Posts tagged “interviewing users”

Listen to Steve on the UX podcast

It was great to chat with Per and James (again — 2015 is here, 2017 is here) for their legendary UX Podcast (in support of the second edition of Interviewing Users).

Our 40-minute conversation is on the episode page (with transcript here) and embedded below.

Over ten years have passed since the first edition of Steve Portigal’s legendary book Interviewing Users was released. Together with Steve, we reflect on how user research has evolved during the past decade, and how the importance of user research in order to understand people and their needs is still crucial.

We discuss in-house vs consulting for research practices, research teams and leadership, a rapidly changing and evolving industry, and ultimately the importance of a human connection in order to care about them in our designs and in business.

“I don’t think you can consistently invent your way into success. It does take this understanding, and caring for the human aspect of people.”

– Steve Portigal

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)





Topics/outline

  • 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 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.


Highlights

  • 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

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!

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.

Highlights

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 on the One Knight In Product podcast

One Knight in Product, Episode 193
Making Sure You Make an Impact through User Research
Steve Portigal
User Research Consultant & Author
"Interviewing Users"

Thanks to Jason Knight for having me on the One Knight In Produc podcast.

You can listen to our 45-minute conversation (and see links to podcast services) on the episode page. The audio is also embedded below:


Episode highlights

1. Some people are still wary of user research, or think they don’t need it, but it remains as important as ever

It can be tempting for founders to think they know exactly what they need, rely on feedback from customer-facing teams, or not speak to anyone until they’ve already built the thing they want to build. Feedback from sales teams and founders is an incredibly important vector, but should only be the start of the discussion never the end.

2. Continuous discovery and point-in-time research both have a place in a researcher’s armoury

There are methodological constraints to continuous research, alongside the difficulty of finding the time and buy-in to do it but, on the other hand, it can be incredibly impactful to have rapid research tightly coupled to the product team. On the other hand, well-planned up-front research can still help you to find truly disruptive insights for your company. Do both!

3. We all have cognitive biases – we should accept that and be honest with ourselves about their effects

People look at the word “bias” and worry about the negative connotations, but “bias” just represents how our brains are wired. Cognitive biases will affect how we interview people, and we should do our best to counteract their effect and improve on getting better (even if we’re not perfect).

4. The best research has a tangible impact rather than being research for research’s sake

It can be a heavy burden to bear if all of your well-planned and well-executed research ends up having no effect on decision-making at all. It’s important not to get downhearted, and work out ways to build actionable, accessible repositories to enable your stakeholders to make the best decisions possible.

5. There are a lot of similarities between good user research and improv

We don’t need to be able to create 45 minute plays off the cuff, and knowing when to stick to our interview plans and when to deviate from the script, enables us to get to the real generative insights that we need from our users and find out what we don’t know we don’t know.

Excerpt:

Sometimes we think that what we’re going to do in research is go ask people what features they want and then figure out somehow among these competing requests which ones to implement. And that’s not what interviewing users is about. It’s about actually finding a new interpretation, a new point of view, a new understanding, a larger framework that’s built up from all those things. And so, yeah, if people tell us what they want to tell us, they’re going to tell us what features they want. But we have other questions for them. How do you work? Why do you work that way? What are your tools you’re using? How has that changed? What has led to the definition of that as like a work process? How do you acquire new tools and technology? What’s been successful when you’ve rolled things out? What’s been a challenge when you’ve rolled things out?

A Zoom video still with Jason in a small corner giving a thumbs up while Steve is in the main window wearing headphones and a dark shirt holding up a copy of Interviewing Users

Listen to Steve on the UX Research Geeks podcast

I’m grateful to Tina Licková for hosting our great discussion on the UX Research Geeks podcast.

You can listen to our 40-minute conversation on the episode page, where you’ll also find a transcript.

It’s also on Spotify, Apple, and Google (and embedded below locally and from Spotify).


