The Power of User Interview Questions in UX Design: A Comprehensive Guide

User experience (UX) is a crucial factor that must be at the forefront of the product development process. Justin Mifsud, the founder of UX resource Usability Geek, said 88 percent of online buyers are less likely to go back to a site after an unpleasant experience. The number highlights the importance of providing the best experience to users.

UX designers rely on various research methods to inform their projects. One popular research method is a user interview or using interview questions to learn more about potential users. This short guide will tackle how this user research approach can improve usability testing processes and overall UX design.

Key Takeaways

  • User interviews are research projects that aim to get more information regarding the users’ attitudes, experiences, desires, and beliefs.
  • The type of research method is essential because it can be a quick way to get valuable insight into what users think about a product.
  • UX designers can use user interviews to inform the development of journey maps, user personas, and workflow ideas.


What is a user interview?

During an ideation phase or early concept development, researchers can seek help from potential users for an interview. For this research method, the interviewer must do the following: 

  • Prepare a list of questions across various topics crucial to the project
  • Record the participant’s answers
  • Analyze the conversation after the discussion

A user interview is a common research method that tackles almost all user-related topics. UX designers can use this process to get an insight into their feelings, motivations, daily routines, and needs for a solution.

The interviews can have the same methodology as qualitative interviews in specific fields. However, its purpose is to inform UX and UI design projects.

Researchers can use this method for various stages of user research, such as ideation or usability testing. Holding a user interview is simply a matter of choosing the right people to interview, asking them questions, and analyzing answers to support decision-making.

Common approaches to user interviews

There are three common types of user interviews: generative, contextual, and continuous. After reading, you will discover the differences between them and the best approach to use for your own projects.

  • Generative interviews
    A generative interview is the most common type of user interview. This type of interview aims to answer the question, “What don’t I know?” 

    Researchers use this approach early in the design and development process when searching for ideas and opportunities. However, these interviews are not merely brainstorming sessions. Remember that interviews are structured discussions designed to get answers to specific and actionable research questions.
  • Contextual interviews
    Contextual inquiries or interviews are semi-structured interviews that provide researchers insight into the context of use. This type of interview occurs in a user's environment to make the discussion more natural compared to interviews in a lab or other staged settings.

    During a contextual interview, researchers ask participants queries while they complete tasks. The discussion could involve following a user in their workplace. Another example is facilitating a usability testing session and asking questions as participants interact with a site.
  • Continuous interviews
    Continuous interviews are interviews that researchers conduct regularly. They schedule a time every one or two weeks to meet with potential users. This approach aims to keep designers in touch with potential customers longer.

    Continuous UX interviews can be crucial for people who can only keep consistent contact with users if they plan it. Designers can also use this approach to keep teams in touch with focus groups between projects.

    This approach can effectively remind researchers that customers will always know their needs better than designers.

Importance of User Interviews in UX Design

User research interviews can be a quick and informative way to give researchers and designers valuable insights. Using this method, designers can get more information about users' thoughts about a specific product, process, service, or other topics of interest. 

Researchers can conduct user interviews at various stages in the design process. The research can help identify what areas your target audience feels need improvement. It can also help designers know what is memorable and attractive for users.

Like other user research methods, this approach can help develop crucial design tools like user personas, journey maps, and product features.

Additionally, researchers can conduct a user interview at the end of a usability test. This way, they can get valuable insights about the experience and helpful feedback.

For example, e-commerce platform designers can perform user interviews to gauge the UX design of their site. Through the discussion, they can determine how to improve how shoppers see products or pay for purchases.

User interviews help researchers understand the expectations of the people who will use and interact with a particular product. This understanding is critical to developing a successful and usable solution.

Knowing your potential user’s frustrations, needs, hopes, daily routines, and motivations can help inform you what steps to take next. This advantage can help you make a product people will feel excited about and want to use.

Designers, researchers, and stakeholders will have their own hopes or desires for a particular product. However, the solution is less likely to succeed if its goals do not align with user expectations. In return, the company might not profit enough from the product or meet its business goals.

User interviews help ensure that the solution you are designing will bring value to both users and your company.

When To Hold User Interviews

Image by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels

Interviews can give insights into what users think about a site, a product, an application, or a process. They can highlight what people feel is essential on the site, what site content is valuable, and ideas for improvement.

Although it can inform various research and design areas, interviews are most useful in the initial exploration phase. When designers start from scratch, the process can help establish a valuable framework for other tasks.

For example, you are designing new software to support home renovation. You know you can provide a better experience in the current market but are still determining where to begin. By interviewing users, you will discover the people’s most significant concerns when starting the software development process.

This advantage provides a far more comprehensive understanding of the problem you want to solve.

