One of the best ways to understand how citizens perceive and understand current situations or topics, is by talking directly with them - and ask about their specific experiences. We have good experience with interviews of only a few end users. We consider end users "experts" due to their first-hand experiences with a given service or legislation. The users’ knowledge is an important prerequisite for developing concrete ideas for new initiatives or improvements. We often use quotes from the interviews along with a photo of the user to present the discovered insights, e.g. at a workshop, or we film the interview and use it as a facilitator to create an engaged and focused idea development. The qualitative data obtained from a smaller number of interviews (e.g. 5-8), should be seen as an important addition to the quantitative data. They obviously cannot stand alone. An interview can be used in several stages of the process; during the start-up to be better zoomed in on the project’s focus, in the research phase to increase your knowledge about the users’ experience and understanding of a given situation, and later to test a response to the developed concepts, ideas and prototypes.
Prioritize 5-8 people from your target audience. To get a full understanding of the field you are studying, it is important that you interview representatives with different experiences. For example, it may be legislation is experienced differently depending on the size of the companies affected by it.
Prepare for your interviews by formulating a wide variety of questions in the interview that comprehensively will cover the user’s experience and attitude to a give situation or subject. Ask yourself: "What do I want to know about the user?" And "What do I want to know about the user's firsthand experience of the current situation or subject?". Save any questions about the user’s opinions you may have for the end of the interview.
Ask open-ended and specific questions so you do not assume too much about the user’s answers. Start with the questions: who, what, where, how and why, so you do not end up with yes / no answers. For example, "Do you know what school you will choose after the 9th grade?". Do not ask leading questions such as "Are you going to STX after 9th grade?". Encourage the user during the interview to elaborate and provide examples to go along with the responses.
Get in touch with people from your target audience. Briefly tell them about the background of the project, the duration of the interview, any preparation that might be necessary and how the content will be used.
The interview must take place in the environment the interview is about; if you are testing a webpage, then it is in front of the computer in the person’s own home, if you are testing a public service then it is at the public institution where the service is being provided and if you are testing something related to the person’s work then the interview takes place there. You can ask the user to give you a tour of the workplace or walk you through a situation or service at the end of the interview, if it is relevant for the project.
Introduce yourself, your role and explain why the user’s input is important to the project. Ask if you can record the conversation and take pictures for internal use.
Select key insights, observations and quotes. Use quotes from the interview together with a photo of the user to present the discovered insights for your colleagues or at a workshop.