The end of the interview may not be the end of the interview.
Let me elaborate. Regardless of the methodology used to observe or interview users, we always make sure we allow time to summarise and conclude the session at the end. There are two key reasons for doing this:
1. It creates a pause to allow the participant to speak their mind and share their final reflections
It is important not to overlook the value of dedicating time at the end of each session to make space for concluding reflections. Indeed, the comments and conversations shared at the end of a session can be truly enlightening. This is when a participant may reveal what they really think of the site, service or product they have just interacted with.
The skill of moderation is to create a safe space in which a participant feels comfortable and able to share their honest feelings and thoughts. This is only possible where the moderator has earned the trust of the participant and they feel comfortable opening up. The secret to this is in crafting a structured script that meets the research objectives naturally, and with ease.
A structure for spontaneous dialogue
A well-structured research script will introduce the session and get underway with warm-up questions, before moving into tasks for the participant to complete (for usability testing) or scenarios/past behaviours to discuss (for user research).
A good user research moderator will respect the value of silence and observation throughout each session and will utilise open questions which require more than a single-word answer (like yes/no) to keep a conversation going at an opportune time. They will also know when to use follow-up questions, or probes, to ensure a full understanding of observed behaviour, or comments made.
After the observational tasks, the session will move into the summary section of the script. This will include questions that encourage the participant to consider the experience they have just had. The moderator should be ready to respond and understand how this feedback sits alongside the behaviour observed throughout. Gently probe any differences or potential contradictions noted between what the participant may have vocalised, contrasted with actions they took through the session.
“Would it be fair to say that…?”
This is a timely point at which to reflect back on the participant’s experience with a statement starting with; “Would it be fair to say that…(fill in the blank)”. By vocalising their experience in your own words, you not only check for issues of accuracy but also provide a further prompt for them to expand upon their perceptions.
2. It provides an element of closure for the participant
Upon reaching the end of the session a skilled moderator will never finish on the last question in the script. They will ensure they ask the participant if they have anything to add, then thank them for their time and reassure them of the value of their contribution.
Closing the conversation in a conversational manner is not only polite, but it can also allow valuable insights to be gathered too. So, after thanking the participant, it can be rewarding to finish with a final open question;
“Is there anything you would like to ask me about the project?”
“Can you think of anything else you would like to add?”
“Would you like to share anything else before we finish?”
The likelihood is that the participant will say “No” at this point. This is where patience and the power of silence come into play.
Many people will share interesting feedback once the interview is technically “finished”. Perhaps they feel more relaxed and are therefore willing to speak more liberally. So, the “No” may turn into an “Actually…”.
Can you think of anything else you would add? Let us know how you find putting these skills and techniques into practice.