Steve Portigal
Rosenfeld Media, Brooklyn, NY, 2013, English
Design, General
Paperback, 176 pages
ISBN: 9781933820118
Suggested Retail Price: $39.00

From the Publisher. Interviewing is a foundational user research tool that people assume they already possess. Everyone can ask questions, right? Unfortunately, that's not the case. Interviewing Users provides invaluable interviewing techniques and tools that enable you to conduct informative interviews with anyone. You'll move from simply gathering data to uncovering powerful insights about people.

Interviewing Users will explain how to succeed with interviewing, including:

  • Embracing how other people see the world
  • Building rapport to create engaging and exciting interactions
  • Listening in order to build rapport.

With this book, Steve Portigal uses stories and examples from his 15 years of experience to show how interviewing can be incorporated into the design process, helping you learn the best and right information to inform and inspire your design.

A Designers & Books Notable Design Book of 2013
On 1 book list
Alissa Walker

In speaking with designers I know, the idea of interviewing users often falls to the wayside. Not that they don’t think they should do it, but they often feel that they’re not the best people to do it—that unearthing substantial findings is best left to someone else, maybe the project’s writer, or some separate research department, or an outside consulting firm that crunches and delivers the data on a silver platter. This book by the insightful writer and ethnographer Steve Portigal not only proves that interviewing should be a keystone of design work, it also makes a case for how and why designers should be carving out the time to do this work themselves.

Using a conversational tone peppered with plenty of notes from the field, Portigal passes on excellent advice for conducting the kinds of interviews that will elicit groundbreaking insights. There are practical checklists about nearly every aspect of the process, from how to show images, to being aware of body language, to notetaking and recording interviews (even this jaded reporter learned a few tips). Other writers and researchers contribute essays, and there’s also a vast online component, which includes Creative Commons-licensed images and forms that can be downloaded and adapted by the reader.

Portigal uses lots of real-life examples from his own research projects, including an incredibly powerful story about gaining the trust of a suspicious family that is not keen on being interviewed. But perhaps the best examples come from far outside the creative world, pulling quite creative asking and listening techniques from different industries—I particularly enjoyed reading about Portigal’s own experiences in improv theater.

As I was reading I realized that I could see many of Portigal’s ideas applied beyond just interviewing users—I immediately thought about interviewing clients to get them to open up about their product, or interviewing team members to learn how they work. And maybe that’s the most important part about Portigal’s book. You’ll learn how to ask better questions, yes, but really, you’ll learn to be a better listener, which will in turn make you a better designer.

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