User Experience Design
Jul. 18, 2011

Duo Gets Mental: Week 2, Interviews

This is a part of a six week series capturing the internal process of creating a Mental Model. Each post will be split into two parts, part I is for all, part II is for practitioners, researchers and UX’ers alike. Additional resources will be listed last. Read Last Week’s Post

Part I: All for One (for everyone)

What’s that my dad would always say? "Chelsea, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, but this is how the Marines do it”, yeah that’s it. He was right, but it always comes back to the cat.

It’s funny how so many individual perspectives actually have very common ground. You can work right next to someone and have no idea where they are coming from. It’s easy to get caught up the mindset of “me” that is, just getting what “I” need to get the job done. Rarely do we stop and ask, or take the time to listen to one another. That’s what were doing, we’re listening.

I’m interviewing each individual. I’m asking each person how they do their job, what they want to improve and for fun, their favorite thing about Duo. Consensus is a beautiful thing and as hard to come by as you think. Most everyone agrees– it’s the people that make Duo.

Each interview conducted is recorded and transcribed. (We’ve hired a US based transcription service to do the dirty work.) The end purpose is to capture each individual task, feeling, and belief that results from the conversation digitally in order to build your Mental Model diagram. Additionally, each stakeholder is responsible for listening. They each have been tasked with listening to a minimum of two interviews (which I’ve recommended to them). Remember, audio is revealing — it captures an honest moment that existed in time: setting, tone, voice, context and emotion. Hearing that – is invaluable.

Results so far? We’re beginning to see gaps– we’re beginning to understand. I can say were creating a Mental Model, but what’s happening is beyond a diagram of tiny boxes filled with actions and insights.


Part II: One for All (for practitioners)

10 Tips for Interviewing Colleagues

  1. Listening to your own voice is weird. Get over it.
  2. Get out of the office. Some people need lunch, some need a nice stiff drink.
  3. If you are worried that it might be a bit noisy, place the tape recorder in a short empty glass, it functions as a great microphone for capturing sound.
  4. t’s really a conversation, not an interview. Depending on how complicated the job is, give yourself a solid hour for each interview.
  5. Establish ground rules. I work here so people make the assumption in the conversation they don’t have to state things I already know. Encourage people to be specific and to “pretend” you don’t know everything :)
  6. It’s okay to state some of your own experiences to keep the conversation going or to dig deeper. But don’t lead.
  7. Interviews must be in person. You just don’t really get the same level of quality and connection over the phone.
  8. Keep it to three interviews a day. Any more and you are no longer listening.
  9. Keep the momentum, try to do them all in a row -- so over the course of a week or two weeks. It really helps to stay in that mindset and improves your interviewing comfort and skill.
  10. Tip your bartender.


Creating Interview Prompts

Remember you want to have a conversation, not ask a list of questions that end in single word answers. I created a list of words to glance down at. It’s easier and more natural to scan single words than it is complete sentences. I grouped them into area; intro, job, closing. I started by asking everyone there name, job title and how long they had been at Duo. This helped set the stage for turning on the recorder and the “start” of the interview. I brought a nice clean sheet to each interview, so I had a place to jot a couple highlights I wanted to remember later. I also include a couple closing questions that I asked everyone, not so much for the Mental Model, but to get a deeper understanding of where we were as a company.


The Plan

Duo Gets Mental
Week 1: Stakeholder Interviews & Goal Setting
Week 2: Employee Interviews
Week 3: Create Existing Content Map with Stakeholders
Week 4: Analyze Transcripts
Week 5: Build the Model & Present
Week 6: Revision & Gap Analysis


Cheap and Fabulous Recorder (USB & MP3)
US Based Transcription Service (That means people whose native language is English are transcribing your interviews - well worth it I promise)
Article - Intelligence vs Understanding
Podcast: Indi Young on Non-Directed Interviews

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