How not to interview a customer/user!

InterviewingtechniquesOver the years I have had the opportunity to observe a lot of user interviews. Interviewing users is not easy and when done correctly it can provide the impetus to inform your ensuing actions. On the other hand a poor interview can leave me cringing! The following is a list of interview behaviors that make me cringe! I will start out with the most obvious of all but no harm repeating it… don’t lead the user!

Don’t ask a question and then immediately answer it. You are leading the interviewee. If they can’t answer then maybe use an example as a way to get them thinking. Don’t answer it with a or b answer as they will choose one just to please you. The answer becomes your answer. Don’t give away the answer you are looking for!

Don’t suggest answers if you are not sure what they just said. Just ask them to clarify or expand.

Don’t ask loaded questions such as “How difficult is it to move from Location A to Location B?” You are essentially telling the interviewee that it is difficult. The interviewee sees it as loaded. You are presupposing that he also thinks it is difficult?

If the user asks you a question… don’t try and answer
Ask her what she things the thing (link, button, tool) is for. What does she think it is for or should be?

Your silence may often prompt a user to offer a more detailed answer. However, your pregnant pause, followed by a slow “uh-huh” can also sound condescending… as if you can’t believe the user answered that way!

Don’t ask more than one question at a time.

Don’t ask two very different questions in the same sentence!

When a user expresses an opinion, don’t just accept it as is. Probe into the underlying attitudes. Ask what else?

If a user says something is important, helpful, preferable, thrilling, boring, scary, unfriendly, hard to use, etc then find out why. Try and understand the underlying motivation attitude that drives the behavior. Don’t just accept it at face value.

If you ask an a/b type question and the user answers “a” don’t just accept that as gospel. The value is in understanding why they chose “a”?

Don’t treat the user as if she is a designer!

Get the gist!? Feel free to suggest other annoying interview behaviors you have experienced!

4 Conferences in 4 weeks!


This past Fall I had the unique opportunity to attend 4 conferences in 4 weeks! Friends thought I was crazy but I was thrilled for the chance to hear from esteemed colleagues around the world about their latest thinking on the current state of design… at least within these 4 quite distinct communities. The four conferences were UX Strat in Boulder Colorado, where I had the honor of being one of the speakers; FutureM and DMI Annual Conference both held in Boston; and finally the Service Design Network’s annual conference in Stockholm, Sweden. I have added links to the conference sites below.