A guide to design and conduct a semi-structured interview that helps you better understand the needs and reality of your end-users or stakeholders. In a semi-structured interview, you follow a guide but are able to follow interesting subjects when it is appropriate. The interview can be done one-on-one or in small groups (3-4).
This type of interview allows you to empathize with the person you are interviewing and to go in depth into participants’ experiences. It helps you understand a problem or a situation from their perspectives and to gain insights into their behaviour, motivations, needs and perceptions.
1. Define what you wish to find out: your research question(s) for this person in relation to your design challenge.
• Their experience and perspective on the problem or challenge
• Their knowledge and perception of a certain situation
• Their ideas about causes and solutions on the situation or challenge
2. Write down a set of open-ended questions to find out what you want to know. Open-ended questions are questions that require more than a short, fixed response like yes or no. It can help to categorise them under topics and have 3-5 main questions for each topic. Keep in mind that these questions are the starting points, but you should always ask probing and follow-up questions to go more in-depth in each of them.
3. If you also want to understand the personal characteristics of the person better, you can include in the interview research tools like Communication map, Social map or Future me.. These will help to build a better understanding of the person you are interviewing, which can help to better interpret their answers.
4. Select and invite participants for your interview. Look for people who represent your end-users or relevant stakeholders. And it can also be helpful to look for more “extreme” users or stakeholders.
In qualitative research, there is not a golden rule on how many participants to involve. You don’t have to do 50 interviews, but make sure to have more than 2 representatives of each type of user or stakeholder. For example: 3 female students, 3 male students, 3 teachers and 3 mothers and 3 fathers. A rule of thumb is to interview around 12-15 potential end-users or stakeholders.
5. The space for the interview is important: it needs to be easily accessible, private and feel safe for the interviewees. Make sure to have enough time to properly round off the interview. An interview usually lasts around 1hour and 30 minutes. This is enough time to have a lot of information but not too long for the interviewee.
6. Welcome the interviewee and be very clear on why you are doing the interview and what you want to get out of it. Make sure they are aware they are open to say anything, they are not being judged. Ask if you can record the interview and explain your process.
7. During the interview, ask questions and listen carefully to the answers. Feel free to ask your participants to elaborate on their answers. Ask “Why?...” or “Can you give me an example of that?”.
Note down the answers and/or record the interview so that it can be used as a reference later.
8. When you are done with your interviews, look back at your notes or listen to/watch the recordings. Analyse the answers, write out the key findings: most relevant things that answer your research question and share them with your team.
Use the notes from the interviews to identify insights for your challenge through pattern finding. These insights can be translated into recommendations or guidelines to come up with solutions in the ideation phase.
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