User research is a crucial stage for the success of any product. In most circumstances, people who design the product is usually not people who use the product. Standing on a designer’s perspective, it is hard to perceive and think objectively. After all:
You are never your own user.
As a well-developed design approach used in user research, user interviews are penetrated into any stage of the design process to help designers better understand their target users and determine market demands. This is to ensure that the final product benefits target users. Though the interview is a quite straightforward method, a better selection of questions and use of vocabulary might engage a more effective and synthesized result.
In a recent interview conducted with Yiseul LeMieux, my partner, the goals are to figure out what are my partner’s research interests and what kind of group projects she might be interested in working on. Also, because of the virtual environment this year due to Covid-19, it’s helpful to understand her opinions on how the group should be determined for group projects.
An effective interview should have open-ended questions with follow-up prompts that encourage the user to express more than “yes” or “no”. In order to achieve the goals, the interview questions will surround the following keywords:
- research interests
- devices / tools
Q1: What role do you usually play in a group project?
A: It really depends on the group & the project. Sometimes I will not say a thing and just wait until they assign a job for me to do. But if I am actively participating, I brainstorm ideas, organize schedules, take notes, make prototypes, etc.
Q2: Could you share a recent group work experience please?
A: MMPC; performer-composer students were invited to be a part of the first CoPA Spotlight series last semester. (This is the largest group project I worked on last semester.)
I worked as a(n)
1. Communicator between event committees and my peers (7 students including myself)
2. Organizer/director; everyone had so many ideas in my group, and we all kept throwing in ideas non stop. I helped to guide everyone towards a goal that best fulfilled the purpose of the event. I also had to program the event, direct everyone’s ideas towards a singular theme, come up with a schedule, check individual assignment progress etc.
3. Editor; I collected everyone’s music/videos and edited them together to fit into the overall program.
4. Curator; Organized all of the groups individual contributions in a way that flowed best through the event.
Fall 2020 was our first semester. This group work was especially challenging because of the massive amount of work that had to be done mostly by me (I was the only one in the group that had used the program they were looking for). This was not a required course project, so not everyone was as eager to volunteer. The styles of our individual works are very distinct and different, so it was hard for me to present them as one project.
Q3: Do you prefer find your own partner or have an assigned partner? Why?
A: I prefer to find my own partner most of the time. I am not good at making small talk and socializing. (collaborations in my work usually requires some degree of personal relationship) But also, an assigned partner can be good or more appropriate in certain situations, especially on assignments like this.
Q4: What are the benefits and limitations of working as a group? How?
A: Certain projects cannot be done working alone, and to take on these types of projects I need to work with a group. There are things that I do not know how to do, and to have the exchange of skills between different people is very important. It can also be difficult to work in a group when everyone is not on the same page when it comes to working together. If the group is not open to letting everyone feel comfortable adding input it can really strain overall productivity.
Q5: What devices do you usually use for your work/study? How do you think one is better than the other, or one is more suitable to you?
A:I use a computer, tablet and smartphone for my work/study. I use devices for different reasons, so it is hard to pick which one is better than the other. I guess I spend more time on the computer than the other two devices for my work because the work I am doing requires programs that can only operate on the computer.
Q6: Could you please share some tags/boards that you follow on Pinterest/Dribble etc?
A: #zerowaste #Illustration #dogs #bookbinding #houseplant #DIY #cleaning
Q7: Which topic of the following attracts you the most (Social, cultural, personal, political, religious, economics, technological)? Why?
A: I will pick personal because personal can cover all the other topics in my opinion.
Q8: What are the concepts/themes of some recent projects you are doing or have done? Why do you choose these themes?
A: These are some of my recent projects (from the last couple of months). I am interested in subjects/matters that are universal and also that are reflecting individuality.
After the interview, Yiseul’s user empathy map is created according to her answers. The map includes four contents: says, thinks, does, and feels, with a purpose to understand the user’s behaviors and attitudes.
Say — This part records exact words the user use that is of value.
Do — This part is to record user’s behaviors that could be relevant to the product experience. Knowing the user’s problems could better help designers solve the problems.
Think — Here is often when users talk about their opinions and ideas. It enables the researcher to understand user’s attitudes toward current experience or situation that can then lead to feelings.
Feel — Feeling is to understand user’s emotions. It’s very important to capture as it represents user feedbacks, which can lead to later product iterations.
In this empathy map, we understand Yiseul’s research/project interests as well as her opinions on how a group should be determined.
For research/project interests, we get a sense of Yiseul’s everyday research tags by asking for favorite tags on Pinterest: #zerowaste, #illustration, #dogs, #bookbinding. However, these are not deep enough. Therefore, a question asking about concepts and themes of her recent projects is conducted. Yiseul mentions that her recent projects involve topics like human interaction, stereoptypes, waste recycling, religions, customer trends, and cultural education. It seems like Yiseul’s research interests are based on social phenomenons and concepts. But, in terms of individuality, she points out that personal topics could cover all other topics since one’s opinions on all other topics are fostered from one’s personal experience. Accordingly, “ I am interested in subjects/matters that are universal and also that are reflecting individuality”, said Yiseul.
Due to Covid-19 pandemic, the world is now under a mostly virtual working environment. In this case, Yiseul expresses her opinions about how groups should be determined for group projects. She prefers to find her own partners instead of having an assigned partner because, according to her, “I am not good at socializing and collaborations usually require some degree of personal relationship”. Woking in a group can be both benefitial and restrictive: unique skills and specialities of different members benefit each individual in the group; however, the uniqueness and sometimes conflicts and disrespects might demotivate group members and hence reduce overall productivity.
In conclusion, the use of vocabulary and follow-up prompts could result in an effective interview result. Users never answer more if you don’t ask for more. By preventing users say solely “yes” or “no”, it’s crucial to have open-ended questions with follow-up prompts. Yiseul is able to share her personal experiences and projects when she is asked questions with “to what extent”, “how”, “why”, and so on. The user empathy map can be a useful tool after the interview because it summarises important points for researchers, which enables researchers better understand user’s behaviors and attitudes.