Module 1: User Discovery & Needfinding
Prepare An Interview
Why should you use this method?
- Preparation is essential to get the most insights out of your interviews
- Overarching questions help to keep your goal in mind during an interview
- Prepare questions that make sense for you and your interviewee
- Gain a deeper understanding of your interviewee
- A guideline helps you cover all relevant topics and guides you through the interview
What is an interview guideline?
An interview guideline is a set of questions and additional preparation which will guide you through an interview later on.
One of the most effective types of interviews are semi-structured interviews. These have a certain structure and logic, which makes it easier for you to get the answers you need. However, it is also flexible enough to allow your interview to flow naturally and give room to new and unexplored ideas.
This is why we recommend you to structure your interview guideline as a semi-structured interview. This means that you should prepare all your core questions and potential follow-up questions in advance. During the interview you will then have the possibility to use these questions to keep the conversation where you want it to be. At the same time, you can also decide spontaneously to shift the conversation towards an unexpected, but interesting, topic.
The basis for all of your prepared questions should be your overarching question.
What is an overarching research question?
For each interview, define one or a maximum of two overarching questions. Those questions represent your research goal and allow you to stay on track during the interview. This overarching research question should not be too broad, nor too narrow.
You can use a How-might-we framework to formulate a question that includes a user and a potential need to be solved. If no need is known yet, your overarching research question should still include a specific user group and an open question to be answered.
Be prepared to rewrite and further specify this research question after you gathered insights!
How can you prepare an interview guideline?
The following steps will guide you through the creation of an interview guideline. You can also find an example of an interview guideline for download at the top of the page.
0. Before you start
Did you define the user you are going to interview? You should also consider to interview non-customers, extreme users, or people in analog situations as they can give you interesting insights as well.
1. Define one or two overarching questions
This question will serve as guideline for your whole interview. It allows you to stay on track and always remember the ultimate goal of your interview.
2. Write an introduction script
The script helps you to create a smooth start. It ensures that you are sharing all relevant information about your research and the interview itself. Here is a checklist for a good introduction:
- Introduce yourself
- The purpose of the interview and overview of the topics
- Expected duration of the interview
- Voluntary nature of the interview: participants can quit at any time.
- Affirm that there are no right or wrong answers
- Confidentiality statement: How will their answers be used?
- Permission to make an audio recording of the interview, if possible
3. The conversation starter
The conversation starter is the way to create a comfortable and trustful atmosphere and build rapport with the participant. Start with questions that ask for basic background or information. They should be:
- Simple to answer
- Something the participant likes to talk about or can easily relate to
- Build trust by offering something of yourself as well
4. The core questions
Create 5-10 open-ended questions that are closely/strongly related or relevant to your overarching question. It allows the participants to open up and share stories.
- Ask questions that dig deep and explore emotions and needs
- Frame the questions in a simple way, avoid bias, and aim for long answers
- Cluster the questions according to themes
Have a look at the method card “Phrase Great Questions” if you need more guidance.
5. The follow-up questions
Create 2 – 3 follow-up questions per core question to evoke deeper understanding and elicit more detailed and elaborate responses to your core questions. However, if your core question is well formulated, the participant will cover the majority of the follow-up questions on their own and you won’t have to ask them.
- The question should support you in doing a follow-up on information you didn’t anticipate beforehand
- The questions are aimed to fill holes and uncover additional interesting information
6. Conclusion and wrap up
Prepare a wrap-up for the interview where you thank the participant and inform them about the next steps. Most importantly, ask if there are still open questions or if the participant has other things to tell you. Stay focused, as surprising content can still come up after you have rounded off your interview with the participant
What’s up next?
Now it’s time to get started with your interview.
Continue with the method card “Conduct an Interview” to learn some best practices, the different phases during an interview, and how to document an interview.
Of course, don’t forget to print your interview guideline and take it with you to your interviews!