Steve Blank notes that entrepreneurs need to "get out of the building" to be successful.
Rather than working in isolation, the founder of modern customer development believes that entrepreneurs need to talk with potential customers, partners, and suppliers to truly understand them and deliver the best possible solution to their problems.
Let's look at how to conduct compelling user interviews and leverage the results to improve your products.
Why conduct user interviews?
Interviews provide valuable insights into a customer's (or a potential customer's) life and how they use your application.
Suppose that you're building a feature to store medical data. The right approach here would be to conduct a series of interviews with medical personnel to see how they log medical data, verify which solutions they currently use, and ask about the shortcomings of those solutions.
Then, based on the data you obtained, you can build a product that addresses real pain points and is well-matched to the needs of the people that are supposed to use it. The result is a much more compelling solution that they'll want to adopt.
Beyond product validation
Validating your idea is one reason to interview users. Other than that, interviews can also help you to:
Assess the usability of a new feature or workflow.
Determine if a new feature helps solve a problem.
Identify problems with an existing workflow.
User interviews are invaluable when you're searching for product-market fit, but they're equally helpful when building a new feature or even just reassessing how an existing product performs.
In order to make sure the project is on the right track, you should consistently interview users throughout the entire product lifecycle.
Who to interview
Whom you choose for the interviews depends on the goal of the research.
If you're looking to assess the usability of a new feature, you'd probably want to reach out to your existing customer base. On the other hand, if your product is yet to be made, you may need to interview potential customers in a target market to validate product-market fit before beginning development.
The obvious question here is: where to find those users? The easiest way is to make use of platforms made exactly for this purpose:
UserInterviews.com matches you with participants based on predefined criteria and screener questions, helping you fine-tune your target audience and identify high-value individuals that you can interview.
UserTesting.com provides one of the most comprehensive platforms for video-first customer development.
UserZoom.com has a fully integrated participant sourcing engine and even enables you to incorporate your own users.
FeedbackLoop.com provides access to over 100 million B2B and B2C users around the world, making it one of the most comprehensive platforms, especially for businesses looking for niche user groups.
TryMyUI.com is a user research platform that lets you watch videos of participants as they use your product. Rather than an active interview, the platform provides a way to see how users naturally interact without guidance.
You can also look for local users on Craigslist or at other in-person events. By sourcing local users, you can host them on-site and gather more specific insights than you can with remote interviews. The downside is that these meetings may take extra time to coordinate and organize, plus you may need to compensate test subjects more for their efforts.
Now that you know where to find your interviewees, let's talk about the process itself.
At the very start, you should begin with preparing the key points and questions that you'd like to cover.
These questions should be open-ended and focus on behaviors rather than feelings to provide the most insight. Then, during the actual interview, you can ask follow-up questions to get specific details about a workflow or a given functionality.
When you start each interview, give the user a brief rundown of what to expect. Tell them about how long the process will take and explain the nature of the questions (e.g., background questions and then prototype questions).
Actively listen to their responses, paraphrase answers to clarify uncertainty, and record the process rather than taking notes.
There are a few ways you can make sure to gather useful insights. When conducting an interview:
Don't be afraid to ask "stupid" questions, even if you think you already know the answer. It's an excellent opportunity to challenge your assumptions wrong and learn something new.
Embrace "awkward" silences and let users think about their responses. Don't stir them in a particular direction – you'll end up with less valuable answers.
Don't be afraid to go off script if you're learning valuable things. The questions you prepare beforehand are only a rough outline of what to discuss rather than a rigid checklist of questions.
When reviewing your notes, look for recurring themes. For example, you may notice that most users share a similar pain point or miss a particular part of the workflow. If a large number of users have the same opinion, then it's something worth looking into
After obtaining these insights, you should adjust your interview notes and questions to reflect new information. If one pain point comes up more often than another, modify your questions in a way that addresses the issues that were brought up.
The Bottom Line
User interviews are an essential part of customer development. By keeping the tips that we've discussed in mind, you can ensure that your interviews deliver real insight. Remember to collect and analyze the insights you gain, and learn how to improve the process as you go on.
Have an idea for a digital product? Reach out to us; our experts will help to guide your project in the right direction.