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Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights Paperback – 2 May 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Rosenfeld Media; 1st edition (2 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 193382011X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933820118
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15.2 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 160,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Portigal's common-sense guide to interviewing is an excellent primer on methods and techniques. The sidebars, case studies, photos, and illustrations bring the information to life. --Brenda Laurel, PhD, designer, researcher

Steve Portigal's fast-paced, ultra-readable primer provides a common-sense approach to interviewing users that's as inspiring as it is instructive. --Allan Chochinov, Editor in Chief, Core77

Steve's book is based on his extensive expertise with qualitative ethnography, and is a must-read for students of design research. --Jon Kolko VP, Design, MyEdu & Director, Austin Center for Design

Steve Portigal's fast-paced, ultra-readable primer provides a common-sense approach to interviewing users that's as inspiring as it is instructive. --Allan Chochinov, Editor in Chief, Core77

Steve's book is based on his extensive expertise with qualitative ethnography, and is a must-read for students of design research. --Jon Kolko VP, Design, MyEdu & Director, Austin Center for Design

About the Author

Steve is the founder of Portigal Consulting. In the past 15 years he's interviewed families eating breakfast, rock musicians, home-automation enthusiasts, credit-default swap traders, and radiologists. His work has informed the development of music gear, wine packaging, medical information systems, corporate intranets, videoconferencing systems, and iPod accessories. He's an accomplished presenter who speaks about culture, innovation, and design at companies such as eBay, Adobe, Nokia, Hewlett-Packard, and Dolby Laboratories.

Steve has lectured at Stanford University, Institute of Design, California College of Art, and UC Berkeley, and writes regularly on topics from interaction design to pop culture for Interactions, Core77, Ambidextrous, and Johnny Holland. He has a graduate degree in human-computer interaction from the University of Guelph and is an avid photographer who has a Museum of Foreign Groceries in his home.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There aren't a lot of people in the world who have a deeper knowledge of user research than Steve Portigal. And those who have it almost certainly aren't as good at writing.

On the face of it the book is a structured how-to for people planning and executing field interviews. So if you are someone starting out in user research or user experience design I'd highly recommend it because it will acquaint you with many important principles - and give you you some pointers and perspectives from someone with deep experience.

But there's also a lot for people with more years under their belt. I've been conducting interviews and managing research teams for over a decade and the book gave me lots to reflect on and talk to my colleagues about. We'll be doing some things differently as a result of reading the book.

At a more general level I found Interviewing Users refreshing because, in a time where lean and agile practices sometimes put pressure on us to hack through user insight part of user experience design, the book reminds us that interviewing is a craft, and that the quality and care you put into it will make for better design outcomes. As well as being a responsibility, interviewing users is a great pleasure and a privilege: shining a light into corners of human behaviour and understanding. I'm sure the book will encourage new people into this important field.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I chose this book having met Steve Portigal at UX Hong Kong a few years back. I was looking forward to learning about how to uncover real insights from masses of interview data. I have to say, I was a little disappointed. It's a great book in terms of helping you plan and execute the interview stage. He's clearly very experienced, it has good examples, and I feel that it has improved my technique. However there was comparatively little on how to analyse and extract the key themes from the data. It's still worth buying for the interview part, but I'm holding out for a sequel where he goes into more detail on the most crucial part.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Inspirational and practical. Well-written. Great (and funny) examples from real projects. Reassuring. A relatively quick read too. I recommend it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Excellent practical book
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9b3ea8d0) out of 5 stars 55 reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96387a5c) out of 5 stars Design Research & UX Essential Read 14 Jun. 2013
By Nate Archer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I have followed Steve Portigal through his articles and ever insightful blog for many years and have used many of his approaches and methods in my own design research. So, when I heard Steve was writing a book on the art and craft of design research, I immediately ordered a copy. After reading "Interviewing Users" I wanted to share my impressions and thoughts.

First off, the book was really insightful and inspiring from beginning to end. I found that Steve was able to capture the essence of many techniques and methodologies at expert level depth, while still delivering novice level understanding. As an experienced design researcher, this allowed me to easily grasp new ideas and learn extremely nuanced elements about common practices I was already familiar with. The use of case studies and stories from the field, quickly and vividly illustrate these points.

At many points in the book, I found myself stopping to think about and integrate new ideas into my own practice. This not only helped reveal gaps in my process, but also new ways to improve and expand on existing methods and techniques.

On frist read the book provided tremendous value, but I can also tell that I will be flipping through its pages again. The book is a tremendous reference point and will be very useful for studying up prior to my next user interview or design analysis session.

It's a quick read, at only 158 pages, but still dense enough to warrant careful reading. I would recommend it to anyone starting out in the field of user experience design, especially students or industry first timers. I would have been miles ahead If I had read this book when I first got into design research, but better late than never.

My one complaint is the brevity of the research analysis and synthesis section, but Steve even points out that these two subjects warrant their own books. However, after tweeting Steve for more info on these domains, he steered me to John Kolko's book, "Exposing the Magic of Design: A Practitioner's Guide to the Methods and Theory of Synthesis". The book was already on my wish list, so it will be interesting to see how the two dovetail together. He also suggested watching his presentation "We've done all this research, now what?", which does a good job at exploring some elements of analysis and synthesis in more detail.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96387bac) out of 5 stars Truly Captures The Nuances Of Ethnographic Interviews 11 Jun. 2013
By Brian Haven - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Having been an ethnographer (design researcher) in the past, I'm extremely impressed with how well this book captures the actual skills and issues involved with conducting interviews. There are plenty of books out there about various research methods (and this book touches on some of those), but they typically miss one critical element that this book nails -- how to actually engage with the participant.

