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Don’t Just Listen to Your Users, Watch Them Too

You might be well familiar with a concept of bias between what user says and what actually does when it comes to collecting a feedback in an user interview. That’s why the interviewer always strives for  asking objective questions. In this blog post, we will pay close attention to setting the stage for an optimal interview and also to reasons behind causing that bias.

Tips for conducting an effective user interview

Prepare thoroughly and write down anything worthwhile

Set the right conditions for a perfect interview

First and foremost, set the goals for the interview. They should not be too broad, as such strategy is likely to make an interview fail, because it will most probably not focus your questions in a direction relevant to your design strategy needs. Instead, set concise goals related to specific aspect of the users’ behavior in order to get the right answers to your question.

Have the adequate questions prepared

It’s better you have questions prepared before you start an actual interview. However, always leave a room for steering the conversation into suitable direction as the final product is dependent on what user thinks. The setting should be as neutral as possible. Make the user feel as comfortable as possible. Also, do not forget to create a rapport with the user from a get-go.

Ask the right questions and stay flexible

Whatever question you intent to ask it is important to stay composed and wait for the right opportunities to ask more questions. As Fabricio Teixeira in an article from UX Collective put it:

A common mistake when framing questions for the interview is to rush things out and try to get to the expected answers as quick as possible. When you walk in the room for an interview, there is a good chance you already have an idea about the answers users will give you — but don’t let that intuition get in the way of extracting impartial, unbiased results.

Rushing answers will make you disregard important details

Examples of questions before the user tests the product

Start with simple icebreaker questions to get to know the person. A typical example of such question: “Tell me what your typical day looks like?” That will importantly loosen up the interviewee and establish report, so responses following next will be more genuine. 

Continue with topic-specific questions to find more about the subject. For example, if you were to find out fitness habits, ask: “How often do you go to gym?” Such questions will help to steer the interview towards your goals.

Examples of questions when the product is being tested

Proceed with prototype-related questions where you actually ask a person to use the product. Ask person to use the app you are about to test and tell what he/she thinks of homepage, for example. When an user is into the app, you can easily give specific tasks, such as: “Please, find the push-up exercises.”

Find out what is most appealing to this product. Be cautious about anything surprising when user completed the task. Was anything missing? Follow user’s gut reactions carefully and write down anything unusual you notice. 

What user says and what he does differ

Actually, user doesn't really know what he wants and needs

The former Apple marketing executive, Guy Kawasaki, said

Customers cannot tell you what they need. Apple market research is an oxymoron. The Apple focus group was the right hemisphere of Steve’s brain talking to the left one. If you ask customers what they want, they will tell you: ‘Better, faster, and cheaper’ —that is, better sameness, not revolutionary change. 

Bias derives from what comes natural and what is desirable as an answer

User's mind when providing feedback is always biased

Users have a hard time telling us what they need lies due to neuroscientific phenomenon. It basically includes two types of thinking: System 1 and System 2. System 1 thinking is reactive. Therefore, it consists of emotions, habits, and intuition. Contrary, System 2 thinking is solely analytical. It is deliberate, factual, and logical.

System 1 and System 2 thinking describe how people respond when asked questions. In reality, most people spend the majority of their time using System 1 thinking. When someone enters into their world and starts asking questions, they are prone to give a popular answer, and that’s why they answer with System 2 thinking. As a consequence, the outcome is leading to answers that are contradictory to their true, real needs.

Finally, all the feedback is taken into account

To conclude, we have seen the way the set is prepared, the questions are asked and the feedback is interpreted, largely implies the preparation for the creation of the digital product. So, you need to make sure those are all as objective as possible and not prone to cause any biased and impartial feedback, as those largely affect the creation of the digital product in the following stages.

Gaining quality feedback for proper preparation of the digital product is just one of the many stages in digital product development. See more on building a digital product in the blog section.

Luka Mlakar

Luka Mlakar

Product designer and co-founder, working with startups and established businesses to create great products or redesigning existing ones so they perform better.