Conducting interviews is an essential part of doing user research, during the ‘discover’ or ’empathize’ phase of the project (depending on the type of framework you use – there are (too) many to choose from. When you’re using a lean startup methodology, it can be very useful to test your hypothesis and see if you’re on the right track with your value proposition.

Whatever you call your research/exploration phase, interviews are likely to be part of it. They provide valuable insights in how people think and view a certain topic. Often, I see that designers with little experience ask all the wrong questions and don’t really know what they’re doing. You can’t blame them, doing proper interviews is something that requires skill, experience and the right methodology.

Let’s take the example of a project in which you want to design a new car sharing platform. You and your team have recruited and setup interviews to explore customer needs, in order to gain empathy to design a truly user-centered service, ultimately.

A few tips and tricks around the interview process:

See your interviews as a funnel: as input, you have your carefully selected participants (recruiting, by the way, is also often an overlooked aspects of the process). During the interview, you get deeper and deeper into your subject’s mind, thus ascending in the funnel (also called: laddering). By considering your interview in this way, you’re ensured of getting an output that both covers a broad spectrum of the topic of investigation, as well as specific insights.

Let’s zoom in a bit on the individual phases in the funnel:

  1. Start with the context of the subject. His or her life, family situation, daily activities, job, income, all the surrounding factors that will provide you with valuable knowledge on what kind of person you’re dealing with. For example, is he or she social? Conservative? A goal getter or a laidback person? Career over family? Etc.
  2. Then, start talking about the broader subject at hand, in this case mobility. How does this person feel about mobility? How does he/she travel? Why does he or she travel? What are some of the fears or satisfying factors while traveling? How does his or her train, bike or walking behavior relate to other forms of transport? Etc.
  3. In the 3rd step, it’s time to zoom in on the specific topic of interest: car usage. How does the car fit in his/her life? What feelings are apparent while driving (is she/her ‘cocooning‘? Enjoying a fast and efficient drive VS enjoying the journey? Is music an important factor? Traveling alone or mostly with his/her family? Etc.)
  4. Finally, now that you and the subject feel at ease, have spent some time together, viewed the topic from different sides and talked extensively about mobility and the role of the car, it’s time to start ‘freewheeling’:
    1. Reflect on a recent driving experience by together filling out a journey map (see template download), by letting your subject draw an emotional curve of what he or she felt like during the experience (what are the ‘highs’ and the ‘lows’?)
    2. What would an ultimate car journey look like?
    3. How would he or she improve the experience of sharing/using a car?
    4. If this person was the CEO of your or your client’s company, what would he or she change as soon as possible?
    5. It’s even possible to start brainstorming and co-creating a rough concept of the new service, if the subject feels comfortable with it and is up for the challenge to start drawing the new service with you! (also see the template download)
  5. Closure (not depicted in the image)

There is so much to say, write and read about conducting a proper interview. These simple tips are just one of the many practices you can go about the interview process. Just remember, the Discovery phase is one of the most important parts of the Design Thinking process and should be treated as such.

PPT template
download: