7 common mistakes when doing user research interviews

Optimal Workshop
5 min readNov 10, 2021

Want to do great user research? Maybe you already have tonnes of quantitative research done through testing, surveys and checking. Data galore! Now you really want to get under the skin of your users, understand the why behind their decisions. Getting human-centric with products can mean creating better performing, stronger and more intuitive products that provide an awesome user experience (UX). An in-depth understanding of your users and how they tick can mean the difference between designing products that just work and products that intuitively speak your users language, make them happy, engaged and keep them coming back.

This is where qualitative research comes into play. Understanding how your users tick becomes clearer through user interviews. Interviewing users will provide human insights that make all the difference, the nuance that pulls your product or interface out of the fray and into the light.

How do you interview confidently? Whether this is your first foray into the world of user interviewing or wanting to step up your game, there are a few common pitfalls along the way. We cover off 7 of the most common mistakes, and how to avoid them, helping you avoid these on your way to interview greatness!

How do you conduct a user research interview?

There are several ways of doing qualitative user research. Here we will talk about in-person user interviews. Great user interviewing is a skill in itself. And relies on great prep, quality participants and excellent analysis of the results. But don’t be put off, all of this can be learned, and with the right environment and tools can be simple to implement. Want to find out more in detail about how to conduct an interview? Take a look here.

Even if you’re an old hand we’re not all gifted interviewing experts, it’s okay if you lack expertise. In fact, totally nailing interview technique is almost impossible thanks to a ton of different factors. It’s your job to keep what you can under control, and record the interview well in the moment for later analysis. Keeping safe all those lovely human-centric insights you unearth.

Here are seven practical user research interview mistakes you could be making, and how to fix them:

1. Not having enough participants

It can be intimidating doing any sort of user research. Particularly when you need to find participants. And a random selection, not just those down the hall in the next office (though sometimes they can be great). And getting a large enough pool of participants that make the data meaningful, and the insights impactful.

Not to worry, there are ways to find a giant pool of reliable interview participants. Either dive into existing users that you are familiar with, and they with you. Or get in touch with us to recruit a small or large sample of participants.

2. Not knowing enough about your interview participants

Interviews are two-way streets, so if you’re hoping to encourage anyone to be open and honest in an interview setting you’ll need to do your homework on the person you’re interviewing. This may not always be applicable if you’re looking for a truly random sample of people. Understanding a little more about your participants should help the conversation flow, and when you do go off-script, it is natural and curiosity-driven.

3. Not creating an open interview environment

Everything about your user interview environment affects the outcome of the interview. Your participants need to feel confident and comfortable. The space needs to remove as many distractions as possible. A comfortable workstation, laptop that works, and even the air conditioning at a good temperature can all play a part in providing a relaxed environment. So when it comes to the interview they are able to demonstrate and explain their behavior or decisions on their own terms.

Of course, in this modern-day, the availability of remote and virtual interviewing has changed the game slightly. Allowing your participants to be in their own environment can be beneficial. Be careful to take note of what you can see about their space. Is it crowded, dim, busy or noisy? If you don’t have full control over the environment be sure to note this in a factual way.

4. Not having a note-taker in the room

Good note-taking is a skill in its own right and it’s important to have someone skilled at it. Bringing a dedicated note-taker into the user interviews also frees you up to focus on your participant and your interviewing. Allowing the conversation to flow. Leaving the note-taker to focus on marking down all of the relevant points of interest.

5. Using a bad recording setup

Deciding to audio (and/or video) record the interview is a great option. When choosing this option, recording can be possibly the most important aspect of the interview setup process. Being able to focus on the interview without worrying about your recording equipment is key. Make sure that your recording equipment is high quality and in a central position to pick up everything you discuss — don’t trip at the first hurdle and be left with unusable data.

A dedicated note-taker can still be of value in the room, they can monitor the recording and note any environmental or contextual elements of the interview process. Taking the stress off of you for the recording set up, and any adjustments.

Another option is Reframer. It’s a great recording tool that can free you up to focus on your participant and the interview. Reframer will audio record your interview, auto time-stamp and provide a standardized format for recording all of your interviews. Post analysis becomes simple and quick. And even quicker to share the data and insights.

6. Not taking the time to prepare your interview questions

Lack of preparation can be a fatal error for any user research and user interviews are no different. Interviews are a qualitative research method, and your questions don’t need to be as strict as those in a quantitative questionnaire, for example. However, you will still need a standardized script to regulate your user interviews and make sure all of your participants are asked the same set of questions. Always leaving plenty of room to go off script to get under the skin of why your participant interacts with your product in a particular way!

7. Not having a plan of action for organizing your data

Qualitative data is unstructured, which can make it hard to organize and analyze. Recording and including all of your interviews on one platform so you can analyze the insights and conclusions together makes it easier to review. Reframer can do all of this in one place allowing all of your organizational stakeholders access to the data.

Don’t miss anything in your interviews, you put in the time, the effort and the investment into doing them. Make sure that they are recorded, available and analyzed in one place. For the team to see, use and report against.

Wrap Up

User interviews can be intimidating, to organize, to prep for and even finding your participants can be hard. But user interviews needn’t be too much of a headache. With the Optimal Workshop platform, we take the pain out of the process with participant selection, recording, analyzing and reporting.

If you want a single platform to record, analyze and store your data, take a look at Optimal Workshop and Reframer. And get interviewing!

Originally published at https://blog.optimalworkshop.com on November 10, 2021.



Optimal Workshop

Quickly and easily test anything from website architecture to design prototypes with our suite of specialized user research tools 🚀