Posts tagged “podcast”

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 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.


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.

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?

Listen to Steve’s “Tent Talk” with Russ Unger/Chicago Camps

It was wonderful to reconnect with my old friend Russ Unger to give a Tent Talk for his Chicago Camps series. I learned that (obviously, in retrospect) they are tent talks because the whole series of events is a camp!

You can check out our 30-minute conversation on the episode page. There you’ll find an audio-only widget, a transcribed video, the full transcript, and links to the episode on Spotify and Apple. The episode is embedded below and also on Vimeo

Session Notes

The session with Steve Portigal, discussing the second edition of his book “Interviewing Users,” delved into how the field of user research has evolved over the past decade. Steve highlighted significant shifts, including changes in societal norms, the rise of remote work due to the pandemic, and advancements in technology, particularly in user interview techniques. He also touched on ethical considerations in user research and the role of AI in shaping future dynamics. Throughout the session, Steve shared insights from his extensive experience, emphasizing the importance of context, adaptability, and the ever-changing nature of user research.

Evolution in User Research:

  • User research practices have shifted significantly, particularly in compensating participants. The trend moved from cash payments to more convenient, digital forms.
  • The rise of remote work, accelerated by the pandemic, has transformed user research methodologies, with a notable increase in remote interviews.
  • There’s a greater focus on data privacy and regulatory compliance in research, reflecting societal and legal shifts.
  • Adapting interview techniques for remote settings has become crucial, with adjustments needed for communication styles and technological limitations.

Impact of Remote User Interviews:

  • Remote interviews lack the personal connection and context-rich environment of in-person interactions, affecting the depth of insights.
  • Collaboration within research teams and post-interview synthesis have become more challenging in remote settings.
  • New norms of communication, like managing turn-taking and interpreting non-verbal cues, have emerged, necessitating adaptation by researchers.

Ethical Implications in Research:

  • The ethical landscape in user research is complex, with a growing emphasis on informed consent and transparent data practices.
  • Resources like Alba Villamil’s “Ethical Researcher’s Checklist” provide guidance on navigating these ethical considerations effectively.
  • The approach to consent has evolved, with more nuanced methods being developed to respect participants’ autonomy and privacy.

AI in User Research:

  • The role of AI in user research is evolving, with its potential impact still largely uncertain.
  • AI’s current strength lies in data summarization rather than synthesis, which remains a predominantly human-driven process.
  • As AI technology advances, its application in user research could extend to supporting creative thinking and problem-solving.

Most Profound Learning Experience:

  • Steve recounted an experience where he confronted and overcame his own age bias during an interview, highlighting the human nature of biases in research.
  • This experience underlined the importance of being aware of and challenging personal biases to gain true insights in user research.

Notable Quotes:

  • “We operate on biases, but research allows us to overcome and revisit our assumptions.”
  • “Remote research has changed our norms of communication and collaboration.”
  • “Ethical considerations are vital in user research, especially in the age of data privacy.”
  • “I had a conversation with someone that I respect the other day, and they said to me, a large language model, they can summarize, but it can’t synthesize because it can only be based on what is, so summarization is like a great use of that, but synthesis isn’t.”
  • “AI’s potential in user research lies more in aiding creativity than replacing human analysis.”

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


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.

Listen to Steve on the Content Strategy Insights podcast

Thanks to Larry Swanson for having me on his Content Strategy Insights podcast.

