Interviewing is a staple research method that every designer, product manager and content creator should master as it can be used throughout a project life cycle. From stakeholder interviews in a discovery phase, to initial user research, right through to task based testing and iteration, interviews can be enormously helpful. They are very time-consuming, however, and although speaking to someone is better than speaking to no one, it’s always better to plan to do a few interviews at once, rather than one or two. I generally find that patterns only start to emerge after I’ve spoken to 4 or 5 people. Most of the interviews we do at Monotype are remote due to the location of our global customers and users.

Rigour is an important consideration in all research activities and especially if you’re a non-researcher. Interviews particularly can be easily skewed by an inexperienced facilitator, which is why pairing can be a good approach. Building rapport, questioning, time keeping, note taking and thinking on your feet can be difficult to do all at once, so having a colleague take notes while you concentrate on leading the conversation can work really well. It’s important for the note taker to sit in on more than one interview so that they get a more rounded view of the feedback. The same person should also be involved in the analysis of the data.

Interviews can be analysed and written up in a report or summary as with other types of research. I mostly use a collaborative process for deciding on themes, particularly if multiple members of the team have been involved in interviewing.

Interviews are particularly useful for providing colour and insight to an exploratory process. I often find verbatim quotes to be the most insightful type of data. You might find that an inexperienced researcher (or designer who is used to solving problems) will jump to interpretation too soon and forget to just listen to what the interviewee is saying. Capturing the exact form of words a person uses can help get away from this.

Further reading:

Emma BoultonComment