User and stakeholder interviews

What

A semi-structured conversation with users and stakeholders to understand the opportunities and pain-points that might be addressed.  ‘Semi-structured’ means that a basic script is used, but an open conversation is allowed to develop as long as it remains focussed on the brief.

When

To develop an understanding of the opportunity to be addressed and the ways in which the project might progress.  During the initial stage of a project, interviews can identify a number of themes to be explored further.

How

  1. Sketch out a guide for the conversation.  As each topic is discussed opportunities to move into other areas of interest can be taken, or the guide can be used to help keen the interview structured.
  2. Organise a note taker.  It is very disruptive if you need to keep breaking off the conversation to take notes and you are likely to miss detail.  If you are recording the conversation, be sure to ask permission first (and keep in mind, this may make some people uncomfortable).
  3. Find an appropriate location where the interviewee will be relaxed and where there are few distractions.
  4. Introduce yourself and the reason for the research.  Take care not to bias the conversation at this point by suggesting a preferred outcome.
  5. Start with a number of introductory questions such as asking the interviewee their name, job role, family status.  As well as providing useful demographic information, they will help to settle the interviewee into the interview.
  6. Ask open questions (not ones requiring ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as answers) and allow the conversation to develop.  If the conversation naturally moves onto other areas of interest, allow it to progress.  If it moves entirely away from the area of interest, give it a little time and then find a natural opening to bring it back towards track.