Immersive field techniques: Interviewing and observing for user research


Interviewing is undeniably one of the most valuable and commonly used user research tools. Yet sometimes we forget that it’s a skill we need to learn, because:

  • It’s based on skills we think we have (talking or even listening)
  • It’s not taught or reflected on
  • People tend to ‘wing it’ rather than develop their skills

Without good interviewing skills, research results may be inaccurate or reveal nothing new, suggesting the wrong design or business responses, or they may miss the crucial nuance that points to innovative breakthrough opportunities.

In this day-long session, we’ll focus on the importance of rapport-building and listening and look at techniques for both. We will review different types of questions, and why you need to have a range of question types. This session will explore other contextual research methods that can be built on top of interviewing in a seamless way. We’ll try some practice exercises for improving your own interviewing skills. Through a homework exercise and a field trip during the workshop, we’ll also practice observation of users in an environment.

Workshop structure

The workshop will cover:

  • Interviewing best practices
  • Interviewing and observation methods
  • When/why use interviewing
  • Recruiting participants
  • Analysis and synthesis
  • Delivering user research results
  • Championing the use of interviewing in your organization


Participants will learn how to:

  • Integrate mixed methods of research into their overall process based on the problem
  • Techniques to develop empathy, a critical facet to meaningful interviews
  • See how to derive useful results from interviews and get participants to open up
  • Learn to debrief and process insights and observations efficiently
  • Gain perspective on the difference between surface observations, and deeper, interpreted insights
  • Maximize the organizational impact of any research you do
  • Advocate for the adoption of contextual research techniques
  • Find the right participants for your study
  • Move from the business question to research objectives

Target audience

Attendees should have an interest in user-centered design. There’s no requirement to have an advanced level of experience in conducting user research of any type, though those with such experience will benefit from taking an implicit process and stepping back from it in order to consider how they work.