The trend of democratization in research implies more people will engage in it. My book aims to guide not just dedicated researchers but also those who incorporate research as part of their broader roles.
Excerpt:

It’s a messy human activity. It’s something that you can plan for, it’s something that you can prepare for, but will always, especially if done well, will always be surprising and unexpected and force you, I think in a good way, to be improvisational, to be responsive…I think that might be a negative to some people, that might be scary, but for me, it’s very joyful and creative and challenging. It’s always challenging. And I think that’s where we get all the great value out of research. It’s not, “What do you want? Thank you. I’ve got it.” It is meeting somebody where they are and trying to figure out how are you going to be with them?

About the Author/Doggie Diner

A man in jeans and a black t-shirt, with his arms spread, sits on top of a blue platform which is shared with a large cartoonish sculpture of a reddish dog wearing a yellow bow tie and a chef hat and a blue checked shirt.

Thanks to Alisa Weinstein for taking this great photo of me. I used this for the About the Author page in Interviewing Users. Also thanks to Kim Goodwin for (earnestly? teasingly? does it matter?) suggesting on Instagram that I use this as my author photo. Inspiring!

The SF Chron provides some context

The three Doggie Diner dog heads that once loomed over outlets of the long-defunct Bay Area fast food chain. The 7-foot fiberglass doggie heads, each weighing 600 pounds and sporting a chef’s hat and a bowtie, are camped out on a stretch of car-free JFK between Conservatory Drive West and 6th Avenue. The dachshund heads with their long snouts, sit atop square podiums with a couple of Adirondack chairs in front…

“If you rub one of their noses, you get one week’s good luck,” said John Law, a San Franciscan who considers himself the steward of three cartoonish canine heads. The disembodied heads have been painstakingly restored and repainted thanks to a Kickstarter campaign seven years ago that raised thousands to save the doggie heads, said Law. He frequently hauls the heads around San Francisco and the Bay Area to charity events, street fairs and art events.

Listen to Steve on the CXChronicles podcast


I had a great time speaking with Adrian Brady-Cesana on the CXChronicles podcast.

You can listen to our 40-minute conversation on the episode page, on YouTube, or embedded below, both as local file and via YouTube.

The Secret to Achieving Customer-Centric Excellence Revealed! 💥 Steve Portigal | CXC #215


We talked about:

  • Understanding the core of a user’s experience and how its originally designed
  • Investing in user research operations to help scale your business
  • Prioritizing what you need to learn about your users & how you can take action
  • Mapping the iceberg of your customer and user experience
  • Getting your team to prioritize the key CTAs that will drive innovation & growth

Excerpt:

One thing I’ve seen that to be really successful is when you pair up someone who’s great at research, which is ‘OK, I don’t know about this, I want you to explain it to me’ and someone who is great at the domain, whose job isn’t to ask questions but is to hear what doesn’t make sense about the technology or about the deployment or about the process, and that collaboration is really really sharp and has a great effect when you’re talking to customers and users. I think sometimes we’re nervous because, we want to be seen as credible, especially if it’s an actual customer. We ask for their time, we want to go talk to them…it can be really a really great triangle between, a user or customer who has who’s a practitioner of something very complex, and a person from the producer or, maker side of it, the company side, who knows the domain, and someone who knows how to listen and ask questions and follow up and facilitate this. When I see researchers getting immersed into a domain, they do build up some competency. But some of these things are decades of specificity and really kind of elusive stuff. Where there’s bandwidth for collaboration and you can bring in people with different perspectives, different domain and process expertise to create a great interview for the customer that you’re talking to. It’s a good experience to talk to a researcher and a domain expert, you can watch who they make eye contact with. I’ve had people even tell me, ‘Oh okay, you’re the question asker and you’re the person that knows that you’re the engineer.’ People can figure that out. Nobody’s pretending to be anything that they aren’t and it really can be very harmonious, but you have to create the bandwidth to support that collaboration on the team so everybody can work together to get the insights that we wanna get from the people we’re building for.

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