You can listen to our 30-minute conversation (and find the transcript and various links to podcast services) on the episode page. Also, the audio is embedded below

The episode is also on YouTube (and embedded below)

Steve Portigal: Interviewing Users | Episode 167

We talked about:

  • my work at my UX research consultancy
  • the elements of a good interviewing mindset
    1. checking your own world view at the door
    2. embracing how others see the world
    3. building rapport
    4. listening
  • the difference between chatting and interviewing
  • how to stay mindful as you transition from one mode of communication to another, and the need to consciously cultivate new rituals in the modern, non-stop Zoom world
  • how to keep the business intent of your interviewing activities in mind, in particular the relationship between the business opportunity at hand and the research-question planning that best aligns with it
  • how to kindly share with colleagues relevant new discoveries that emerge in your research work
  • how to balance the amount of domain knowledge you bring to an interviewing project
  • the importance of knowing and keeping in mind the scope and importance of documenting, analyzing, and synthesizing your interviews


Chatting is, it’s a crutch. And I don’t mean that in an unkind way. If people haven’t spent time learning this and practicing it and reflecting on it, I think people go pretty far by being friendly and open and conversational, and I think that’s a good start. But in chatting, for example, we share about ourselves, “Oh, you like cats? Well, I also like cats and I have two cats at home and one is named Binky and one is named Winky.” That’s seen as, it’s a chatty rapport building technique. And I think that’s one I see people relying on and I don’t think they should ultimately, that the interview is about the other person and so if you’re new, you tend to think, “Oh, I can build rapport with you by showing you how I am like you.” “I like that too. I hate that too. Oh, that happened to me. My cousin also has that problem with Facebook,” whatever the thing is, you try to share something about yourself, but actually that takes focus away from the other person. So that embracing how they see the world means you want to spend time on them. So when someone says, “I have two cats,” you can say, “What are your cats’ names? When did you get them? Are cats part of the content that you share on social media?” If that was our topic. You can keep talking about the thing that they shared and not bring yourself into it. And you have permission not to talk about yourself and you have power to be still interested in their thing. And it actually is much more effective.

Listen to Steve on The Universal Lens Channel

an overhead view of rapidly moving traffic and highway infrastructure with the title the Universal Lens Channel

Thanks to Chris Kovel for having me on the inaugural episode of his “In Dialogue” series on the Universal Lens Channel. For about 75 minutes, we talked about the state of user research in 2023.

The episode is on YouTube but the interview is audio only. The YouTube and audio versions are embedded below, and also available on YouTube and libsyn.

E1: In Dialogue with Steve Portigal

There’s a transcript available on YouTube.

You don’t have visibility into everything and so I think [a company’s user research maturity] needs sometimes a dedicated examination and consideration in order to to improve it. I guess that’s how I would make the case or because you know at a profession level there are things that we can do but ultimately the implementation is taking place inside companies and what it really looks like is very localized. Company A and Company B can learn from each other in terms of what their best practices are, what their struggles are, but it’s hyper local — we have this way of doing product management, we have this market, we have this maturity in our marketing business, we have this kind of product, this vertical — all those things are going to really change what it takes to build a more mature practice, and if you don’t locally examine it, and you know, what more mature looks like for company A is not what more mature looks like for Company B. So I think there is sort of an investment needed of time and focus and ideally an external perspective to try to see where strides can be made to to to yeah to move things to move things along.

Listen to Steve on The Informed Life

Thanks to Jorge Arango for a great conversation on The Informed Life podcast. The half-hour episode is embedded below, available at the podcast site, and wherever you get yer podcasts. The episode page also has a transcript.

And I have found, over the last few years, that in addition to providing tactics and kind of mindsets and sort of, “here’s what I advise and recommend for you to be successful in doing this work.” In these interactions that we have in kind of these feedback sessions, the role that I’m often playing is in giving people confidence and being able to say, “oh, the thing that you are describing is very common.” Because I think people have some experience, it feels weird, and they’re like, “well, I’ve screwed this up.” And so I’m working hard to give people confidence and say… to affirm their experience, to validate the uncertainty and struggle they felt in it. And then maybe say, “yeah, here’s a thing that you can try,” or, ” you know, there are tactics to kind of address this.”

