When conducting user research, the most important thing is to connect with each participant so you can practice active listening. Here are some tips that I have found useful:
Meet with users one at a time. Group dynamics are not useful for this type of work.
Write a script. Feel free to deviate from it. A script helps you relax and connect with the person you are talking to.
Get users to tell you a story. Don’t let them tell you how they usually do things. That will give you the happy path which is not interesting. Get them to tell you a specific story about how something happened to them so you can uncover real pain points.
Focus on facts not opinions. Get stories about what they did, not feelings about what they might do.
Shut up and listen. This is hard to do and takes practice. Pay attention to how much you are talking. Practice active listening.
Empathize with the user. Value their needs and goals. Feel their frustrations.
Remind yourself that you are not there to learn about your product. You are there to learn about a person. They are the expert on themselves and you are the student of their experiences.
No leading questions. It is natural to want to help the user by giving them suggested answers. Work against this instinct.
Pair with another team member. Opening yourself to critique is the best way to get better.
Take time to debrief between sessions. Discuss themes, trends, surprises, and things that are confusing. Discuss what should change for the next interview.
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