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Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights Paperback – May 2, 2013

4.7 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Portigal's common-sense guide to interviewing is an excellent primer on methods and techniques. The sidebars, case studies, photos, and illustrations bring the information to life. --Brenda Laurel, PhD, designer, researcher

Steve Portigal's fast-paced, ultra-readable primer provides a common-sense approach to interviewing users that's as inspiring as it is instructive. --Allan Chochinov, Editor in Chief, Core77

Steve's book is based on his extensive expertise with qualitative ethnography, and is a must-read for students of design research. --Jon Kolko VP, Design, MyEdu & Director, Austin Center for Design

Steve Portigal's fast-paced, ultra-readable primer provides a common-sense approach to interviewing users that's as inspiring as it is instructive. --Allan Chochinov, Editor in Chief, Core77

Steve's book is based on his extensive expertise with qualitative ethnography, and is a must-read for students of design research. --Jon Kolko VP, Design, MyEdu & Director, Austin Center for Design

About the Author

Steve is the founder of Portigal Consulting. In the past 15 years he's interviewed families eating breakfast, rock musicians, home-automation enthusiasts, credit-default swap traders, and radiologists. His work has informed the development of music gear, wine packaging, medical information systems, corporate intranets, videoconferencing systems, and iPod accessories. He's an accomplished presenter who speaks about culture, innovation, and design at companies such as eBay, Adobe, Nokia, Hewlett-Packard, and Dolby Laboratories.

Steve has lectured at Stanford University, Institute of Design, California College of Art, and UC Berkeley, and writes regularly on topics from interaction design to pop culture for Interactions, Core77, Ambidextrous, and Johnny Holland. He has a graduate degree in human-computer interaction from the University of Guelph and is an avid photographer who has a Museum of Foreign Groceries in his home.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Rosenfeld Media; 1st edition (May 2, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 193382011X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933820118
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,937 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I have followed Steve Portigal through his articles and ever insightful blog for many years and have used many of his approaches and methods in my own design research. So, when I heard Steve was writing a book on the art and craft of design research, I immediately ordered a copy. After reading "Interviewing Users" I wanted to share my impressions and thoughts.

First off, the book was really insightful and inspiring from beginning to end. I found that Steve was able to capture the essence of many techniques and methodologies at expert level depth, while still delivering novice level understanding. As an experienced design researcher, this allowed me to easily grasp new ideas and learn extremely nuanced elements about common practices I was already familiar with. The use of case studies and stories from the field, quickly and vividly illustrate these points.

At many points in the book, I found myself stopping to think about and integrate new ideas into my own practice. This not only helped reveal gaps in my process, but also new ways to improve and expand on existing methods and techniques.

On frist read the book provided tremendous value, but I can also tell that I will be flipping through its pages again. The book is a tremendous reference point and will be very useful for studying up prior to my next user interview or design analysis session.

It's a quick read, at only 158 pages, but still dense enough to warrant careful reading. I would recommend it to anyone starting out in the field of user experience design, especially students or industry first timers. I would have been miles ahead If I had read this book when I first got into design research, but better late than never.
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Format: Paperback
Having been an ethnographer (design researcher) in the past, I'm extremely impressed with how well this book captures the actual skills and issues involved with conducting interviews. There are plenty of books out there about various research methods (and this book touches on some of those), but they typically miss one critical element that this book nails -- how to actually engage with the participant.

The author does a fantastic job outlining the subtle nuances of preparing for, executing, and evaluating user interviews. He really gets at the details that emerge with participants and how to deal with them in even the most bizarre scenarios -- and those scenarios WILL happen. The real power in this book is how the author captures the direct interaction with an interview participant, and how to get the responses you need as an interviewer, while not coming across as invasive. I also like how he describes letting the participant wander off the interview guide for a bit to learn things the interviewer never would have discovered otherwise. It's dealing with this "go-with-the-flow" approach that this book excels at teaching -- clearly derived from the author's many years of experience.

These are skills that rarely are taught in classes or in methods books. A good ethnographer/design researcher possesses a unique skill at enticing participants to reveal information about themselves without asking leading questions (something the majority of focus group moderators can't do). The author does the best job I've seen at capturing these capabilities and structuring the book in a manner that teaches the reader how they can do it as well. I also appreciate the focus on in-situ interviews (at the user's home, place of work, etc.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Steve's guide offers a vivid and rich description of the entire interviewing process. You won't find academic models here, only knowledge from deep experience.

Here are some of my favourites:

On recruiting is data: "In one project, that fact that I couldn't find anyone with a luxurious yet functional 'smart home' implementation revealed a great deal about how the client was conceiving of the market."
On reaching the tipping point: "Although I can't predict when it will happen there's a point when the participant shifts from giving short answers to giving stories...you realize that you've arrived a higher level of rapport and the tenor of the exchange is different."

Here are two tips from me on reading the book:

Go slow with it: the book has deep stuff you might miss if you flip through too quickly.
Follow the footnotes: They take you to a wealth of information on external sites.

Enjoy!
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Format: Paperback
The user experience industry and discipline is many-faceted, from user research to interaction design to information architecture. With user-centered design being the current reigning champion of design methodologies, there's really no sub-discipline of user experience that can't benefit, or isn't touched, by the recorded opinions of real users. One gets these opinions by observing and interviewing them. In order to best understand and execute these strategies, unless you're a trained behavioral psychologist or anthropologist, I think there are two books that exemplify excellent coverage of user research: Mike Kuniasvsky's Observing the User Experience, Second Edition: A Practitioner's Guide to User Research, and Steve Portigal's Interviewing Users.

Once the shock wore off that a solid, definitive book on this topic didn't actually exist, I found Portigal's book effortless to read and full of both common-sense wisdom and slightly counter-intuitive lessons from years of hard-won field research experience. Questioning without leading the subject, ideating with proper stimulation and props, being professional and focused while being an interloper in peoples' lives and homes, having empathy while staying subjective, improvising while still achieving your goals...these lessons and themes are all structured not unlike how a film is made, from planning, to pre-production, to production, to post-production. The synthesis and analysis section is extremely short, but I'd argue it should be: This is where the cleverness, insight, and opinions of the researcher comes into play, and each research project is so different that only a handful of guidelines can really be offered.
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