What userssay他们是什么是不同的 - 我做了无数次的时候。我甚至写了一列题为“第一规则的可用性?不要听用户" that's as relevant today as it was in 2001. (The best usability methods are highly stable, which is why learning valid methodology has such a strong career-long ROI.)

Observant readers have complained that I violated my own prescription in my recent analysis ofresponse-time delays。In that article, I reported on a series of采访we conducted with users when researching the concept ofBrand as Experience。So, what's with suddenly asking people what they think instead of observing their actual behavior?

该answer is that interviews are in fact an appropriate user research method — if you use them only in the few cases for which they generate valid data.


Before getting to the good side of interviews, let's review their many bad points. (Many of which they share with专门小组which are vastly overused in web design projects.)

用户面试的危重失败是您要么要求人们记得past use or推测on future use of a system. Both types of responses are extraordinarily weak and often misleading.

  • Humanmemory is fallible(如我们进一步讨论的那样Human Mind seminar)。人们不记得他们如何使用网站的细节,并且他们经常倾向于make up stories to rationalizewhatever they do remember (or misremember) so that it sounds more logical than it really is.
  • 用户是务实和混凝土。它们通常不知道它们如何根据单独的描述基于描述使用新技术。用户是not designers,并且能够设想不存在的东西是一种罕见的技能。(反过来,designers are not users, so it doesn't matter whether they personally think something is easy.)

Envision A.时间线用户评论:只有一个点生成有效数据 - 当前:用户正在做什么马上。让用户误读过去或误认为将来应该避开。

One of the reasons thatspecs don't work是用户(和管理)无法判断规范文档是否建立曾经解决其问题。它肯定的书面听起来很好,但有无穷无尽的案例研究,“用户代表”签署了最终失败的东西。

这就是为什么敏捷developmentand纸质原型设计方法是有价值的。当用户有有限公司ncrete to interact with, it's usually obvious when you're solving their problems in a way that's easy and pleasant to work with — and equally obvious when you're not.

Mostspecific design questions can't be answered by interviewing users。Here are some of thethings you won't learn in an interview

  • Should the购买按钮是红色还是橙色?
  • 使用下拉菜单或一组单个单选按钮是否更好?
  • Where should the Foo product line reside in the IA?
  • 有3个导航是否更好,或者我们应该坚持2个级别,即使它意味着更长的菜单?
  • How should you write theHelp信息最好教人们如何正确使用系统?

当然,你可以问这些问题,每个用户but the answers will be completely unrelated to effective design for a real website. Dilemmas relating to specific UI elements can be resolved only by watching users interact with a design that implements a specific solution, so that you can see how well it works in real use. (Or you can implement multiple options and run a comparative test.)



In one famous study, Microsoft asked customers to suggest new features for Office 2007 before starting work on that product. Most of the requested "new" commands already existed in Office 2003, so the design team correctly concluded that their main problem was the discoverability of the existing functionality.


What Interviews Can Tell You

For our brand study, we wanted to learn how using a website over time builds users' impressions of that site and their期望其品牌承诺。In other words, we weren't interested in individual page designs — which we'd study through user testing — but rather we wanted to know what users thought of a site after using it. And that's best assessed by asking them.

你想要的采访也很有用探索用户的一般态度or how they think about a problem. After getting this info, it's your responsibility to design features that address the problem (and to test prototype designs of those features to ensure that you got them right).

紧急事件method is especially useful for such exploratory interviews: Ask users to recall specific instances in which they faced a particularly difficult case or when something worked particularly well. These extreme cases are often more vivid in users' minds, and will give you the details needed to come up with useful features.

(相比之下,如果你问人们如何usually执行任务,他们通常会描述一个理想化的工作流程,没有许多表征真实项目的许多捷径和偏差,无论是在家还是在办公室。其中一个主要决定因素good application workflow是为了避免人们实际做任何东西的理想情况和设计。)


Whenever you do ask users for their opinions, watch out for the query effect: People canmake up an opinion about anything, and they'll do so if asked. You can thus get users to comment at great length about something that doesn't matter, and which they wouldn't have given a second thought to if left to their own devices.


For example, if you quiz people about your visual design, you'll inevitably get comments about the colors, even if they're not particularly important to the users. On the other hand, if you hear people mention the colors (unprompted) while they're using the site, then there's probably something to consider. (Say, a comment like "Wow, this neon blue really hurts the eyes," or a more positive statement like "The ultramarine is nice and calming.")

Combine Methods: Data Triangulation

Interviews are great supplements to其他可用性方法。If you could do only one thing, I would always recommenduser testing。But why limit yourself to one method? Each method can require only a few days' work, so you can combine multiple methods on all but the非常小的预算

Let's return to the example that prompted this column: our latest findings regarding website response times. If you want to know the best speed for a specific pageload, forms handling, or AJAX widget manipulation, you have to watch users perform representative tasks with these designs. If something is too slow, you'll note users become impatient, forgetful, and ultimately leave the site. But if you ask them weeks later, they won't know specifically which UI element was too slow; nor will they recall the number of seconds that constituted the limit of their attention span. Conversely, if you want to know the branding impact of sluggish or snappy sites (our recent research question), then interviews are fine. For this higher-level question, you'll want to learnwhat made such a strong impression that it stuck in users' mindslong after they used the sites.

每种方法都有其优势和缺点。Taking the best input from each method will give you a much richer understanding than you could gain from any one method alone. Also, by supplementing each method with a range of other approaches, you cantriangulatethe findings and guard against misleading outcomes.