What questions to ask for a persona interview?

16 Aug 2010 - 3:05pm
37 weeks ago
7 replies
4367 reads
Volkan Unsal
2010

Hi,

I am pre paring to conduct an interview to create personas for a medical web application doctors and patients. This app is not built yet, and the feature set will be drawn from the personas -- which is why it's giving me a pause. I am used to writing interviews about usability, and always used to work with existing websites. I never created personas before, though I used them before, and I'm having difficulty coming up with questions to ask the interview candidates.

 

 

Comments

16 Aug 2010 - 5:03pm
Magdalena Mateescu
2009

I would try to create different personas starting with different goals that doctors and patients would try to achieve with that app and also consider their knowledge about similar types of app (technology in general), and differences in language (what words they use).

16 Aug 2010 - 7:05pm
Hilary Bienstock
2009

This may turn out to be the case, but I would say, as much as possible, try not to segment your interviewees into personas until after you have completed all the interviews.  Then you'll be better able to see the big picture.
 

Hilary User Experience
                   Hilary Bienstock, Principal

 

hilary@hilaryue.com  :: 310.883.5818  ::  fax 310.829.2839



From: Magdalena Mateescu <magda_mateescu@yahoo.com>
To: hilary@hilaryue.com
Sent: Mon, August 16, 2010 4:09:40 PM
Subject: Re: [IxDA] What questions to ask for a persona interview?

I would try to create different personas starting with different goals that doctors and patients would try to achieve with that app and also consider their knowledge about similar types of app (technology in general), and differences in language (what words they use).

16 Aug 2010 - 5:04pm
Thomas Davies
2008

Have a look at this from Cooper - http://www.cooper.com/journal/2001/08/perfecting_your_personas.html

I agree with the blog post that states ethnographic interviews should be used. If you are just conducting regular interviews then you probably wont get all the answers you are looking for, especially for such a demanding job. I would say that it will probably be best if you concentrated first on how they currently do these processes. Shadow them if possible.

16 Aug 2010 - 5:17pm
jeffvoigt
2010

When targeting personas, it's best to ask questions that revolve around usage patterns.  The goal is to be able to collect enough information to distinguish which bucket / group a person falls into.  You've already got two distinct personas by definition: doctors and patients.  Some questions you may wish to ask to distinguish subgroups are:

- How often do you require access to [insert web app's use]?  (daily / weekly / monthly / etc)
- How familiar with web applications do you consider yourself to be?  (not very 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 very)
- Describe how you'd expect to use the described product in an ideal setting.
- Demographic questions: age, gender, etc.

What I find useful is to brainstorm for other potential viable roles that will exist (workgroup manager, systems admin, report viewer, etc) and try to ask questions to validate whether those roles end up as one or more personas.  Roles are slightly different from personas, as a role can have multiple personas within it.  (For example: your patient role may have a subgroup that mainly just comes in and updates personal information and looks for alerts, while another subgroup may rely on it mainly for news and a provider directory. etc)

Getting feedback in the medical industry can be a challenge.  Doctors often require a decent incentive since their time is so valuable.  I knew a market research firm that would have to pay a minimum $200 per response to get doctor feedback for surveys.

On top of that it's actually more difficult to identify personas when the product doesn't exist yet.  This is because you're attempting to identify usage patterns for a imaginary product with imaginary behaviors.  In cases like this I often find competitive analysis to be far more insightful.  I'd potentially recommend reviewing any similar products and / or conducting usability tests on them to find out what works well and what doesn't.

Similar topic: http://www.ixda.org/node/20245

16 Aug 2010 - 7:05pm
Hilary Bienstock
2009

Volkan -

I would start by introducing yourself, of course.  Then try asking each user some general questions.  Your goal here is to be in apprentice mode -- you are someone trying to learn about what they do -- rather than, for example, a reporter trying to tell the world, or a designer.  You should strive to observe and understand first, and THEN design.

  • General meet and greet questions -- tell me about who you are, what you like, what your family is like, what you do (just to get a sense of background).
  • What is your professional background?
  • Walk me through a typical day.
  • Show me how you use your current setup to do (whatever it is that your new app will do). 
  • How does this task fit into the rest of your day?
  • What do you like/dislike about your current setup?
  • If you had a magic wand, what would you change about your job/the tools you use?
  • Draw/photograph any artifacts the user has lying around (for example, a sticky note with access codes on it).

The answers to these questions should point you in the direction of more specific questions.  If possible, it would be great for this to be more of an ethnography-style session where you observe them as they work.  If not, hopefully these can at least take place in their place of business so they can show you what they do as appropriate.

I hope this helps!  Persona creation is a lot of fun, so enjoy!

Hilary
 

Hilary User Experience
                   Hilary Bienstock, Principal

 

hilary@hilaryue.com  :: 310.883.5818  ::  fax 310.829.2839



From: Volkan Unsal <spocksplanet@gmail.com>
To: hilary@hilaryue.com
Sent: Mon, August 16, 2010 1:53:19 PM
Subject: [IxDA] What questions to ask for a persona interview?

