How to design an interview guide for user research

Torresburriel Estudio
4 min readJul 5, 2022


One of the main kinds of projects that we carry out in Torresburriel Estudio are those concerning user interviews. Some of these projects’ main objective is to carry the complete product or service’s research process out, while in some other cases we are just in charge of the initial research phase where we do a more specific approach into the given context.

Whichever the case may be, the approach we take also encompasses the understanding of final users, just as their motivations, needs and expectations. One of the key objectives is to validate or dismiss suppositions, and then communicate all the data and ideas to the design and development team. Ideally, this research should be executed before wasting the team’s effort into building things that are not used for the wrong audience.

In order to develop this research work we usually adopt different research methods. Since we have mentioned on different occasions, before we engage field work, either if you are carrying out user testing, user interviews, focus groups or any other technique, we will need to develop a captation screener that is adapted to the characteristics and objectives of the study that we are about to perform.

Once we have validated with our client the user’s profile chosen, we must work on the questions that will be asked to the users to try and find out the quality insights that will help us to achieve the project’s objectives. This is what we call a discussion guide. All this previous work will be in vain if we don’t ask the right questions, avoid leading questions during the interview and try to be as objective as possible.

Discussion guide: introduction questions

In the first place, we have to include the introductory questions. Their objective is breaking the ice with the user, making them feel as comfortable as possible with the interviewer and trying to answer some questions that were not asked during the screener or the previous surveys.

These questions are usually easy for the user to answer and they will usually vary depending on the study’s objectives, but a good example for this kind of questions are those related to their job, how a typical day is for them during workdays, their functions and responsibilities, who they account for or the applications they use on a daily basis. Any questions that have some relation to the research objectives can fit here.

Discussion guide: specific questions

The goal with these kinds of questions is to help the research in order to discover which are their problems, needs or motivations the user has regarding the research’s theme. Identifying and documenting possible hypotheses we can work with to carry out the research. These will be the suppositions about what we think are the client’s problems. We will also establish a values hypothesis, which means, the characteristics and functionalities that each website needs to accomplish to cover the needs of the different user profiles, which we will need to validate through research.

First we will need to identify the possible barriers and user needs with the studied product (how has their previous experience while using it, how does it solve their needs and the tasks it eases, or how many time do they spend using it) so we can, later on, ask them about how they currently solve those problems or any other product which they used that could substitute the current product.

Discussion guide: questions about the product’s opportunities

Questions about the opportunities that a digital product may have are asked when we want to show the user an example, demo or prototype of the product that is being researched and then receive their feedback.

Some examples of this kind of questions are those asked related to their opinion of the product so we can assess their initial reaction, and also evaluate how could the product help them and their advantages or disadvantages they perceive while using the product for a better adoption.

As we mentioned before, the researcher must draw special attention to these kinds of questions since they must avoid leading the user while stating them. For instance, it is not the same formulating the question “Do you consider your current professional evolution satisfactory?” or “How do you consider your professional evolution to this moment?”.

Discussion guide: product reaction questions

Lastly, product reaction questions are usually asked once the user has already used the researched product, since they are oriented towards finding out the ideas or suggestions regarding the product.

Some examples of these types of questions are those we can find on an SUS survey (System Usability Scale), validating those aspects that are more difficult to use about the product, how can we improve it or what do the user’s miss.

All these kinds of questions will help us validate the assumptions or hypotheses we formulated through different techniques that will allow us to obtain assurances based on evidence. If you want to see specific question examples, we encourage you to download Sarah Doody’s free guide, with examples to incorporate different types of questions that might help us to design a more efficient guide.

All in all, designing a good discussion guide for research supported in appropriately asked questions will help us to gain depth and understanding about the users’ behaviour regarding a digital product. Do not hesitate in putting these into practice and tell us what the obtained result was.

If you are thinking about learning all about UX Research, take a look at our Advanced Research Specialisation Programme (this training is in Spanish).

Programa de Especialización en Research Avanzado



Torresburriel Estudio

User Experience & User Research agency focused on services and digital products. Proud member of @UXalliance