One-pagers in User Research — Notes on the book ‘Interviewing Users’

One-pagers in User Research — Notes on the book ‘Interviewing Users’

Last month, I finished reading Steve Portigal’s book on ‘Interviewing Users’. This article is about one of my major takeaways from the book, and how I applied it to a recent user study. The reason for reading the book was that I wanted to look inside the ‘head’ of another user researcher and potentially find new approaches for my toolkit.

First, the fact that I finished reading it, says something about it :). My usual reading material consists of science fiction, fantasy novels, and a loooot of historical romance novels, so it is rare for me to finish a non-fiction book. The book is an easy read, not full of ‘jargon’, and it is beautiful too, kudos to Rosenfeld Media!

I loved the examples on specific topics and short notes by other researchers which were included in the book. Below are my notes on one of the approaches from the book that I tried out in a recent user study.

The power of the 1-Pager summary right after the study session

We were working on user research involving a diary study and interviews — meaning a heap of qualitative data and as usual, not enough time for analysis. Instead of fretting about the limited time available, this time I tried to experiment with any new approaches that could help us analyze more efficiently. And I used one of the tips from Steve’s book — Creating a summary after every interview. Steve refers to this as the ‘Field Highlights’ and describes it as below:

“As soon as possible after an interview, I write down a rapid top-of-the-mind version of the session. I am not focused on all the details but am creating a shareable story that brings a bit of flavor of the fieldwork to the broader team.”

In our study, we created a one- or two-page summary which we called ‘1-pagers after every interview’. This helped in the following ways:

  • Develop a framework for analysis quickly – As soon as we finished the interviews, we went over the one-pagers and in a few hours, we had the high-level workflow/customer journey which we could use as the framework for the rest of the analysis. To avoid bias, each of us (the user researchers) created their own versions separately and then came together to combine those versions into one journey.
  • Capture details faster – We then populated the framework with the findings based on these 1-pager summaries. As the last step, we went over the detailed notes and included findings that were not already covered.
  • Multiple passes over the data – This approach made the work go much faster and another way that it helped was that it allowed us to go over the data multiple times and in different ways, making the analysis richer.
An example of Field Highlights from the book ‘Interviewing Users’

All in all, I would totally recommend Steve’s book for anyone conducting interviews with users. It is not a textbook with detailed references or theory behind interviewing and I expect that for experienced user researchers it will not be a game changer. However, it is like having a long (one way) conversation with a fellow user researcher with loads of experience that makes you reflect on your approach. Maybe, like me, you will add new approaches to the ones you already know.

P.S. Just in case you are wondering :), I wrote this review independently, so this book recommendation does not benefit me in any manner. 

Beant Kaur Dhillon

Beant Kaur Dhillon

Beant is a Senior User Researcher and Usability Consultant with ~10 years experience. She is also an artist for the last 8 years. Having worked with the likes of Philips, Adidas and Ultimaker, as well as many medical start-up companies, Beant has led end-to end-user research projects on a broad range of products, systems and apps, across the globe.

Beant also trains and assists companies to set-up user research and user-centered design processes. She conducts workshops on Creative Thinking and writes altUXR – a bi-monthly email on how to grow as a User Researcher.

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