User Interviews for Product Managers

I’ve conducted user interviews across all stages of the product. I like to define user interviews in 3 distinct types: Problem space, Solution space, the Usability/Experience Test. In the post below I talk about each type and provide some guiding questions.

Stage 1: Problem Space

Goal

The goal of interviews in this stage is to understand your potential users’ problems and how they’re solving those problems to validate/invalidate your hypotheses

Timing

In the ideation phase before launching a new product or feature , you should have a hypothesis of what problem you’re trying to solve and a vague idea of a potential user base.

Execution

Whom to Interview

Finding users can be a bit of a challenge in this stage, the following approaches have worked for me:

  1. Posting in your networks for the target user base or ads on Craigslist/Social platforms
  2. Consulting with a user research firm if possible for your company ( Ex. https://www.answerlab.com/)
  3. Use a tool like https://www.userinterviews.com/ to find users you want to target

You can offer users gift cards, enter them in a lottery or provide early access. Tools like User Interviews will take care of payments as well.

Pre-Interview Prep
  1. Once you have interviewees, make sure you have hypotheses written down about your product and user assumptions.
    • If you need a starting point, it can be helpful to layout a “Jobs to be Done” framework for your potential users to help with the hypotheses
  2. Helpful questions at this stage probe into understanding your users. Some examples to use as a framework are:
    • Walk me through a typical day in your life (for consumer) , walk me through steps of your job (for SaaS)
    • How would you want to solve [problem your product will solve] (for consumer)? What would success in your role look like? (for SaaS)
    • How are you solving the problem now?
    • What are the biggest pain points in solving that problem?
    • Can you rank the above pain points?
    • What other tools/apps/software are you using?
    • How do you discover the [some tools from above]?
    • What do you like/dislike about [tools from above]?
    • Ask questions related to your hypotheses but make then unbiased if you can’t get those answers in the above questions.

It’s crucial to stay open minded to other ideas/hypotheses that may come out of interviews that you may not expect.

Take some time and delve into the above questions, especially the pain points. Repeat the process for as many users you need for validation (around 10 is usually a good sweet spot)

During and post interview
  1. Make sure users know there are no right or wrong answers
  2. Don’t judge the answers of the users
  3. Dig deeper into anything surprising
  4. Go back to your hypotheses and see if you can validate/invalidate with each user’s interview
  5. Distill the learnings and share with your team! It’s important to involve designers, engineers and rest of the team in this process
    • One good way to distill some learnings are to build user personas
  6. If it’s users from your network/someone you can stay in touch with, keep them in your network or build a small community to keep these users around for future iterations

Stage 2: Solution Phase

Goal

The goal of interviews in this stage is to understand if the solution you and your team came up with for the problem is what users would expect/use?

Timing

The testing is usually done with prototypes or some mock-ups of the product/feature you are building.

Execution

Whom to Interview
  1. E-mail existing users if you have an MVP product
  2. If there’s a way to surface a form inside your product, you can ask users to sign up there if it’s a new feature
  3. Any users you retained from the ideation phase would be great to test out solutions if you don’t have any users yet
  4. For your last resort, you can find users the same way you did for ideation phase with agencies/tools

You can offer users gift cards, enter them in a lottery or provide early access.

Try to get different user personas you have identified for your product to get a diverse perspective.

Pre-Interview Prep
  1. Once you have interviewees, make sure you have hypotheses written down about your product and user assumptions. Hypotheses will be key to every user interview
  2. Have a script ready for walking through the product with the interviewees
  3. Send users links to have access to the product before the interview
  4. Helpful questions at this stage probe into understanding your users. Some examples to use as a framework are:
    • [Have users walk through prototype] What are your initial thoughts looking at this product?
    • What do you think you should do here [while showing each screen]?
    • How do you feel about this [showing any features you have doubts about]?
    • What do you like/dislike about this[on some of the bigger features/screens]?

Take some time and delve into the above questions, especially the dislikes. Repeat the process for as many users you need for validation (around 6-7 is usually a good sweet spot)

During and post interview
  1. Make sure users know there are no right or wrong answers
  2. Don’t judge the answers of the users
  3. Go back to your hypotheses and see if you can validate/invalidate with each user’s interview
  4. Note any design confusions for the product
  5. Distill the learnings and share with your team! It’s important to involve designers, engineers and rest of the team in this process

Stage 3: Usability/Experience Testing

Goal

The goal of interviews in this stage of a product can be several different things, including:

  1. How to improve the product?
  2. What do users love most about your product?
  3. What are UI improvements you can make to the product?
  4. How intuitive and easy-to-use is the product?
  5. What messaging resonates with your users as the value prop? This could also inform marketing

Timing

The testing is usually done with an MVP product you built with your solution research and usually helps with refining and tweaking the product/feature.

Execution

Whom to Interview
  1. Existing users if you have an MVP product
  2. Any users you retained from the ideation phase
  3. Find users the same way you did for ideation phase with agencies/tools

You can offer users gift cards, enter them in a lottery or provide product benefits!

Try to get different user personas you have identified for your product to get a diverse perspective.

Pre-Interview Prep
  1. Once you have interviewees, make sure you have hypotheses written down about your product and user assumptions. Hypotheses will be key to every user interview
  2. Have a script ready for walking through the product with the interviewees
  3. Send users links to have access to the product before the interview
  4. Helpful questions at this stage probe into understanding your users. Some examples to use as a framework are:
    • [Have users walk through prototype] What are your initial thoughts looking at this product?
    • What do you think you should do here [while showing each screen]?
    • How do you feel about this [showing any features you have doubts about]?
    • What do you like/dislike about this[on some of the bigger features/screens]?

Take some time and delve into the above questions, especially the dislikes. Repeat the process for as many users you need for validation (around 6-7 is usually a good sweet spot)

During and post interview
  1. Make sure users know there are no right or wrong answers
  2. Don’t judge the answers of the users
  3. Go back to your hypotheses and see if you can validate/invalidate with each user’s interview
  4. Note any design confusions for the product
  5. Distill the learnings and share with your team! It’s important to involve designers, engineers and rest of the team in this process

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: