2. Choose the right participants.
Define the characteristics of your most important types of users. For example, if you need usability feedback on an app for caregivers, your key users might be adult children, home health workers, and general nursing practitioners. You should talk with people who either potentially would or actually do use your product. Create a separate set of recruiting criteria for each distinct type of user that you want to include in your study. Make sure that you interview people who match clearly defined personas and are representative of your users. Also, be sure to follow the UXPA Code of Professional Conduct in both your recruiting procedures and the way you work with the participants in your study.
Use the recruiting process as an opportunity to build trust and rapport with participants. During the initial screening, once you’ve determined whether people are a good fit for your study, make sure that they fully understand the nature of the interview and why you are inviting them to take part in the study. In addition to going over the logistical details with participants—such as time, place, and duration—let them know whether you’ll be recording the interview, whether other people will be listening in, and any other details that would paint an accurate picture of the interview situation. You need to put participants at ease, so they’ll arrive at their interview session relaxed, in a cheery mood, and ready to share their ideas and experiences with you.
3. Talk with internal staff who deal directly with users.
You might be amazed by how much knowledge about users already exists within your or your client’s organization. Customer Support, Training, Professional Services, and Sales deal with users and their issues every day. By talking with internal staff while planning your interviews, you can learn how to group different types of users and what issues you should discuss with participants. This leads to your asking participants better questions and having more productive interviews.
Review the customer-support logs and talk with support representatives about the most common issues that prompt people to call Support. You can ask trainers about what aspects of the products confuse the people who are learning to use them. Talk to salespeople about the features that resonate most with customers. These conversations will give you a more realistic understanding of the product and how users react to it. They will also provide a framework that will help you to absorb and organize the knowledge that you’ll gain as you carry out your interviews and analyze your findings.
4. Consider whether your interviews should be in person, by phone, or online.
While it is always best to talk with users in their natural surroundings, this approach can be costly. Consider interviewing people virtually, whether over the phone or using a Web conferencing product. When using Web conferencing technology, you can ask participants to tell you how they perform a certain task, while they walk you through the way they actually use the software. These online sessions also let you check out participants desktops and virtual habitats. Current technologies even let you do remote interviews for mobile products.
5. Invite your teammates to listen in and help you to capture data.
Observers provide unique and valuable perspectives on the issues that users bring up, especially when they are from different parts of your organization. Your teammates can take notes on what participants are saying, allowing you to concentrate on interviewing the participants. If the interviews are in person, plan to have observers listen from a separate room to avoid intimidating participants. Schedule interviews so you have at least half an hour between interview sessions. Use this time to debrief your team, discuss people’s observations, and give yourself a little time to relax and prepare yourself for the next interview.