Designing a product from scratch usually means to dig into subjects with which we are not very familiar, or which we are not target users. At that time is when we have different options to do the needed research to build a great product which delight your users: searching on the internet, talking with your target users, subscribing to one of your competitor products (if some) and, if possible, interviewing an expert on the subject.

Advantages of talking with an expert

Interviewing an expert when you are building your product is very useful to complement any other research you may choose. These are some of the main advantages of speaking with a real specialist on the subject:

1-  An expert will always provide you reliable information. Depending on the subject you want to talk about, internet is full of inaccurate or even fake information. An expert will solve your doubts and provide you reliable sources and bibliography to work with.

2- They usually have a global overview of their knowledge area. For example, if you talk with a nutritionist, not only they will be able to talk about food, but also about health, exercise habits of different people segments, and even about cooking.

doctor photo
By Humberto Chavez on Unsplash

3- They know many of your target users. They maybe even talk with them everyday, so they can provide you a first approach to their needs (despite interviewing your target audience later).

8 tips to make your interview a success

Despite its advantages, interviewing an expert isn’t usually easy. Neither you usually have much knowledge about their speciality, nor they know which information (from all their knowledge) is the one you really need for your work. So, in order to avoid endless interviews in which you end up frustrated because you don’t get the answers you want, pay attention to these 8 tips which may help you to get smoother interviews.

1- Learn a bit about the context

Before the interview, make some research and learn about some key concepts about the subject you are going to talk about. Although you can always ask the expert during the interview, there are some basic key concepts which will allow you to better follow the conversation.

Furthermore, researching how the people who search for your subject on the internet  are allows you to keep the proper tone and to empathize with the expert: are there many blogs dedicated to this subject or is it completely unknown? Does information seem reliable or fake? What kind of people usually comment about the subject?

2- Prepare the topics to talk about beforehand

The expert handles a lot of information about their area of expertise and they probably doesn’t know what you really need to hear. Take note about the key topics you need to know about in order to guide or redirect the meeting. For example, the most interested users on this subject, what’s most important for them, if there is any special trend… Starting from their answers, you can deepen, begin to identify your user personas and inquire about their needs.

Putting ourselves on the other end, and preparing a very detailed guide for the meeting, as we’ll see in the next tip, isn’t also a good practice. However, preparing a high level guide will help you to make more efficient interviews,

3- Keep a conversation

“For certain you have to be lost to find something that cannot be found, else everyone would know where it is.” (Captain Barbossa, Product Manager)

If you only make questions (and the expert answers them), maybe you will only be skimming the surface, because you will be biased to talk about what you know about the subject. It’s much more effective to make open questions which start a conversation with the expert so they guide you to topics you may even haven’t thought about. If they say something that draws your attention or you don’t know, keep pulling from that thread without worrying about “going out of the script”.

From a rich conversation, and deepen on the expert’s knowledge, you may get a much innovative product and which better fits the users’ needs than any other research you may do. 

 4- Keep always a positive tone and make them feel comfortable

If everything goes well during the conversation, the expert will start to make suggestions and ideas for your product. Take note about everything they say, be positive, make them feel comfortable, and you’ll see that they will start suggesting you more creative ideas. If you say something like “I don’t think we can do this”, or “we’re not interested on this”, you will be restricting the creativity of the expert. Despite you think some ideas are unrelated, or even crazy, don’t worry. When the interview ends, you will have time to analyze all the proposals and maybe transform them, with your experience and knowledge, in very creative and adequate functionalities for you product.

meeting people laughing
By You X Ventures on Unsplash

5- Manage time well

Generally, an expert will be able to talk for hours about the different aspects of some of their knowledge branches, but it is your responsibility to redirect the subject politely if you see that you are stagnating. Your goal is to have a dynamic and diverse conversation.

6- Avoid asking questions in which the expert has to “guess”

It is very tempting and common to fall into questions like “will people pay for this product?” or “do you think they will use this functionality?”. The expert may know a lot about their knowledge area, but they is not a fortune teller and their answers could distort you when building the product.

A more constructive way to guide questions is to bring them to the present: What kind of products exist to satisfy this need? Are they paid? Could you introduce me to a user who is paying for that service to interview them?

 7- Limit interview duration to the scheduled time

Unless the expert proactively expresses that they wants to continue the interview, it is recommended to narrow down the meeting to the agreed time. After the expected end hour, the concentration begins to drop and the expert may be thinking about other things to do, and, maybe, they doesn’t know how to ask you to stop the interview.

A second short meeting may be more effective and will allow you to analyze your notes and prepare new questions to ask.

8- Give them an easy way to contact you in case they has an interesting insight

It’s common after a meeting to wonder and think for a while about what we talked about, and we sometimes need to settle the ideas in order to get to a truly more creative insight. At the end of the meeting, don’t forget to remind them that they can write to you or set another appointment in case they comes up with something useful. The expert will hopefully be so involved in the product that they will send you documentation about what you discussed or even new ideas.

And those are the main tips which will help you to obtain tons of useful information in a really short time. Just like any other thing, practise will provide you with your own tips to make these interviews even more efficient. So if you want to share them with the community, leave them in the comments below. AARRR, and see you soon!