The following are other areas of the research process where you can use user interviews:

  • Journey mapping – Create journey maps by understanding the participant’s thoughts, motivations, and emotions as they accomplish specific tasks
  • Persona development – Interview people to create personas
  • Contextual interviews – Get more data by observing users on a typical day as they complete tasks in their own environment
  • Supplemental research - Gather verbal answers related to observed behaviors at the end of a usability test

Tips To Remember for a User Interview

Image by Christina Morillo on Pexels

Remember that an interview is not an informal conversation or a sales session. It is a research study you must prepare for and will inform your product design. To make sure your interview runs smoothly, read the simple tips below.

Build rapport with the participant

Making the user feel comfortable is crucial to get the most out of the interview. Remember that people will more likely speak and let their guard down if relaxed. They will have no qualms about expressing their thoughts if they trust you. 

It would be best to have an initial conversation with the participant before the interview. This way, there will be no awkward introductions, and you will already know each other by the time of the interview.

You should also explain the reason for the interview and how you will use the responses for your product design. These are essential steps before proceeding so the participant will be more open and receptive to questions.

During the interview, make eye contact to show they have your undivided attention. Offer acknowledgments to show you are listening to them. Let participants finish their thoughts and refrain from interrupting them when speaking.

You should also set a slow pace during the interview. Speak slowly to encourage the user to also gather their thoughts before speaking. This tactic can help them calm down and indicate you have the time to listen.

When asking questions, start with the ones that are easy to answer. Choose questions that the users will not interpret as judgmental or personal.

Remember to be authentic and refrain from faking empathy. Faking emotions can make you appear ingenuine. Do not say something for the sake of agreeing with the participant if you do not believe in it.

Find the balance between wanting to build a rapport with the user and being professional. Once you do, you can set a relaxed tone for the interview and get the insights you need for your project.

Have clear goals for the interview

Before conducting a user interview, you must clearly understand what you want to achieve. Try asking product stakeholders what they need to learn. Ask designers what they need to know to build a solution with the best UX design.

After learning what's required, you can specify realistic goals. This way, you can ask specific questions relevant to your needs. With a goal in mind, you can determine how you want to perform a user interview.

Prepare specific questions before the event

During the interview process, you will probably come up with questions while talking to the user. However, you still want to prepare a list of questions before you start. A question list can ensure the following:

  • You can remember all the topics you want to tackle during the interview 
  • You can get feedback about the questions from all team members, the designers, and other stakeholders
  • You do not have to stress yourself thinking of questions during the interview
  • You can build straightforward, non-leading queries

Anticipate different replies to questions

You conduct research to know how potential users feel about a particular product. That said, you should still anticipate responses to specific questions to be more prepared for the interview.

For this tactic, think of what you would do if you hit a dead end during the interview. It is rare, but sometimes, users will not have an answer to a question. As an interviewer, you must have a plan in these situations.

For instance, you are working on a new design pattern for travel software for a startup, so you ask an experienced traveler for an interview. You want to ask if they remember having trouble booking a flight. Prepare follow-up questions in case they cannot remember an event.

This way, the interview will continue even if the interviewee cannot think of an answer to your original question.

Do not make any assumptions

Interviewers should refrain from making any assumptions and ask the most basic questions. This way, they will get all critical information about the user. 

Moreover, asking basic questions can be an effective way to make a person comfortable during the interview. Interviewers can start with basic questions the participant can answer quickly. This way, they can be more comfortable talking around you and offering information you may need to learn about.

For example, you can ask, “What does your organization do?” and follow up with, “How does your role fit in the company?”

Although you may already know the answers to these questions, you can still learn additional details once the user answers them.

Think of dialog-provoking questions

When preparing questions, ask for just one thing at a time. This way, your questions are easy to answer and understand. Use follow-up questions to encourage the participant to expound their answers.

Inquire about specific events instead of asking about general processes. Retelling an incident will help nudge the participant’s memory and allow them to share particular experiences.

Refrain from asking yes-or-no or closed questions because it will give you limited information. Ask questions requiring long responses to get the most out of the interview. 

You can use closed questions but must have follow-up queries to get more information. 

Avoid leading or vague questions

User interviews need unbiased answers from the participants. Otherwise, you will get inaccurate data and commit design mistakes during development.

To get unbiased responses, you should stray from asking leading questions. These are queries that influence the user because of assumptions in the questions.

An example of a leading question is, “Why do you enjoy using the product?” The question suggests that the participant uses the product and likes it. 

Instead of asking the question above, ask, ”Why do you use the product?” This way, you are not suggesting anything, and the participant can even answer, “I do not use the product.” 

It is wise to prepare more questions than you have the time to ask. This way, even if the participant gives short answers, you will have more questions to ask. 

