How to run in-depth interviews

Types of in-depth interview

We can distinguish types of interviews such as:

  • By purpose: narrative (understanding the market being researched), problematic (identifying customer pains in using a particular product), solving (determining the demand for the product);
  • By time spent: regular and express interviews;
  • By interviewee: user and expert. User — a person who uses the product. Expert — a person who is knowledgeable about the product being researched (bloggers, product sellers, product developers);
  • By structure: structured (the list of questions for the interview is determined in advance), semi-structured (except for questions determined in advance free communication with the client is allowed), unstructured (only general questions are determined, the interview is conducted in free format);
  • According to the number of interviewees: individual and group (for example, if we speak to the director of the company and the accountant at the same time);
  • By organization of the interview: personal, telephone, video communication programs, etc

The algorithm for the in-depth interview

Let’s briefly review the research steps you have to go through when conducting in-depth interviews.

Identifying the stakeholders

Stakeholders are the people who are interested in your project. Stakeholders define the business objective of the research, and ux-research offers the tools to achieve the objective. It would be a big mistake at the start of the project not to identify someone among the stakeholders and take into account someone who has an impact on the product.

Defining the goals and objectives of the research

You need to form the goal of the study with the stakeholders — this is the end result that the study is aimed at (for example, to understand the current pains of credit owners).

Defining the target audience

Depending on the purpose of the research, there may be different approaches in defining the target audience.

  • User experience (has experience using the product, has no experience using the product, has experience using a similar product);
  • Role in the company (e.g., manager, accountant, or analyst);
  • Working for an organization in a particular industry (banks, oil production, e-commerce);
  • Working for a company of a certain size (small, medium or large business).

Hypothesis Formation

A hypothesis is an assumption that has value to the business which must be confirmed or disproved based on the results of the research. Research customers often come in with business objectives, it’s up to the ux-researcher to help formulate hypotheses that could be used in the research.

  • Brief;
  • Binary (can be confirmed or disproved);
  • Valuable for business.

Forming a list of questions

Before forming questions, it’s helpful to immerse yourself in the topic of the research. If you’re researching a market without a product, you can read articles on the chosen topic or read customer opinions on blogs or YouTube. In the case of a conversation about an existing product, it is advisable to:

  • Read customer complaints and appeals;
  • Read customer opinions on review sites;
  • Study the product’s metrics (sales volume, NPS, CSI, etc.)
  • Talk with staff involved in supporting the product;
  • Read documents describing the business processes related to the product;
  • Review competitor product sites.
  • Introductions — Introduce yourself and talk about how the meeting will go. At this stage, it’s important to establish a relationship of trust with the respondent;
  • Ice breaking — here you can ask abstract questions about the weather, the mood or something else. Our task is to get the user to start talking to us, even on a distracted topic;
  • General questions about the topic you’re researching — formulate questions in general, about the area your product works in. If you’re talking about a credit card, it’s worth talking about how the customer manages their money. Answering these questions will give you more information about the context in which the customer uses your product;
  • Questions about the product — Questions about the product itself should focus on identifying the customer’s pains, expectations and needs;
  • Hypothesis testing — if you didn’t get information on your hypotheses at the previous stages it’s worth to have questions that will confirm or disprove your hypotheses;
  • Summing up of the meeting — at this stage it is worth to summarize what the client told you and to provide follow-up questions.
  • Avoid “closed-ended” questions that can be answered “Yes” or “No.” The user should be motivated to tell life stories with open-ended questions;
  • Professional terms and acronyms should be avoided in questions unless respondents themselves use these words;
  • Use neutral coloring of questions. The questions should not lead the client to answer anything, for example: “Is delivery time important to you?”

Recruiting users

At the setup meeting with the customers of the study, the number of respondents is stipulated. A universal recommendation is to conduct interviews until respondents start repeating themselves. Unlike quantitative research, interviews are qualitative research and do not involve talking to hundreds of users. In my experience, up to 10 in-depth interviews are enough to solve the customer’s problem.

Conducting the interview

An interview may involve several roles: an interviewer (asking questions), an interviewee (answering questions), an assistant (recording the results of the interview), and an observer (usually the research client). Often, the role of interviewer and assistant is taken by the same person.

  • Why are you dissatisfied with the timing of the contract?
  • Because it increases the delivery time of the goods;
  • Why is the delivery time important to you?
  • Because we sit and just wait for the goods;
  • Why are you not satisfied with waiting for the goods?
  • Because I can’t sell the merchandise I bought right away and purchase a new shipment. I’m losing money because I’m waiting.

Analyzing interview results

Depending on the approach, different tools can be used. For example, for a JTBD interview there are jobs to be done canvas, for an interview in a design thinking approach you can use an empathy map.

Miro service to createa network


When creating a product, use the “In-Depth Interview” method. You will always learn something unexpected that will help improve your product.



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