“How should you interview your customers?”

You know the importance of understanding the needs of your users or customers. But what’s the right way to discover those needs? Here, take a quick quiz.


When is this the best place to conduct a user interview?

Only when you want to learn how people have a meeting! For designing products and systems you first need to understand how your users work, then support that work in your design. But people can’t articulate how they really do their work, so you have to get out of the conference room and go to their workspace to see them do it. This is the essence of Contextual Inquiry. See how Contextual Inquiry differs from other techniques.


How much time should I spend interviewing managers?

Only for as long as it takes to get the names of the people who do the actual work. These are the people you need to interview. The manager may have an idea of how the work is done at some high level, but you can be sure the actual workers do it differently to deal with real-world problems and the inevitable work-arounds. Using Contextual Design, you move from relying on abstractions and pure intuition to using real work practice data. Only then will you see a clear path to the best design for your users.


What’s wrong with this picture?

Nothing. You’re observing and discussing with the user, actively learning and documenting how they perform their work as they do specific tasks. You’re like an apprentice, asking why they did what they did so you understand their motivation and intent. This is how you begin to understand user needs. Learn more about capturing and interpreting user data by reading tips on Contextual Inquiry.


What should my questionnaire look like?

You don’t use a questionnaire at all.  What you need is an interview focus and a way to take notes. You’re there to have users show you how they work, so let them. Rather than asking hundreds or thousands of users a set of canned questions, you go deep to understand the actual work structure with a much smaller and carefully selected group of users. With Contextual Design you can typically get requirements for a group, department, or market by interviewing 12 to 30 users, depending on the domain and how many different user types you need to cover.

Since 1992, InContext has been a leader in moving the high-tech industry from engineering-driven to user-centered design, helping major companies across industries tame complex problems with innovative solutions that delight users. InContext can partner with you through coaching, hybrid teams, or complete outsourcing of design projects. Find out how InContext can introduce a new level of innovation to your organization.