Interviews are a user research method where a researcher asks a participant a series of questions about a topic.
Because interviews rely on data self-reported by users, they are considered an attitudinal research method. Interviews are considered a qualitative research method since they focus on the in-depth motivations and thought processes behind a user’s experience. Interviews are typically one-on-one, while focus groups collect qualitative feedback from a group of participants.
Interviews can be useful at any stage of the product design process, although they are commonly associated with the discovery phase as generative research to better understand users. Other types of interviews include contextual interviews (also known as contextual inquiry), where researchers ask questions as participants complete tasks, or continuous interviews, which are completed on a regular basis rather than as part of a time-constrained research project.
A few interview formats include unstructured interviews, which include an agenda but no script; structured interviews, which strictly follow a standardized script or protocol; and semi-structured interviews, which use a basic script for guidance but allow researchers to go off-script and probe for additional data. More structured formats offer more consistency across results, but less flexibility to explore interesting or unexpected tangents.
Interviews are often used in combination with other methods as part of mixed methods research. For example, interviews may be conducted after sending out a survey or after user testing or diary studies to collect deeper reflections or feedback from participants or to gain a qualitative understanding of the meaning behind quantitative trends.