One of the best ways to understand how citizens perceive and understand current situations or topics, is by talking directly with them. - Ask about their specific experiences.
We have good experience with interviews of only a few end users. We consider end users "experts" due to their first-hand experiences with a given service or legislation. The users’ knowledge is an important prerequisite for developing concrete ideas for new initiatives or improvements. We often use quotes from the interviews along with a photo of the user to present the discovered insights at the workshop, or we film the interview and use it as a facilitator to create an engaged and focused idea development.
The qualitative data obtained from a smaller number of interviews (e.g. 5-8), should be seen as an important addition to the quantitative data. They obviously cannot stand alone.
An interview can be used in several stages of the process; during the start-up to be better zoomed in on the project’s focus, in the research phase to increase your knowledge about the users’ experience and understanding of a given situation, and later to test a response to the developed concepts, ideas and prototypes.
Print the material for the interview guide, for the stages before, during and after the interview.
Prioritize 5-8 people from your target audience. To get a full understanding of the field you are studying, it is important that you interview representatives with different experiences. For example, it may be legislation is experienced differently depending on the size of the companies affected by it.
Prepare for your interviews by completing the interview guide. Formulate a wide variety of questions in the interview that comprehensively will cover the user’s experience and attitude to a give situation or subject. Ask yourself: "What do I want to know about the user?" And "What do I want to know about the user's firsthand experience of the current situation or subject?". Save any questions about the user’s opinions you may have for the end of the interview.
Ask open-ended and specific questions so you do not assume too much about the user’s answers. Start with the questions: who, what, where, how and why, so you do not end up with yes / no answers.
For example, "Do you know what school you will choose after the 9th grade?". Do not ask leading questions such as "Are you going to STX after 9th grade?". Encourage the user during the interview to elaborate and provide examples to go along with the responses- find guidance for creating questions in the interview guide.
Get in touch with people from your target audience. Briefly tell them about the background of the project, the duration of the interview, any preparation that might be necessary and how the content will be used.
Introduce yourself, your role and explain why the user’s input is important to the project. Ask if you can record the conversation and take pictures for internal use.
The interview must take place in the environment the interview is about; if you are testing a webpage, then it is in front of the computer in the person’s own home, if you are testing a public service then the it is at the public institution where the service is being provided and if you are testing something related to the person’s work then the interview takes place there. You can ask the user to give you a tour at the workplace or walk you through a situation or service at the end of the interview, if it is relevant for the project. Also see Service Journey.
Select key insights, observations and quotes. Use quotes from the interview together with a photo of the user to present the discovered insights for your colleagues or at a workshop. See guidance material for recapping interviews in the interview guide.
Print Interview Guide
Note paper and pen
Camera (cell phone)
Audio recorder (cell phone)
Remember, it is the users' firsthand experience you want to have an insight into - not objective facts but subjective experiences.
Take breaks and let users speak out, before asking a new question.
You can break free from the interview guide during the interview, if the conversation turns into an unexpected but relevant direction.
Customize the questions after the first interview if the questions or form does not work as intended.