Dialogue Interviews

Presentation slides

Purpose: To give participants the tools to conduct dialogue interviews when the time comes and to provide participants with a tool to use to gather feedback at any stage of prototyping. Interviews are a good way to practice deep listening, as the quality of listener impacts the quality of the information received. It’s a great way to usher in the moving from the macro perspective and the world of data, to the micro perspective, and the domain of personal details.

Materials: Ask participants to have prepared some questions before the interviewees arrive, make sure they have paper and pens to take notes and/or a recording device if using. Depending on organisational or institutional ethics rules, participants may have to have interviewees sign a release form of some kind. Depending on how the interviews are to be conducted, make sure that you have the technology set up and ready to go as this can cause delays and anxiety for both interviewers and interviewees.

Time: This largely depends on the format. Interviews can last anywhere from 60 - 150 minutes, depending on the depth of the questions and the sophistication of the prototype you put in front of the interviewee.

Step one: In preparation for the interviews, introduce the idea of interviewing. For example, Google has found that interviewing 5 people is the magic number for unearthing problems with your design. 85 percent of issues can be identified with 5 different people’s perspectives (with every iteration of the prototype). Interviews can be done in many different ways, but the following is an easy approach for folks new to action research.

The Five-Act interview

Act one: A friendly welcome to start the interview

Act two: A series of general, open-ended context questions about the user

  • Should be relative to the prototype you are testing

Act three: Introduction to the prototype(s)

  • Ask permission to show the work you have been doing

  • Be open about the fact this is a work in progress

  • Remind interviewee that you want frank feedback to be able to improve this version

Act four: Detailed tasks to get the customer reacting to the prototype

  • Ask probing questions about what the user is trying to do with the experience

    • ‘What is this? What is it for?’ ‘What do you think it’s for?’ ‘What do you expect that will do?’ ‘So, what goes through your mind as you look at this?’ ‘What are you looking for?’ What would you do next? Why?’

Act five: A quick debrief to capture the customer’s overarching thoughts and impressions

  • A few debrief questions

    • How does this compare to other experiences you have had?

    • What did you like about the product? What did you dislike?

    • How would you describe this product to a friend?

    • If you had three magic wishes to improve this product, what would they be?

Tips and tools for interviewers:

  • Staying neutral is important, listening cues but not encouraging

  • Ask broken questions:

    • User: ‘Hmmm!’

    • Interviewer: ‘So...what….is’ (Trails off into silence)

    • User: ‘Well I was just surprised to see that the prices were so high.’

  • Keep a curiosity mindset

  • Learn from the interviews

Step two: Perform interviews

Step three: Have participants reflect on the interview process. Ask questions such as

  • How did interviewees’ responses change your understanding of your prototype? The user? The system?

  • What information validated your prototype?

  • What information contradicted your prototype?

  • What surprised you?

  • What questions do you have now?

The prep for interviews (introduction to why we do it and the teach) doesn’t usually happen in one timeframe. For example, we might do a teach on interviewing early on in the programme, but participants might not actually conduct interviews until later on in the programme, or even as fieldwork. This is also why the timing needs to be quantified.

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