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A Prepper’s Checklist for User Interviews (Part Two)

  • 22
  • October 2019

Last time, we covered how to prep yourself for user interviews on your end. This time, our checklist focuses on getting your interview subjects prepped in advance.

Get caught up with on our user interview prepper checklists by reading Part One here.

1. Screen Their Internet Connection.

User-side technology is much harder to control, so proactivity is key here. Consider including a screener question in your initial qualifying survey asking the user for their internet speed. Find either the MBPS, or the name of the internet package, which you could then look up yourself. If you’re deciding between two otherwise-identical users, and one answered this question with “1000 MBPS” and one answered “I don’t know,” it might be safer to pick the first one.

2. Confirm Their Testing Device in Advance.

Just because you title your screening application Test Our Desktop Prototype doesn’t mean the user realizes you’d rather they not test from their smartphone (we’ve seen it happen, believe it or not). Lay out crystal-clear device requirements for the user interviews in your screening form.

3. Screen Their Browser.

This one is especially important if your chat software has specific browser support. As of this writing, Google Hangouts only works in Chrome and Firefox. We always make sure to include that info in our screener survey. Likewise, ask them in a confirmation email ahead of time to please have all other tabs and unnecessary background programs closed. Open tabs can sometimes run processes that contribute to issues with loading speeds during interviews.

4. Prep Their Chat Software.

About a third of the time, we experience a bit of a struggle instructing users on how to share their screen and their webcam at the same time. If there are issues, it usually only takes a minute or two to clear up. We had an experience where it took about 10 minutes to solve, on top of 10 previous minutes where the user hadn’t configured their microphone. Just like that, we lost 20 minutes of our scheduled hour to technical issues.

It’s not a bad idea to send written instructions with screenshots in your confirmation emails. This is especially for any processes that might be new to the user or hard to figure out on their own. They can refer back to the email, rather than wonder what the heck the issue is.

5. Screen Their Surroundings.

Some people don’t realize you need them to be somewhere secluded and quiet, both for client privacy and for the sake of audio quality. I’ve actually had a user playing music in the background of our interview! Feel free to politely ask them to please turn it off (I did). Put these requirements in the agreement they sign in your screener.

6. Prep Their Audio & Microphone.

Once, I had a call with a woman whose mic wasn’t working. I flailed around a bit and asked her to communicate the issues with me in the chat. She had a mic, she wasn’t muted, and she didn’t know what was wrong. As a Mac user, I could’ve easily rattled off how she could get into her sound settings to make sure her mic was working. However, she was using a PC. Another minute or two of smiley-faced panic passed before I finally heard her voice through my speakers, “Can you hear me? I fixed it. It was a setting that needed changing.”

I was so relieved that I didn’t even think to ask her what that setting was so that I could have it in my back pocket if this ever happened again. Afterward, I vowed to bookmark instructions for changing Windows microphone settings. I’d have instructions just in case I ever needed to coach someone how to do it over chat. If all else fails, ask them to stay in the video chat, but also call into the chat with their phone, so that you can hear them.

7. Have a Backup Plan for the Product Being Tested.

If everything else on this checklist is taken care of, the prototype or website should run just fine for the user. However, I’ve seen a situation where, for no discernable reason, the testing website just wouldn’t load. Other websites were loading for them. They even tried a different browser, and the website was loading just fine on our end. No matter how long we waited, it just wouldn’t load for testing.

In that scenario, we weren’t prepared. If you can’t afford to lose that user feedback, it’s a good idea to have a “last resort” plan in place. Have a list of tasks and open-ended questions prepared that you can email to the user. Ask them to complete the tasks on their own time, once the site loads for them. A final resort might be asking them to user test a direct competitor’s site. It’s not ideal, but if you’re hard up for testers, sometimes you get the feedback however you can. At least you’ll know what the competitor is doing right or wrong and can consider the user’s opinions in your design.

Be Prepared!

The issues on this checklist came from personal experience. Once again, your interviews will probably go just fine. Paranoia is not what I’m advocating for. Even when things went wrong, we still got great feedback and were able to stumble through the hiccups. That said, I’m sure I’d have had lowered my own stress levels if I’d had some backup plans in place, (Also, my elevated heart rate may not have alerted my Fitbit that I was in the “fat-burn” zone.)

Take some of my advice or develop a checklist of your own — whatever it takes for you to go forth, talk to friendly strangers, and feel prepared while doing it!

Talk to us at [email protected] or call us at (866) 981-6847 for a free, no obligation discussion about testing your product.