Interview for Empathy...
By talking to users about their choices and behaviors, we can identify their needs and design for those needs.
WHY interview for empathy
- Having a conversation with users is one of the simplest and most direct ways to get a better understanding of where they’re coming from.
- An interview is a versatile tool. You can interview people for 3 minutes while they’re shopping, or you can set up an hour-long interview in advance. You can interview with a very specific list of questions, or you can be more open-ended and see where the conversation goes. You can even use an interview in conjunction with a prototype test. Our tips below apply to most kinds of interviews.
HOW TO interview for empathy
- Ask why. Even when you think you know the answer, ask people why they do or say things. The answers will sometimes surprise you. A conversation started from one question should go on as long as it needs to.
- Never say “usually” when asking a question. Instead, ask about a specific instance or occurrence, such as “tell me about the last time you ______”.
- Encourage stories. Whether or not the stories people tell are true, they reveal how they think about the world. Ask questions that get people telling stories.
- Look for inconsistencies. Sometimes what people say and what they do are different. These inconsistencies often hide interesting insights.
- Pay attention to nonverbal cues. Be aware of body language. You can even use this in your conversation (“is there a reason you rolled your eyes when you talked about your daughter’s friends?”).
- Use the power of silence. Interviewers often feel the need to ask another question when there is a pause. If you allow for silence, a person can reflect on what they’ve just said and may reveal something deeper.
- Don’t suggest answers to your questions. Even if they pause before answering, don’t help them by suggesting an answer. This can unintentionally get people to say things that agree with your expectations.
- Ask questions neutrally. “What do you think about buying gifts for your spouse?” is a better question than “Don’t you think shopping is great?” because the first question doesn’t imply that there is a right answer.
- Don’t ask binary questions. Binary questions can be answered in a word; you want to host a conversation built upon stories.
- Only ten words to a question. Your user will get lost inside long questions. Ever listened to a Q&A session when the audience member’s question drags on for minutes? Don’t be that kind of questioner – remember to keep the spotlight on your user.
- Only ask one question at a time, one person at a time. Resist the urge to ambush your user.
- Make sure you’re prepared to capture. Always interview in pairs. If this is not possible, you should use a voice recorder—it is impossible to engage a user and take detailed notes at the same time.