The author does a fantastic job outlining the subtle nuances of preparing for, executing, and evaluating user interviews. He really gets at the details that emerge with participants and how to deal with them in even the most bizarre scenarios -- and those scenarios WILL happen. The real power in this book is how the author captures the direct interaction with an interview participant, and how to get the responses you need as an interviewer, while not coming across as invasive. I also like how he describes letting the participant wander off the interview guide for a bit to learn things the interviewer never would have discovered otherwise. It's dealing with this "go-with-the-flow" approach that this book excels at teaching -- clearly derived from the author's many years of experience.

These are skills that rarely are taught in classes or in methods books. A good ethnographer/design researcher possesses a unique skill at enticing participants to reveal information about themselves without asking leading questions (something the majority of focus group moderators can't do). The author does the best job I've seen at capturing these capabilities and structuring the book in a manner that teaches the reader how they can do it as well. I also appreciate the focus on in-situ interviews (at the user's home, place of work, etc.) as this yields far more value than a group of people sitting in a focus group facility. It's the context that matters, and the author does a great job of teaching the reader how to perform quality interviews in these settings.

I'd recommend this book for anyone that needs to perform any type of research, and it's excellent material for people just entering the field or those who have been conducting this type of research for many years.

Highly recommended.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96387ee8) out of 5 stars Excellence in User Research Writing 7 Jun. 2013
By Nathan Moody - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The user experience industry and discipline is many-faceted, from user research to interaction design to information architecture. With user-centered design being the current reigning champion of design methodologies, there's really no sub-discipline of user experience that can't benefit, or isn't touched, by the recorded opinions of real users. One gets these opinions by observing and interviewing them. In order to best understand and execute these strategies, unless you're a trained behavioral psychologist or anthropologist, I think there are two books that exemplify excellent coverage of user research: Mike Kuniasvsky's Observing the User Experience, Second Edition: A Practitioner's Guide to User Research, and Steve Portigal's Interviewing Users.

Once the shock wore off that a solid, definitive book on this topic didn't actually exist, I found Portigal's book effortless to read and full of both common-sense wisdom and slightly counter-intuitive lessons from years of hard-won field research experience. Questioning without leading the subject, ideating with proper stimulation and props, being professional and focused while being an interloper in peoples' lives and homes, having empathy while staying subjective, improvising while still achieving your goals...these lessons and themes are all structured not unlike how a film is made, from planning, to pre-production, to production, to post-production. The synthesis and analysis section is extremely short, but I'd argue it should be: This is where the cleverness, insight, and opinions of the researcher comes into play, and each research project is so different that only a handful of guidelines can really be offered.

It's hard to illustrate a book with this topic, given privacy concerns, nondisclosures, and the like. The book's image choices could be better in the first third, but the imagery stays sparse and gets extremely valuable in the latter two thirds of the work. But I find it hard to knock a star off a ratings system for this, as the real content comes from Portigal's wisdom, words, and shared war stories.

This is a work of great utility to designers who are tasked with user interviews, user researchers who need to better understand how their research fits into a business or design context, or stakeholders who are asked to critique or review the design or efficacy of a research study. It's become the bible of our studio for interviewing users, and any studio who adopts its practices to their needs will get a lot of value from it.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96387a14) out of 5 stars Rich in experiential knowledge 25 May 2013
By Maish Nichani - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Steve's guide offers a vivid and rich description of the entire interviewing process. You won't find academic models here, only knowledge from deep experience.

Here are some of my favourites:

On recruiting is data: "In one project, that fact that I couldn't find anyone with a luxurious yet functional 'smart home' implementation revealed a great deal about how the client was conceiving of the market."
On reaching the tipping point: "Although I can't predict when it will happen there's a point when the participant shifts from giving short answers to giving stories...you realize that you've arrived a higher level of rapport and the tenor of the exchange is different."

Here are two tips from me on reading the book:

Go slow with it: the book has deep stuff you might miss if you flip through too quickly.
Follow the footnotes: They take you to a wealth of information on external sites.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9638b3c0) out of 5 stars Accessible, well written "how to" guide to interviewing customers for both seasoned researchers and first time interviewers 8 Mar. 2016
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I work as a design researcher & strategist, primarily focused on the tech sector in San Francisco, where I help clients develop human-centered products and experiences. Customer interviews are an important tool for me at different stages of the design process (from exploratory research to user testing)

Interviewing Users is the most valuable book I've ever read on the subject. No other book has helped augment my capabilities as a qualitative researcher and helped me deliver a higher level of service to my clients than Interviewing Users. It's a book I often go back to before major engagements that require customer interviews as a refresher on what I need to do before, during and after interviews.

I found the following chapters invaluable:
- "A framework for Interviewing Users": checking your worldview at the door, client brain dumps, building rapport, working towards a tipping point and listening sections are full of great ideas and insights that will improve your approach to interviewing and to gaining deep insights into customers.
- "How to Ask Interview Questions": includes a palette of different question types from how to probe without presumption to how to gather emotional cues, along with tips on managing the ebb and flow of the interview.

The book is very accessible - I'd recommend it equally for researchers looking to master their craft to founders, managers and engineers who want guidance on how to speak to the customers they serve for the first time.

A gem.
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