Interviews provoke deeper reflection

Being in an in interview is a powerful opportunity to provoke deeper reflection – beyond but not limited to the ‘data’ – about what it is that you’re trying to understand and even change about the world.

Here’s a short excerpt from my recent appearance on the NN/g podcast.

Understanding through User Interviews - Steve Portigal on the NN/g UX podcast. #UX #Podcast

Check out Steve on the NN/g UX podcast

Thanks to Therese Fessenden having me on the NN/g UX Podcast (in support of launching the second edition of Interviewing Users).

Our 45-minute conversation is on YouTube (and embedded below), and Spotify (and embedded below).

38. User Interviews (feat. Steve Portigal, Research Consultant and Author)


  • What is a User Interview
  • Steve’s Journey
  • Why to Choose User Interviews
  • When to Choose Other Methods
  • What has Changed in User Interviews
  • Remote User Interviews
  • What has NOT Changed in User Interviews
  • Improving User Interview Skills

One of the things I do like about interviews is that it’s a method that changes the researcher — it changes their understanding of people, of the problem, of the opportunity and it does that in this experiential kind of immersive way. If I’m going to talk to a number of people over the course of a week, I’m going to be scratching my chin on the dog walk or thinking in the shower. It gives you a lot of experiential stuff to chew on. The conclusions that you take are not obvious, they’re not in the interview. For me it’s a very rewarding experience to be pushed into this sustained creative state as you’re thinking about the people that you met and how they talked and how they how they view their work and how they view their lives because it even if it doesn’t directly go there; It goes there indirectly. You start to understand something about other kinds of people so it’s really rich and rewarding which is nice on its own I guess but it’s a really powerful way to stimulate thinking about what it is that we’re trying to answer. I get a lot out of it with the data and I get a lot out of it with the experience.

Listen to Steve on the UI Breakfast podcast

I had a great conversation with Jane Portman about interviewing users (to coincide with the launch of the second edition of Interviewing Users).

Do listen to our fifty-minute conversation on the episode page, embedded below, and at Google, and Apple.

I think some of our fear is that that are questions are kind of probing and confrontational, inappropriate, but you can even just acknowledge that thing that someone said right now, you can say “divorce.” The person will say “Yes, yes, yes.” If you build this connection with them and so you have to make an ethical decision because we have a lot of power to ask about a lot of stuff. I like to go into that a little bit because I think when they bring it up…I don’t want to hear about their divorce if I’m not working on a relationship thing I want to respect their privacy. But they’re bringing it up as something that is relevant.

I talked with someone about digital photography and they brought up their relationship ending and it was actually was relevant because it was about trying to document their new baby and share those images with relatives who weren’t around when the family structure was shifting. I didn’t ask about the relationship and they gave more information than I needed to hear, but they needed to share something and I was able to hear it, but not push into something that was not appropriate. I wanted them to feel heard and accepted but I also didn’t want to push into it. But it was relevant context to we’re trying to understand, what they were trying to share about doing the work or the process of the tools.

If someone brings it up they’re testing to see “Do you want to hear about it? Is it ok to share?”

Listen to Steve on Understanding Users: The UX Podcast

In promoting the second edition of Interviewing Users, I spoke with Mike Green on Understanding Users: The UX Podcast.

Go check out one-hour conversation (and a transcript) on the episode page, embedded below, and at Spotify, and Apple.


  • 05:20 – How user research has evolved in the last 10 years and the genesis of the second edition of the book
  • 11:00 – Remote research and the impact of COVID
  • 17:22 – Developments in user research tooling
  • 23:40 – Emergence of ResearchOps as a career path
  • 31:40 – Navigating challenges in running user research
  • 39:37 – Steve’s own key takeaway from the book
  • 45:11 – Feedback loops and ways of building rapport with users
  • 50:35 – The joy and privilege of researching and learning
  • 57:25 – The impact of AI on research as a discipline


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