Do not talk about other users

Mentioning other users during an interview can influence the response of the person you are interviewing. While talking to a user, refrain from talking about users’ experiences. 

One example question to avoid is, “Other people say this solution is easy to use. Do you agree?” Users may feel compelled to agree because they do not want to say they do not know how to use the product.

Instead of bringing up other users, ask questions like, “Can you describe your experience with this solution?”

This open-ended question does not suggest anything and encourages the participant to share their unique experience. 


Pro Tip

Building a rapport with participants is crucial for a successful user interview. Before asking the right questions, ensure participants are comfortable enough to trust the interviewer.


Common Mistakes in User Interviews: Know What To Avoid

Unfortunately, even if you have the right intentions, you could still find yourself unsatisfied with the results of an interview. This problem could result from simple mistakes you committed while talking to participants. This section outlines common mistakes you want to avoid during the interview.

Failure to build rapport

Others consider small talk a waste of valuable time or an unnecessary chore. However, asking questions immediately without making the participants comfortable could limit the quality of the responses you will receive. 

Make sure to spend the time to build a rapport with the individual you are interviewing. One way to do this for an in-person interview is to pick them up from the waiting area personally. If you are doing the interview remotely, use a warm tone to make the participant feel comfortable.

However, taking rapport building too far can also be a crucial error. Refrain from oversharing to build solidarity and empathy with the user. This blunder can influence the user's replies and may result in participant withdrawal.

No support from stakeholders

Often, stakeholders do not fully understand how UX research methods work. To them, all research methods are the same. Unfortunately, this attitude can lead to two crucial problems:

  1. Stakeholders will not give the research team the time to conduct user interviews because they think they already have enough data from analytics
  2. They will be skeptical about the usefulness of the results from a user interview

To avoid this mistake, research teams must educate stakeholders on the importance of various research efforts. There will be a higher chance of success when the following conditions are met:

  • Stakeholders are involved in the project from the start
  • They understand the research goals
  • They know why using one research method over another is crucial

If you have stakeholders who are skeptical about your methods, you can invite them to shape the research in an effort to convert them into supporters.

Invite stakeholders to a training session where you explain various research methods and the importance of research queries. Ask for their input in prioritizing users and encourage them to propose their own interview questions.

Multitasking during the interview

When you are overworked, it can be challenging to commit your full attention to the responses of the person you are interviewing. Still, your full attention is a must because it allows you to understand the participant’s words and gestures. It also helps build a strong rapport with the participant. 

When it comes to user interviews, preparation is crucial. Remember that the more you prepare, the less you have to worry about thinking on the spot during the meeting.

Moving your eyes away from the participant to check your phone or watch can make it look like you are not interested in the conversation. Prevent this problem by silencing your devices and keeping your attention on the participant. 

Taking notes can also be distracting during the interview. Although taking notes is essential, it can also detract your attention from the user. 

Instead of paper, you can use your phone to record the conversation. This way, you can revisit the conversation and take the most crucial information without getting distracted during the interview.

Not enough in-depth questions

Asking follow-up questions is a must if you want to get specific, in-depth information. This tactic can effectively uncover the rationale and motivations behind particular perspectives. 

The following are examples of probing questions:

  • How does that make you feel?
  • What impact do you think this will have?
  • Why do you think that is?
  • Can you say something more about this?

These questions can get participants to give more information or clarify their previous answers. However, they can feel intrusive or awkward if you do not know how to ask them.

Interviewers must train themselves to ask probing questions without making participants uncomfortable. They must learn to ask in-depth questions with poise, grace, and confidence.

Get the Best UX Design Solutions With Brain Box Labs

Designing a product, a service, a website, or a solution requires insight from potential users. The best way to collect this information is through a user interview. With this method, you can identify gaps in your research process and improve your final output to provide the best user experience.

If you want to have a new website with the best UX design, call Brain Box Labs today. Our expert UX designers can provide you with a digital solution that can address the pain points of your potential customers.

Providing the best user experience should be at the forefront of your app creation efforts. Contact Brain Box Labs today to get the best app for your business and customers.

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Frequently Asked Question

Usability testing is a process that aims to discover if the users can effectively use the product or service you are developing. Meanwhile, a user interview is a research process that aims to get valuable user insights about the product or service you want to build.
User interviews and surveys are both research methods but with different purposes and methodologies. A survey asks a group of people a list of questions to gather data and draw conclusions. Meanwhile, an interview can be a one-on-one conversation between a researcher and a participant to collect information.
Interviews can be the most effective in qualitative research. The process can help explain the user’s behavior, opinions, and experiences. The questions are also usually open-ended so researchers can get in-depth qualitative data from participants.