Designing User Interviews

Designing user interviews

Purpose Of the Guide

Understanding the people you are designing for is a paramount step in the design process, and so one way to achieve that is through conducting user interviews. This guide will help design thinkers to understand users’ experiences from their own point of view in terms of:

  • Why they use products in a certain way
  • How they feel about something
  • How they perform various actions

Background (Current Situation, Problem, and/or Opportunity)

Interviews can be a great way to empathize with your users because interviews can give you an in-depth understanding of the users’ values, perceptions, and experiences. They allow you to ask specific questions, while remaining open to exploring your participants’ points of view. They are also often combined with other user research methods, such as usability tests or surveys, so as to gain deeper insights into objective results by asking a user about them and to elicit the user’s subjective opinion on products or interactions.

Brief Overview Of Key Concepts

Semi-structured interviews are somewhat structured in that you prepare a set of topics you would like to cover during the interview, but still open enough that you can follow leads in the conversation and change the order of topics.

This means you have an interview guide with the questions or themes that you want to talk to the user about, but you are free to change the order of questions or to explore different topics that may arise during the interview.

User interviews can be very informative and helpful, but only if they are used correctly and for the right things. It is important to know what you can expect to get out of interviews and what you should not expect to get out of interviews.

User interviews can be conducted for the following reasons:

  • for exploration before a clear concept has been defined or before a major redesign,
  • in combination with user tests and formal experiments, and
  • in combination with observations.

User Interview Requirements

A good interview requires preparation and careful consideration on the part of the interviewer. It is important to be aware of how to ask questions and how to listen in order to gain valid insights into your participant’s life and experiences.

How to Structure User Interviews

When you conduct a user interview, consider the best way of ordering the questions. Below are some tips on what to ask in the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of a user interview.


At the beginning of the interview, ask opening questions to set people at ease and build rapport. Do not ask about sensitive topics. Instead, focus on setting the stage and bringing your interviewees on board so they are comfortable enough to be, and remain open with you. Your questions at this stage can include:

  • briefing participants on topics that will be covered,
  • briefing participants on how their data will be used,
  • asking safe questions such as what their role is in their organization, and
  • asking concrete questions that are easy to answer.


In the middle of the interview, you are hitting high gear. Having established a direct channel with your interviewees (the users), you move on and ask the bulk of your questions. The predetermined order of the questions may change based on the direction the conversation is taking. Some of the tips here include:

  • keeping the flow of the conversation as natural as possible, but cover the topics you want to cover,
  • picking up on what participants have said earlier and get full replies to questions they have only partially answered,
  • steering participants back on track if they go too far off topic, and
  • showing that you have been listening.


At the end of the interview, you wrap up in a way that makes participants feel as though they have said what they wanted to say and that their answers are valuable.

Things you should do include:

  • asking if there is anything participants would like to add,
  • telling your participants what you are going to do with their data and what the value is for them, and
  • thanking them for taking the time to help with your research.

Example Interview Guide


You have been identified as someone with significant expertise and experience, and we have asked you to participate in this interview. Your responses are confidential. We may need to record the session for use later on as we compile notes from this interview. The conversation will take 30 to 45 minutes of your time.

CHW Supervisors
Questions on supervision
  1. What does your typical day look like?
  2. How many CHWs have you been assigned to supervise?
  3. What are your main supervisory responsibilities?
  4. Which tools do you use during supervision of CHWs?
  5. Which are the health areas that CHWs are expected to report?
  6. How often do you interact/meet with CHWs for official work assignments?
  7. Do you shadow CHWs during their visits to households or other field activities? How often?
  8. What informs the mode or approach of supervision?
  9. What supervision activities are involved?
Questions on reporting
  1. How often do you collect data from CHW?
  2. What data is usually or typically hard to collect accurately for CHWs?
  3. What are commonest challenges observed or reported by CHWs during meetings?
  4. How often do CHWs submit their reports?
  5. What challenges have you experienced while compiling and reporting the data from CHWs?
  6. What improvements do you think would help improve the reporting process?

Ending the interview

We have come to the end of the interview. Do you have anything to add that you feel we have not covered?

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. Learning about how you conduct supervision and reporting activities will really help us understand how to create solutions to support your work. If you think of anything else or you have any questions, you are more than welcome to get in touch. I also want to ask if we can contact you again if we think of other questions or if something is unclear. Is that alright?