Hi,

I am pre paring to conduct an interview to create personas for a medical web application doctors and patients. This app is not built yet, and the feature set will be drawn from the personas -- which is why it's giving me a pause. I am used to writing interviews about usability, and always used to work with existing websites. I never created personas before, though I used them before, and I'm having difficulty coming up with questions to ask the interview candidates.

 

 

17 Aug 2010 - 1:16pm
Paul Bryan
2008

I suggest you identify character attributes before writing the interview protocol that you and the business strategist expect to drive decisions about features. For each of those attributes, create a semantic differential scale, with an extreme value of the attribute at each end. Ask 3 - 5 questions for each attribute that will help you place the participant on the scale, either at one extreme or the other or somewhere in-between. You may discover new important attributes during the interviews, so be prepared to create new scales.

For example, suppose you think that the use of mobile technology is an attribute that will drive feature decisions. Create a scale that looks something like:

Mobility:    Phone calls only     x-------------------------x   Frequent mobile info user

Come up with somewhere between 20 and 50 attribute scales. The interview questions will write themselves. When the interviews are over, determine how the participants cluster based on their attributes. Persona characteristics should have distinctive clustering around specific attributes if they are to be a reliable decision-making tool. This exercise can easily be triangulated with a follow-up survey for quantification.

Activities to help you come up with the attributes:

 

  •  Participant diaries completed prior to interviews
  •  Observation of services rendered in context
  •  Customer service pre-interview
  •  Competitive assessment
  •  Medical discussion forums

 

More on in-depth interviews at: http://www.virtualfloorspace.com/?s=in-depth+interviews

Paul Bryan

Director, User Research and Design Strategy

Usography Corporation

Linked In: http://www.linkedin.com/in/uxexperts

 

13 Feb 2014 - 2:23pm
theconartist
2010
Had the same problem; didn't know what to ask users. After some research and thought, I came up with the following:
Guidelines
  • Use Primarily Open-Ended Questions
  • Ask Naïve Questions
  • Ask People to Show You, not tell you, when possible
  • Ask for specific stories, especially about anything you can’t observe
Conceptual Areas of Questioning
  • People
  • Activity
  • Object
  • Environment
  • Interactions
  • Communication
  • Services
  • Pain Points
  • Solutions
  • Needs
  • Objectives
Overview Questions
  • Give us a little background on your job.
  • Why and how did you become a/an ______________
  • How long have you been working as a/an _____________
  • Why do you work for this company as opposed to another one?
  • Tell me a bit about your industry, and your role in it
Domain knowledge
  • What associations/networks do you belong to?
  • What skills are required to do your job?
  • How do you keep up to date / get information about your industry and profession?'
Goals
  • What are you responsible for in your job?
  • How do you define progress/success in your job? How do you measure progress/success?
Attitudes & Motivations
  • What are the most enjoyable parts of your job? What do you value most?
  • Are there any external (extrinsic) or Internal (intrinsic) motivations to do a good job? (such as rewards, promotions, perks, etc…)
Processes
  • Describe a typical workday. What do you do when you first get into the office? What do you do next? 
  • How do you do [a certain task]?
  • How long does this task typically take?
  • Where would you start?
  • What would you do next?
  • Can you show me how you do that?
  • What activities take up most of your time?
  • What activities are most important to your success?
  • Out of the things you do during a typical day
  • Are there any company or industry mandated processes / tasks?
  • What processes have you developed on your own?
  • Have you learned to do your work better from peers / colleagues?
Environment
  • How is your office organized to help you accomplish your tasks / goals?
  • Show me how you utilize your office to accomplish your tasks / goals?
Pain Points
  • What are the most difficult / challenging / annoying / frustrating aspects of your job?
  • After a typical work day, what (if anything) is still on your mind as it pertains to work? (What issues keep you up at night?)
Tools & Technology
  • What traditional (analogue) tools do you use to accomplish tasks in your job?
  • What digital tools do you use to accomplish tasks in your job?
  • Where do any of your tools fall short? (What doesn’t it do (or do well) that you need it to do?)
Mental models
  • What kinds of people do well in your position? Why?
  • Compare
  • Similar processes
  • A process, and how it may or may not have changed across time
Relationships & Organizational Structure
  • Besides clients/customers, who else do you interact with while doing your work?
  • Who do you report to? Who reports to you?
  • How often do you collaborate with others? How do you collaborate?
Projection / Dream Questions (“if it were magic”)
  • If we came back in X years to have this conversation again, what would be different? 
  • If you could build your ideal experience, what would it be like?
Wrap Up
  • Did we miss anything? Is there anything you want to tell us? 
  • Is there anything you want to ask us?
To find out more about personas, and how to create them, check out      http://slowmtn.tumblr.com
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