Assignment: Interview target users

For next week April 30 – May 4,  there are two written assignments and two readings.


Pages  52  to 57   of a very short book called TALKING TO HUMANS: Success starts with understanding your customers, by Giff Constable. The book’s home page is The book is available in several formats including downloadable  PDF version (free).   You will want to read the whole book – it is even has cartoons!

A brief excerpt from a book on product development, finding customer needs A more academic style, but still words of wisdom.

cartoon1. Interview reports

Due Monday in class: Interview reports for at least two people in your target audience. If the interviewees turn out to be inappropriate, do others. Email reports to all three faculty. Format them so we can look at them on screen.

For each “set” of interviews,  report on your selection strategy and attach your pre-written interview guide.  Individual reports include information about who, what, when, where, direct quotes (not the whole verbatim interview), and interpreted statements. (See readings – how do you interpret what they said?) Finally, write a summary of the whole package. What answers did you receive to your hypotheses? What other significant insights did you hear (even if you cannot yet be confident that they generalize)?

2. Weekly team update

As discussed in class. Due Wednesday by email by 2pm. Other dates can be negotiated for each team. Include the URL for your team web site.

Put serious thought into what your hypotheses really are. For example, major hypotheses should answer several of the following questions. If they don’t, then they are not major. Keep digging until you figure out the hidden assumptions  you are making, and restate them as hypotheses.

  • If this is not correct, will we want a major change in our target market?
  • If this is not correct, should we reconsider the concept?
  • Will an answer resolve an uncertainty which has slowed down our progress?

Some of your investigations will not start out as hypotheses.  For example, “How many different news sites do people look at over the course of a day?” Or “How can we identify, and then attract, people who are most interested in multiple points of view?” Once you answer such a question it leads naturally to a hypothesis such as “We should go after XYZ customer demographics.”

How to conduct interviews:

There is a big difference between casual interviews, and systematic ones. See the readings for advice on conducting interviews. For starters

  • Two interviewers  with agreed on roles.
  • How will you record results? Direct recording intimidates people if you don’t already know them. Take at least one photograph.
  • Where? The best place to interview is relevant to your product concept. For example, while they are online so they can demonstrate something. For clothing, have them show you what they already own, or walk through a clothing store with them.
  • Use props. Photographs of similar ideas that will be familiar, for example. There are several purposes: to evoke a situation or mood to enhance recall and creativity in the interview, and also to see what they currently use/do.
  • The earlier in your development process, the less directive your interview should be (especially the first few minutes). Nondirective questions allow unexpected results that may give you new ideas  “What kinds of things do you like to look at on social media sites?” is better than “Do you look at memes when you use Facebook?” Later in the same interview, you can narrow in on something, but it should reflect what they told you earlier.



Author: Roger Bohn

Professor of Technology Management, UC San Diego. Visiting Stanford Medical School Twitter =Roger.Bohn

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