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User Interviews

10+ stories or quotes from your 3-5 users

DFA UC Davis
10+ stories or quotes from your 3-5 users


User research is a key element to the Immerse phase. Conduct user research to learn from users about experiences, thoughts, behaviors, and actions so you can to deeply understand and empathize with them. The best place to learn this information is from users themselves! Your team will look for stories, quotes, and key moments to use in synthesizing your research.

Observe the challenge you are tackling!
Observing users gives your team a chance to see behaviors and interactions first-hand. Oftentimes there is a difference between how people say they act and how they actually act, and observation can help you uncover some of those moments. Techniques to try include:
  • Fly-on-the-wall - Observing from a distance so as to not interfere with the normal behavior or flow of spaces or users.
  • Shadowing - Closely following a user or group of users through a specific experience or routine.
  • Participatory - Team members personally experience a user’s process or place in the field. Doing so allows your team to observe more of a user’s normal environment and any stakeholders they interact with.
  • Observations Online - Social networks and blogs provide user generated content. Observing or participating in these discussions could help you identify what matters most to your users. 

Conduct interviews
Interviews are sessions where your team asks users and stakeholders questions in order to understand their feelings or motivations. Interviews can be short and informal or prepared and scheduled. They can also happen in a variety of media from in-person conversations to video chats or phone calls.
For all interviews, best practices include:
  • Build rapport - begin the interview in a friendly manner to learn about who they are as a person and for them to feel comfortable.
  • Ask open-ended questions - avoid yes or no questions, prepare your interview with questions that let your users open up.
  • Elicit stories/emotion - people love telling stories and you can learn a lot from them.
  • Ladder - Continuously asking users for the “why” behind certain remarks they make to uncover less obvious answers or values.
  • Don’t ask leading questions - say things like ‘How does that make you feel?” not “Does that make you feel upset?”
  • Be specific - ask about specific instances, “Tell me how you got to school last Thursday.” Instead of “tell me how you get to school.”
  • Define interview roles - you should have a team member asking the questions and a team member taking notes at all interviews. Without a dedicated note-taker you will most likely miss important things!

Collect Artifacts
In all techniques also look for user generated artifacts to support your research, such as day planners that doctors use or pictures of a child’s favorite toys.  These artifacts can give you great in-context, and firsthand insight into the how users experience a certain challenge area.


2. Set up a meeting with a user and/or a community partner. Or set up an observation at a location related to your stakeholders
3. Prep for your interview/observation:
  • Notepad, pen, camera, photo release forms, curious mind willing to listen and be patient, prepped question
4. Conduct interview/observation. Document everything!
  • See below for best practices and techniques.
5. Set up another meeting with the user to test later in the project
6. Have 2+ new ways of looking at your problem space from your research!
7. Debrief with your team right away when thoughts are fresh!
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