08 Writing the UXR Interview Guide

Learning with Lee Anne

Lee Anne Mercado
3 min readJan 27, 2021

I graduated with an HCI degree and a minor in design in 2018. I (naively) believed that I was fully equipped to understand UX in business, outside of school, but it turns out — I wasn’t! (Surprise!) Luckily, we never stop learning due to our peers, mentors, and random articles on the internet like this one. Since this is a time where my vulnerabilities and struggles are leading me to better understand research, I thought I’d document my learning process of how UX Research works in my everyday world of business!

corgi researcher asking participant corgi “protype A or B”?

Note that this article speaks to qualitative interview guides and not survey guides.

The interview guides I created in college in comparison to now look very different. Though I did learn the basics of writing questions in school, I’ve slowly learned to create more thorough and effective guides. The following points are my new and improved basics of approaching interview guides:

Understand your research goal
Having a solid goal in research is important because, technically, we can ask questions about anything. In order to tighten the scope of the interview guide and come out with actionable insights, it’s important to always come back to the goal when writing questions to see if it’s appropriate. Though seemingly straightforward, writing interview guides can go in many different directions like being too broad or too specific. This is why iteration and multiple eyes on the guide is also helpful in making it more well refined.

Organize the Interview Guide into Headers
A small but powerful thing to do with interview guides is organizing the different questions under different headers. This is helpful for a few reasons: one is that it ensures that you’re thoroughly covering all the different topics with various probing opportunities. My interview guides used to be extremely simple with very little questions. Having the different topics reminds me to add probing questions and different angled questions.

Another reason to do this is that it helps with analysis later on because the note taking guide can be structured based on each topic, making it easier to compare results across the different participants.

Especially during this remote time, incorporate interactive ways to do the interview
Having participants do activities during the interview is a great way to keep them engaged and sometimes a better way to gather answers. This can include having them do card sorting while they’re screen sharing, or even just sharing your screen and showing your Miro board as you visualize their answers on the online white board. There’s almost always a way to make your interview guide more dynamic than just asking them questions, so make sure to challenge yourself with this idea.

Review the guide with stakeholders
As always, successful research is done in collaboration. Asking the stakeholders to go over the interview guide and having them input their 2 cents is extremely helpful in refining the guide. They can also help keep the questions in scope because they know exactly what kind of information they need in order to move forward.

Allow the interview guide to live and breathe
In addition to iterating and collaborating, I believe that the best interview guides are produced when they are made to be dynamic. Treat this guide as a living document that can constantly change when necessary, especially when you start piloting and interviewing with it.