But they need the confidence as much as they need the tactics. Because they might get to those tactics on their own, but if they feel like, “this is not the right way to do it, I’m screwing this up,” because it is a weird thing, because you may find yourself feeling like you’re screwing up when you actually are succeeding, because you’re dealing with the absolute uncertainty of another person who you don’t know, who you’re spending time trying to get to know a little bit… it’s entirely unpredictable and uncontrollable. And so, all the ways that we expect ourselves to be successful is to be controlling for all that uncertainty, but it’s inherently uncontrollable to some extent.

So yeah, the more you do it, the more you either make mistakes or feel uncertain about an experience that you’re having and reflect on it, whether it’s through listening to a podcast where people are talking about this or reading a book, or, working with someone who’s more experienced, who can reflect back to you. Those are all ways that we do become more confident with these sort of… surprising or unexpected aspects of what the nature of the work is.

Listen to Steve on the Nodes of Design Podcast

Thanks to Ravi Tej for having me on the Nodes of Design podcast. The 35-minute episode is embedded below and can also be found on the podcast site.

In this episode, Steve shared wonderful insights on user interviews and why we do user interviews in design; we then discussed the framework of interviews using which we can gain great insights from users and few tips on actively listening and note-taking during interviews. In the latter part, Steve recommended five do’s and don’ts that designers/researchers must avoid while doing user interviews

Listen to Steve on the Enterprise Product Leadership Podcast

Thanks to Daniel Elizalde for having me on the Enterprise Product Leadership podcast to talk about user research, especially in enterprise and industrial organizations. The audio (51 min) is embedded above, and available on the episode page.

We discuss the complexities of doing user research in a B2B context, the challenges of getting access to users, the need to understand customers’ pain (as opposed to only focusing on usability), and how to influence your organization to conduct more research. Steve also shares his advice on how to build a practice that encourages ongoing user research.


  • Steve’s career background and the work he does today as an experienced user researcher
  • What a user researcher does and why it is important
  • Invaluable tips for user researchers
  • Why companies struggle to understand their customers’ challenges
  • How a company can become more user-centered
  • How to enable a culture that empowers everyone
  • Why you may want to bring on a user researcher or an external expert
  • The nuances of being a team player and contributing to the success of the company
  • How to challenge baseline assumptions to move forward and grow as a company
  • The differences between B2C and B2B user research
  • The challenges of user research (and how to overcome them)
  • Why user research is not only incredibly invaluable but needs to be figured out for your company
  • Why culture is critical to research
  • How to support leaders in helping transform the organization’s mindset into a customer-centric culture
  • Proactive vs. reactive research


  • Keep in mind user-research is a skill. You can read about it, take classes, listen to podcasts, but you also have to practice.
  • Practice can include: knowing when to do research, knowing what research to do, how to go about actually doing the research, learning how to leverage the research that you’ve done, and learning how to help others understand the research.
  • And be sure to give yourself the chance to get better. All of this takes time. Be compassionate and understand that research is not just binary; there are many, many facets of it.

Check out Steve on the Brave UX podcast

Brave UX: Steve Portigal - The Future of User Research

I enjoyed the chance to speak with Brendan Jarvis for his Brave UX podcast. The 67-minute episode is embedded above, and is on YouTube. Update: Now on the web, with a transcript!

In this episode…

  • How Steve’s adapted his practice in recent years, as a result of industry changes
  • Why should researchers stop focusing on problems and start focusing on people?
  • What’s important for user researchers to remember about bias (their bias)?
  • How can researchers overcome resistance and level-up their impact?
  • And why does Steve have a museum of foreign groceries in his home?

Listen to Steve on the Why UX? Podcast

Thanks to Helena Levison (“Queen of UX”) for having me on the Why UX? podcast to talk about Doorbells, Danger, and Dead Batteries. The audio (28 min) is embedded above, and available on the episode page.

This was a particularly exciting conversation for me because over the past while Helena has been hosting a online book club where she reads from the book, and even features appearances from some of the authors of the stories themselves!


About Steve