Article: Interview-Based Tasks: Learning from Leonardo DiCaprio

Jared Spool

January 19th, 2010

UIEtips 1/19/10: Interview-Based Tasks: Learning from Leonardo DiCaprio

When we do our jobs well, important decisions are made correctly. Designs are improved. Experiences transition from frustrating to delightful. Assuming we do our jobs well.

Doing our jobs well is very hard work. A thousand details need to line up just perfectly. If we don’t get things just right, important decisions are made wrong. Designs regress. Experiences frustrate even more.

As user experience professionals, it’s all about the assumptions we make. If we assume correctly, things go well. It’s when we make false assumptions that problems occur. How do we know when our assumptions are any good?

In this week’s article, we look back to an article originally published in 2006; Interview-Based Tasks: Learning from Leonardo DiCaprio. In the article, I address the assumption question head-on by looking at a testing technique known as interview-based tasks. This non-traditional approach to usability tests helps work around the assumptions built into standard task design, allowing teams more flexibility and insight into what users actually need from the design.

When using interview-based tasks, the art of asking the question is critical. How you prepare for the interview, build rapport with the interviewee, and how to work with varying levels of experience and expertise will determine how successful the interview-based task is completed.

That’s where Steve Portigal comes in. Our next UIE Virtual Seminar is on Deep Dive Interviewing Secrets: Making Sure You Don’t Leave Key Information Behind. This is a not-to-miss-seminar if you want to know more behind the art of the question.

Have you tried interview-based tasks? What insights did you gain from it? How else have you checked the assumptions that go into your work? Join the discussion by submitting a comment below.

6 Responses to “Article: Interview-Based Tasks: Learning from Leonardo DiCaprio”

  1. Michael Hughes Says:

    It took a LONG time to get to the article on interview-based tasks. I kept taking the link that said, “Read the article here” thinking it would take me to the article on interview-based tasks (since that was the title of the page I was on and since that is what the discussion had been about up to that point. Instead, it took me to an article from 2001 about download times. Huh! go figure.

  2. Jared Spool Says:

    Michael: Fixed. (It was a cut & paste problem.) Thanks for noticing it and letting us know.

  3. Hank Henry Says:

    Hi, Jared!

    Yes, when I was consulting last year with a well-known New York-based usability consultancy, we used this technique to great effect on e-commerce sites. I think it’s because everybody, more or less, has shopped at some point in their lives and relevant tasks aren’t too difficult to shape on the fly.

    The real skill rests with a moderator who can ask the right questions during the interview and use that data to suggest the right tasks. You certainly get more natural behavior because the user is focusing on the things HE/SHE find relevant or important.

    Downside is that it can be hard to shape those tasks; the technique may not work for more directed applications such as specialized software; it’s tough to assign statistical rigor; and it takes time to craft the tasks. You also run the risk of the user veering well away from the site or issue the client is interested in. In those cases, the art of “gentle steering without leading” comes into play.

    Yell at me when you’re in Dallas next! Best regards to you & Christine.

  4. Jared Spool Says:

    Dan Brown points us to this write up on a panel on this topic.

  5. Joaquin Garrido Says:

    So… what happened with the rest of that meeting with the VP of Marketing?

  6. David Birnbaum Says:

    Love the approach, but how does this work with lower fidelity testing (paper sketches, screenshots, partially working demo site, etc)? Seems like you need a fully developed site (and in the case of ecommerce, the site would need to be fully merchandised as well) so that the user has the flexibility to go down whatever path she thinks is best given the tasks you’ve developed together.

Add a Comment