Conducting high-quality, productive and valid user testing interviews isn’t as easy as you might imagine. Innovation teams with little interviewing experience need good coaching if the discussions with users are to yield constructive results. The following aspects are particularly important in this regard:
“Which hat am I wearing?”
It’s obvious that if innovation teams do their own interviews, presenting themselves to potential users as the ‘innovation team’, they will be perceived as experts. This can get in the way of a discussion on equal terms: users may well pose fewer questions and express less or somewhat cautious criticism, being reluctant to fault an idea from an enthusiastic designer/developer. We therefore recommend donning the mantle of ‘interviewer’ rather than that of ‘expert’.
“How committed am I to the innovation?”
Our mode of testing is designed to show whether and to what extent an innovation meets user needs and can offer solutions to the pains in question. Getting users to divulge weaknesses and express criticism or rejection provides valuable pointers about whether the innovation team is on the right track. The team is required to take a mental step back from the innovation. If they find that users are failing to grasp the product or service right away or are treating it in a way not originally intended, the team members must resist the urge to explain and demonstrate. This is easier said than done. After all, the team is fully behind the solution – even more so in the latter stages of development. But explanations and clarifications distort appraisal of the idea – lessons and insights of vital importance to the team get lost. This is why we always recommend remembering not to ‘sell’ the idea and instead to observe and monitor the discussion, showing empathy for the user and allowing them to take the lead.
“How do I involve the user?”
Good user testing begins with the user, not the innovation.
Ideally, users describe their current needs & pains, workarounds, expectations, desires, motives and attitudes before turning to the innovation itself. If, however, user testing focuses exclusively on the innovation, with discussion essentially revolving around the solution developed, valuable insights can get lost, with the user testing merely serving to confirm what the innovation team already knows.
An open and free discussion of the innovation, based on user needs & pains and their ‘jobs to be done’, enables the innovation team to gain a deep understanding of user requirements. In contrast to this, focusing on questions such as “What do you think of this idea?”, “Which features appeal to you?”, “Would you purchase this product?” fall short and merely deliver ad hoc impressions instead of sustainably valid insights.