User / customer interviews

Support in-depth understanding of user requirements, following a pre-determined structure. A structured interview enables the researcher to focus on issues of particular relevance to the proposed product. Tried and tested.

Interviewing remains one of the most popular ways of gaining user insights. With appropriate preparation, interviews are relatively simple to conduct, provide insight into customer needs relatively quickly with comparatively low levels of expertise. Interviewing can be used to establish responses to current products, elicit requirements for future products and understand preferences for competitive offerings. Customer interviews are generally conducted one-on-one, with a single customer and a small number of representatives of the design team. Where possible, the tasks of interviewing and recording the data should be separated. If acceptable, it is useful to record or video interviews for later analysis with a larger team.


General approach

Typically, a user interview should last no more than 2 hours, preferably less than 1 hour. The customer or user is often giving up valuable time, so detailed preparation is required to make the most of the opportunity. Due to the complex nature of many distribution chains, customer visits are often attended by local sales representatives. Care should be taken to ensure that the sales force and the customer do not view the visit as a sales call, but as an opportunity to listen to the customers needs. Care also needs to be taken to be objective and not introduce interviewer bias.


Experience has demonstrated that 90-95% of 'needs' can be revealed from 20-30 interviews - the time to stop is when no new needs are being found. Some general rules for questions: ask open questions, avoid closed questions, avoid leading questions, avoid biased questions, don't combine questions, avoid price questions, avoid 'feature checking'. Although a guide is essential, it should not constrain interesting avenues of discussion. Some themes worth considering are:

  • Images which come to mind about the product: How do you feel, how do you see yourself, describe the product, how and when do you use it, product comparisons (what type of car, fruit, shop, person etc)
  • Complaints, problems and weaknesses: Does it live up to expectations, is it good value for money, has it ever failed or broken, what problems have you experienced, have you had any complaints, what annoys you about it
  • What features are important: which do you use, which don't you use, which aspects influenced your buying decision, where did you buy it, what requirements are not met, what do you like best
  • What new features: If you were to buy again what would you look for, how could it be improved, what would product x of the future look like, what else could you use instead
  • Competition: what made you buy it, which did you consider and why, how did you find out about them


  • Can encounter difficult interviewees and good interviewing requires some skill and practice
  • Good listening skills are important, along with judgement to know when to let the discussion run
  • Preparation is essential
  • Avoid bias and where possible involve a number of perspectives from the design team
  • Always involve the full design team whenever possible

For more information, please contact:

James Moultrie


T:  +44 1223 764830

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