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Summary: Preparing a guide for a user interview ensures that topics relevant to your research questions are covered, and that the interview captures in-depth information about people’s lives and needs.
In the discovery phase of product development, user interviews are often used to capture important information about users: their backgrounds, beliefs, motivations, desires, or needs. Typically, the interviews carried out at this stage are semistructured (referred to as “depth interviews” by market researchers) — they generally have a predefined structure, but also allow the interviewer the flexibility to follow up on significant statements made by participants.
In a semistructured interview, the interviewer uses an interview guide (also referred to as a discussion guide). Unlike an interview script — which is used in structured interviews — an interview guide can be used flexibly: interviewers can ask questions in any order they see fit, omit questions, or ask questions that are not in the guide.
A good interview guide paves the way for a deep, free-flowing conversation with participants. (Obviously, the way you conduct the interview will also be important, but that’s another article!) Interview guides should include a few concise, open-ended questions to encourage participants to tell their stories. These will be followed by carefully crafted, probing questions to uncover motivations or beliefs behind certain reported behaviors or utterances.