I’m excited for Advancing Research 2024

More info and registration here.

I’ve found this to be a unique event, both in the depth of talks and the breadth of experiences, perspectives and angles on the crucial topics within user research. I’m honored to be part of this event – in person in New York (and with a remote option), later this month – and I hope to see you there!

Learn interviewing techniques from Steve in New York in March

As part of the Advancing Research conference, I’ll be teaching a full-day workshop (registration info here) on March 27th.

Interviewing is undeniably one of the most valuable and commonly used user research tools. Yet it’s often not used well, because:

  • It’s based on skills we think we have (talking and even listening)
  • It’s not taught or reflected on, and
  • People tend to “wing it” rather than develop their skills.

Results may be inaccurate or reveal nothing new, suggesting the wrong design or business responses, or they may miss the crucial nuance that points to innovative breakthrough opportunities.

In this highly interactive workshop, Steve Portigal will teach you crucial techniques for successful user research, and give you an opportunity to practice and reflect in a supportive environment.

Target Audience
This workshop will be valuable to anyone who is using user research to inform the decisions their organizations make. This includes both people with “researcher” in their job description, as well as designers, engineers, and product managers (also known as “People Who Do Research.”) If you’re new to interviewing people, you’ll learn the fundamentals; if you’ve been doing research for a while you’ll benefit from the opportunity to reflect on and improve your own practice.

It’s been a few years since I’ve done an in-person workshop open the public on the east coast. Please pass this along to your friends and colleagues who might benefit!

Join me on March 13th for a UXPA webinar “We Already Knew That”

Join for me on March 13th for a UXPA International webinar.

We Already Knew That: When Research Findings Fail to Land

Sometimes when we share research findings, we hear back, “We already knew that.” In this talk, I’ll examine why that happens, and what we can do about it. Sometimes, it’s a cognitive bias, called hindsight bias and also known as the “knew it all along” phenomenon. But there are other causes and we can adjust our approach to research to try and limit this all-too-common challenge.

Register here; all webinars listed here.

Listen to Steve on the Product Manager podcast

As part of the ‘book tour’ for second edition of Interviewing Users, I was interviewed by Hannah Clark for the Product Manager podcast, for an episode titled “How To Master User Interviews To Build More Lovable Products.

You can find our 40-minute conversation (and a transcript) on the episode page and also embedded below.

I like Hannah’s preface:

Before we dive in, I just want to say that what you’re about to hear was the most meta conversation we’ve ever had on this show. I’m not talking about Meta the company. I’m talking like this was the Inception edition of the Product Manager Podcast. In this episode, I got to interview a user interview expert about how to interview better while simultaneously getting better at interviewing in real time.

Yes, I am still excited about it. And not because of how helpful it was for me, but because the next half hour or so is going to make a noticeable difference in how you conduct user interviews.


Structuring Questions for Insightful Answers

  • The importance of structuring questions before silence is discussed, with an emphasis on the impact of question formulation on user feedback.
  • Steve suggests having various ways to ask a question in the interviewer’s toolkit, such as comparisons, specific examples, and projections into the future.
  • Examples of question structures are provided, including comparing across time, asking about colleagues or bosses, exploring exceptions, and delving into childhood influences.
  • The goal is to triangulate around the interviewee’s mental models, helping them articulate the underlying reasons behind their behaviors.
  • Interviewers should adapt their questioning techniques to uncover deeper insights, recognizing that individuals might not be consciously aware of the roots of their choices.

Addressing Bias in User Interviews

  • Steve encourages self-forgiveness, recognizing that cognitive biases are inherent in human thinking.
  • Confirmation bias, where interviewers hear what they expect, is highlighted as a challenge. Steve suggests pre-research discussions about assumptions to make biases explicit.
  • Steve shares a personal story of overcoming his own ageism bias during an interview with a small business founder. He realizes his preconceived judgments were incorrect, leading to self-reflection and redirecting questions.
  • Steve emphasizes the importance of recognizing and addressing biases during interviews, with the goal of understanding participants more deeply.

