Preparing to Conduct the Interviews

After you have used the context factor method to generate questions for potential customers in the target market and other people in the buying process, you need to gain some experience as the user, refine the questions and develop a strategy for interviewing people.  Simply asking an interviewee lots of questions is not an effective strategy!  Remember the purpose of this work is to understand the needs of potential users of your new device.

Step 1. “Be the Customer” – Important insights into the design challenge can be gained from experiencing the same problems as the users of the product.

A.    If at all possible, use a competitive or existing product to gain a better understanding of the challenges of using the product.

B.    If it is not possible to use the product under the exact conditions as the intended user, improvise. Many medical device designers have spent considerable time using competitive or existing products on raw chicken parts. Potential users can help you create a simulation if necessary.

Step 2. Select an appropriate place to conduct the interview.

A.    The best place to conduct the interview is in the environment the subject would use the new product. If you are developing fishing equipment, the ideal place to conduct the interview is in the in a river or on a lake. If you are interviewing a salesperson, interview them on the selling floor where they interact with potential customers.

Step 3. Create an effective procedure – Select the most appropriate method from the methods below

A.    Articulated Use Method – Allow the customer to lead you through the usage cycle of the product. This is the best method if you have a competitive product or an earlier version of the product the team is working on. While the interviewee is explaining the steps they would take to prepare the product, use the product and put away the product do the following:

    1.  Listen to their narrative for clues to how they want in the product to perform.
    2. Ask what they like and dislike about how the products operates or performs.
    3. Ask them what they would change about the product?
    4. Ask them how a perfect, imaginary product, would perform?
    5. After the interviewee finishes the demonstration, check your list of questions and ask any questions that were not covered.

B.    Use a Mock Up

    1.  If a competitive or existing product is not available, use a crude mock up to help the customer understand the problem the team is trying to solve.
    2. Mock ups can be very simple, made of cardboard or wood. They should not give any hint of how the product will work. (No one knows that yet!) In other words the mock up should demonstrate the benefits of the product.
    3. Subjects may not be know how to use your mock up. Especially if subject has never used a similar product. In this case a team member will have to explain how the user would employ the product.

Step 4. Recording the Observations

Before you go to an interview, create a form in order to capture all the information provided by the interviewee.  An example of a from can be found Here .  Emily Klingenfus provided this example.  Notice the header on the form.

The best way to conduct the interview is to have two people from the design team: one to interact with the interviewee and one to record the important customer quotes.  Remember that you do not need to write down every word.  Try to capture the words and the spirit of the quote.  A list of example customer quotes for a laprascopic medical device can be seen here.


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