User Interviews: Expectations vs Reality

May 8, 2023

User interviews give you details on your potential or current customers to build the best product possible.

Are you looking to understand the usability of a product? Are you looking to determine the people who will use your product? Are you looking to understand users motivations and how they use a product?

If so, User Interviews are a solution to help you understand your potential or current users better. The definition of a User Interview is a process where a researcher or observer asks questions verbal and/or written from a user. The experience can be done through observation of watching a user use your product and most interviews are recorded via audio or video. Many times our expectations for a user interview is very different from the reality of how the actual interviews will go. We’ve included some comparisons on expectations versus the reality of the user interview process.

Here are some expectations versus reality during user interviews:

  • Expectation: User interviews will solve our product issues
  • Reality: User interviews won’t solve your product issues by itself. User interviews are useful to gather feedback on the areas of the product to research further but won’t give you a magic pill to solve your product issues.
  • Expectation: User interviews will give me design feedback on our product
  • Reality: User interviews won’t give your direct design feedback since users are traditionally not designers. It will give you feedback to help influence the design direction and ways to interpret what a user is looking for.
  • Expectation: I can conduct a user interview by myself
  • Reality: It’s best to include multiple stakeholders when conducting an interview since information can be lost and a supporting team can help include questions you might not have thought of or missed. If you need to complete a survey on your own it’s important to record the interview and allow for ample time to cover topics in detail.  
  • Expectation: I don’t need user interviews since we know our users already
  • Reality: You’d be surprised how much more you can learn about your users if you speak with them. Most businesses don’t survey and interview their customers for additional feedback to help improve their product.  
  • Expectation: After I prepare my user interview questions I can follow the format
  • Reality: Being flexible in your interview process so you can gather more information is important. Users will sometimes need guidance on giving you more information so asking follow up questions and asking questions twice to confirm the answer can be useful to ensure the information is correct.
  • Expectation: I can educate users during the interview on our product
  • Reality: Users shouldn’t be led during the interview in order to gather clean findings. When you lead a user to an answer you’re taking away from the true findings since you’ve changed the answer that a user might have given you without your guidance. Try to stay away from giving your opinion or thoughts on the product you’re building or the current product.

As you can see the reality of user interviews can be different from what we expect. Understanding your users needs and motivations is key to help build or refine a successful product or idea. In order to get accurate information you need to run a user interview process with structure and flexibility that allows you to gather valuable data to make inferences from after the interviews are completed. Users should be able to share as much as the time allots based on your open ended questions and follow up questions. Remember to create a better user experience for your target user persona you need to learn about them and user interviews are an effective method if done well.

At VAULT, we have the Learn, Build and Grow model that helps companies of any size from startups to Fortune 500 conduct User Interviews using proven tactics from our years of experience. Want some assistance or have questions about how to conduct a User Interview? Reach out to to schedule a free call.

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