Listen to Steve and Lou talk about the evolution of UX Research

In anticipation of the Advancing Research conference (in person, in New York, coming up in March), I spoke with Lou Rosenfeld about:

the state of the user research industry – where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re headed. If the field of research was once a lonely desert, today it’s a jungle. It was once a field where researchers could get lost and forgotten. Today, the field is teaming with life—so much so that you could get eaten alive.

Gleaning lessons from the past, Steve doesn’t want us to forget the desert. But he has no desire to return there.

In his chat with Lou, they look back, and they look ahead. They discuss shifts in community and networking, and how research agencies are being replaced by in-house research teams. Finally, the two discuss Steve’s role in the upcoming, in-person Advancing Research conference in Queens, New York.

You can find our 40-minute conversation at the episode page and embedded below, twice.

Listen to Steve and Jorge talk about their writing processes

Late last year I spoke with Jorge Arango on The Informed Life podcast. I’ve just written the second edition of Interviewing Users, and Jorge has just put out Duly Noted: Extend Your Mind through Connected Notes. We thought it would be helpful to reflect on our different processes for organizing information and book-writing in particular.

Our conversation is in two parts (between 35 and 40 minutes each). You can find the audio and transcript at the the episode pages (Part 1, Part 2) and each are embedded below.

Part 1:

Part 2:


Part 1

  • The New Edition of ‘Interviewing Users’
  • Writing the First Edition
  • The Evolution of Writing and Publishing
  • How We Got Into Writing
  • Writing Books for a Changing World
  • Writing a Second Edition

Part 2

  • The Mechanics of Writing and Organizing Ideas
  • The Challenges and Joys of Writing a Book
  • The Role of Structure in Writing
  • Using Different Tools
  • Reflections on Writing

Listen to Steve on the Experiencing Data podcast

In connection with the second edition of Interviewing Users, I spoke with Brian O’Neill for his Experiencing Data podcast, titled “No Time for That:” Enabling Effective Data Product UX Research in Product-Immature Organizations.

You can find our one hour conversation (and a transcript) on the episode page (and on Google, Apple, Spotify, and Stitcher) and embedded below.


“If you don’t know what you’re doing, and you don’t know what you should be investing effort-wise, that’s the inexperience in the approach. If you don’t know how to plan, what should we be trying to solve in this research? What are we trying to learn? What are we going to do with it in the organization? Who should we be talking to? How do we find them? What do we ask them? And then a really good one: how do we make sense of that information so that it has impact that we can take away?”

“What do people get [from user research]? I think the chance for a team to align around something that comes in from the outside.”

On the impact user research can have if teams embrace it: “They had a product that did a thing that no one [understood], and they had to change the product, but also change how they talked about it, change how they built it, and change how they packaged it. And that was a really dramatic turnaround. And it came out of our research, but [mostly] because they really leaned into making use of this stuff.”

“If we knew all the questions to ask, we would just write a survey, right? It’s a lower time commitment from the participant to do that. But we’re trying to get at what we don’t know that we don’t know. For some of us, that’s fun!”

Watch Steve on the Rock n’ Roll Research Podcast

It was a real treat to speak with Matt Valle for the Rock n’ Roll Research Podcast.

Steve Portigal of Portigal Consulting has been doing User Research since the days our software all came in a box. He has written a seminal book on the topic, “Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights,” recently released in a 2nd edition available through Rosenfeld Media.

Steve shares his journey from the nascent years of user research through today and his take on where user research is headed. We discuss his book and how studying creative writing has informed his approach. Steve also tells the story of building a community of Rolling Stones enthusiasts – pre-World Wide Web! – that is still alive and kicking (just like Keith Richards).

You can find our 35-minute conversation on the YouTube and embedded below.

Episode #105: Steve Portigal - User Research Expert, Author, Rolling Stones Enthusiast

Bonus: the shirt I’m wearing is available here


About Steve