I took part in a really good session on user research and interview techniques at UX up presented by the wonderful Benjamin Parry, who presented an overview of User Research, some interview techniques, followed by an interview breakout session.
While this is more than a short blog post can cover, I thought I'd summarise my notes in bite-sized form - all errors are mine :)
Good: Tell me the story of… Give me an example of… Walk me through the process of….
Bad:: Do you…, have you… can you….
Anything that leads to a yes or no answer is bad - you learn little.
If you ask a closed question by mistake you can follow up with a why or how to open it back up.
Try and avoid asking future type questions: "Would you ever... Will you..." - people are a bad judge of their future selves.
Don't lead, bias or prompt in your questions:
-- Bad: "How easy was it to complete the form?... Which of the 3 options would you choose?..."
-- Good: "What are your thoughts about completing the form?... What would you do next?... Tell me about your consideration process when purchasing new software?..."
Good Interviewing is hard
You need to be curious.
You need to shut up and listen.
You need to be empathetic.
How much should you talk?
If Pacman was a pie chart, proportionally you should talk for the mouth slice, the user should talk for the rest of Pacman slice.
Listening, processing and asking questions is hard - it's proper mental juggling.
Use a mindmap or a simple list of questions to structure things to help prompt you and allow for more of a natural flow.
Don’t write everything down - it should be a conversation. You want people to be at ease, and if you are constantly writing things down they might feel like they are being tested.
Record the conversation and use transcription software - check out
User your intuition and sense if someone has more to say or could open up more.
I don't understand that - can you explain further?
Is there anything you do between doing X and doing Y that you haven't mentioned?
If they give one-word answers you can expand: "What does useful mean to you?" Delve down using the 5 whys….
"If you couldn’t solve that - what would you do instead?"
These are just my high-level notes - there's lots of good writing around the subject: