May 15, 2023

Getting the Most Out of Interviews

User interviews are the bedrock of robust product development, but getting the most out of them is resource intensive.

A good interview provides nuance about user needs and behaviors that are hard to derive from quantitative data alone. Analytics can tell you the what- what are users doing? What do they click? What do they want a specific feature to do?

Deeply understanding a user’s why is what differentiates successful products from those that die in the water. It’s not enough to build features that fulfill the functional requirements of your user. Your features need to make customers feel seen, understood, and celebrated.

It starts with conversation. Listening well can yield incredibly juicy insights. Here are the touchstones that help me squeeze the most meaning out of conversations as a product researcher.

Lemon sliced in half

  • A delicate balance between art and science. It’s important to come to calls with clear objectives- question sets are helpful to create consistent measures across your research, but flexibility is equally important, particularly during generative inquiry. Ask open-ended questions. Pay attention to the tone and body language of your participants. Shifts in energy can indicate emotion, and this is often where insights emerge.
  • Strong quantitative analysis of qualitative insights allow you to be more flexible during calls.  It can be difficult to find the time to code interviews well. Whether you are part of a small team or large organization, capturing and sharing key details from conversations with users is resource intensive. CoNote is a powerful research tool to transcribe, analyze, and synthesize interview data. The tool quickly identifies themes, keywords, and sentiment in your interviews and can help you balance your research with unbiased synthesis. It helps you elevate the voice of the user with lean reporting functionality. If you are curious to learn more, contact me or sign up for our beta waitlist at
  • Learn to use silence. Resist the urge to rush into a pause in the conversation- if you are patient, your participant will often elaborate or add more detail.  Continue to ask why based questions- Why is X important? What does Y help you accomplish?
  • Check your understanding- I lean on phrases like
  • What I’m hearing is….
  • Correct me if I’m wrong….
  • To summarize…
  • Listen for discrepancies. The distance between what a user says and what they do can be surprising. It’s important to establish strong rapport in the beginning of the call so you can politely challenge their thinking later.
  • Be forthright, but don’t be afraid to be playful. For example, if I want to interrogate the importance of a concept- I might intentionally use an incorrect summary and allow the user to correct me.

Remember, user experience is any interaction between the user and the brand. A good conversation can be a touchpoint for customer satisfaction, and often users express gratitude for space to discuss challenges. Think of these conversations as fact-finding missions, and enjoy!

Getting the Most Out of Interviews


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