The case for relaxing in user research
There’s something I’ve realised lately, that’s making my user interviews go smoother and getting deeper, more nuanced insights. I want to share it with you:
The key is this: relax.
Take a step back, for a moment. What is a user interview? If yours are like mine, it’s essentially sitting down with a complete stranger, asking them quite personal questions about their life, and hoping they’ll answer truthfully and openly enough that you can use what they say to design your product. It’s kind of weird, really.
Essentially, you’re fast-forwarding a relationship in just a few minutes, from first meeting to sharing life truths. How do you get there? How do you get them comfortable enough to talk to you and really share their truth with you?
The answer is build that rapport. There’s an art to interviews, and really, I think of it as being a sister to the art of conversation. I think when people are learning how to run user interviews, there appears this balancing act between ‘user interview skills’ and ‘social skills’. Sometimes social skills is the part that falls into the cracks when you’re learning the basic skills of user interviewing.
If you can level up by remembering your user interview skills and also relaxing and having a conversation, the person you’re talking to is going to be that much more engaged. If they’re engaged, what they tell you will be more natural, your insights will be deeper and learnings more nuanced. If they’re disengaged, you’ll get your yes, no answers, but they won’t feel like going deep, sharing their feelings, and opening up to you.
This is my argument for losing a little of the formality and relaxing —with the aim of creating a relaxed, friendly feeling of talking to a new friend, rather than the stiff, nervous feeling of being interviewed.