interviews.

How to create an interview guide with your team:

  1. Brainstorm the questions you would like to ask.
  2. Organise your questions into three categories:
    • Broad questions introduce the topic to the interviewee on a general scale e.g. ‘What does a typical day look like?’, ‘When do you use our service?’
    • Specific questions are used to understand the individual’s interaction with your service. Asking for anecdotes is a great way to receive more personal feedback e.g. ‘Can you tell me about the last time you used our service?’
    • Probe questions are the main source of knowing your user’s motivations and frustrations. They usually start with ‘why’. e.g. ‘Why was this particular experience positive/ frustrating?’ Ask ‘why’ as many times as needed until you get to the root of the cause.
  3. Refine the questions you’ve brainstormed. Make sure your questions are neutral and do not suggest an opinion. The question should allow the interviewee to discuss their personal experiences. Consolidate your list and remove any repeating questions.
  4. Write a brief introduction for the interview. This will be used at the beginning of the interview to allow the user to clearly know:
    • the purpose of the interview
    • how their information will be collected
    • how you will be recording the interview.

Conducting interviews

After contacting your target segments and creating your interview guide, it is time to conduct the interview.

The interview is designed to:

  • reveal how customers feel about the problem you are trying to solve
  • provide insight into customer’s motivations and frustrations
  • unveil gaps in research.

Remember to interview a minimum of five individuals for each target segment.

It's important to always interview in pairs. That way, one person can write notes while the other focuses on the interviewee, and you can consolidate each other’s observations. If possible and appropriate, we recommend recording the interviews so you can refer back to the discussion later in analysis.

How to conduct your interview:

  • Let the interviewee know you will be recording the interview for example, 'Do you mind if I voice-record our talk today?'
  • Build a friendly rapport. Give your interviewee the space to talk and explain their motivations and issues
  • Never assume your interviewee’s response. Do not suggest an answer or opinion. Even if you believe you know the answer keep asking ‘why’ so that they can explain it in their own words
  • Never interrupt the interviewee. If the interview goes off topic, wait for a break and gently steer the conversation back to your guide
  • Allow silences to occur for as long as they need to
  • Observe body language and note any significant cues. These can offer more insight than words
  • Relax and be yourself. The more relaxed you are the more relaxed your interviewee will feel.
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