How to gather data that matters?

My take after 100+ user interviews studies.

11 February 2024


At the beginning of the article, I want to make clear that user interviews are essential throughout the product lifecycle. Collecting and analyzing data from the actual end user enables us(designers) to set the right mindset for the couple of next sprints. The better the data the more accurate our predictions are, and the more tailored the solution will be. With that in mind, the obvious choice is to make sure the data is the best we can have. Unfortunately, there are way too many factors that can make it go all wrong, here is what to avoid.

Reality check

With the flood of influencers and design Bootcamps the general public knowledge about how to conduct this study is boiled down to:

  1. Get random people that we think will use the software
  2. Create a script
  3. Inform the participant about recording of the session
  4. Add a reminder to hit the record button at the beginning of your script
  5. Press record
  6. Read the script
  7. Say thanks, bye
  8. Listen back to the recording and analyze the data

Well, this formula will of course guarantee that we will receive some data but there are at least 3 issues with this approach that are making the quality of collected data questionable.

Issue number one

Let's start from the first part which is finding the people to talk to. In the software development world, we have products that are made for the majority of people and we also have products that are tailored to a very specific workflow, a small percentage of your entire product. So the very obvious issue I noticed many designers are making is just picking any user from any part of the software instead of putting a little bit more effort into narrowing the list of participants down. Just be more precise and state to the project manager the importance of it. No.. it is not about getting any data. You don't want to interview someone who is looking for a place to rent on Airbnb if your goal is to learn about a new feature for managing properties.


Segregate the data collected. Create a database and assign user roles to your participants.

Add tags for features or topics the interview was about. Build a collection of data that you can compare and take insights from.

Second concern

Recording the sessions.. Simply stop it.. Ask yourself, why are you doing it? Is it because you cannot remember a single conversation you just had if yes then just invite another designer, someone, who is going to shadow you, a less experienced role that will love to learn from you and can help do notes.

Are you recording because you have another session planned right after? Just make gaps in your calendar.. that is the built-in feature in almost any calendar-based app for people to sign up for the interviews.

Make yourself enough space after each session to digest what just happened and write down the key insights.

By making your job easier by recording the sessions you ruining completely the intimacy required for an honest and simple discussion. You are not making a Netflix documentary, this is not an interview with a Hollywood star but instead, it is like talking to any other person, your family or friends about what bothers them at work and in life.


Invite another person to the call, but make sure to keep the audience as minimal as possible.

One extra person is already going to look suspicious so explain that they are here to learn how to do your job.

Final issue

The third issue is linked to the previous one. By relying on recordings people tend to pay less attention, relying blindly on the script they prepared. Having one is a good sign of preparation and can help you stay focused on the task but at the same time, not being able to pivot when the conversation leans towards a critical pain point of the app and record that it's a missed opportunity. Be flexible and natural. At the end of the day, all you care about is understanding someone's experience so you can tweak and improve it. That is what they expect from you after all, especially if you introducing yourself as a designer.


Sign up for as many interviews as you can.

Join beta programs, labs, experimental versions, and demos. See what it is like to be on the other side. Pay attention to how they approach the conversation. Did you feel comfortable? Did they make room for expressing yourself fully? As a study object did you feel like you getting attention? Understanding what it is like to be the one answering the questions will make you a much better interviewer.


Breaking the rules and long-established standards is one of the things that sets professionals apart. In the example, we are breaking rules made to speed up a process that we should never go cheap on. The data we are collecting is being used by everyone in the project regardless of the role. In most cases, this data is the backing point in forming a backlog and roadmaps. I wish you all the best and fantastic results in your research.

Thank you for reading!