13 Interview Techniques

November 27, 2009


Tips for conducting a good interview

#1 – Find a good location

Avoid Starbucks! It’s often easiest to suggest a centrally located corporate coffee shop but if there is any way you can interview in a place that has some relevance to the story or your subject you’ll have much greater success.

Not only because you’ll gain a further sense of context, people are often more comfortable (and open) when they’re in a familiar place or what feels like “their territory.”

Ask to meet at your subject’s house, work, or the location of an incident relevant to the story. Even meeting at the interviewee’s favorite restaurant is more interesting than a Starbucks.

#2 – Prepare Your Goals Ahead

Know what questions you’re going to ask and why you’re going to ask them.

Heading to an interview with a sense of what you want to get out of it (a colorful re-enactment of an event, an on-the-record opinion on the issue you’re covering, general background, etc.) is critical to conducting a successful interview.

You should already be thinking about what you want your piece to look like and what you need from this interview to get your article closer to that end result.

#3 – Write down your questions

Be sure and bring prepared questions with you. I usually go into an interview with twice as many questions than I expect to ask. The security of knowing that I’m not going to get stuck helps my confidence and you never know what question will get you the information you’re really looking for.

#4 – Work on your flow

This is probably the most challenging, but also the most important interview skill you can develop.

You want to strike a balance between a conversation (which helps make your subject feel comfortable and aids candor) and getting the job done. As your subject is answering your question, be thinking about what you’ll ask next and why.

The flow of questions needs to seem natural and conversational, don’t spin your subject off on a completely different topic just because that’s the next question on your list-think about segue’s and transitions.

This way your subject doesn’t feel forced to give you sound bites and may open up a little (particularly important for anyone working on an audio piece where you may need blocks of the raw interview).

#5 – Think about the medium

Interviewing techniques defiantly vary for different mediums. If you’re interviewing for audio or video you want to ask two part questions which encourages subjects to talk for longer blocks of time.

Conversely, when you’re interviewing for print, try and break questions up so you can get shorter and more concise answers (easier for taking notes and for quoting later). You can be more conversational with interviews for print, you can say “yeah,” and “uh-huh,” etc.

Not doing this is one of the biggest challenges when you’re interviewing for audio. Nodding and smiling accomplishes the same sort of conversational encouragement and keeps your tape clean.

Another great trick for audio interviews is to have your subject re-enact the story. It makes for good sound and helps you avoid having too much of your own narration later on.

#6 – Bring a buddy

I find having a second person as a note taker and extra set of ears can be very useful.

If you don’t think another person will overwhelm or distract your subject (I find that is pretty rare) it can be a lifesaver to have that second set of notes to check your quotes and information.

#7 – Avoid Obsessing

While good notes and recording are very important, you can do yourself a disservice by obsessing about recording every little detail of what your subject says.

As you’re interviewing you should be able to discern the gems from the chatter-focus on the quotes and info you know you’re going to use and make sure you get that right!

#8 – Be a little annoying

Don’t be afraid to relentlessly revisit a question or topic that you feel hasn’t been properly addressed by the interviewee. Sometimes people need time to warm up to you or a topic, or will respond better if your question is worded differently. Keep trying.

#9 – Be a little sneaky

Continue taking notes even after the interview is officially over. Sometimes people say the most revealing or intimate things when they feel that they’re out of the “hot seat.” If they don’t say “off the record,” it’s all game.

#10 – Empower them

A great question to ask if you don’t fully understand the perspective of your interviewee is “what is your ideal solution/resolution?” Obviously this only works in certain circumstances, but when appropriate it can help clarify a person’s point of view or opinion.

#11 – Work them up

Another great question is “Why do you care about this issue?” This can be an effective way to get a strong and emotional quote about why the topic you’re covering is so important.

You can also ask for the turning point in a story, the moment when everything changed or catalyzed. This can help you shape the narrative of your story as well.

#12 – Endure awkward silences

I know this is totally counterintuitive. My instinct is to keep chattering and asking questions to keep people feeling comfortable, but sometimes, especially when you’re dealing with sensitive subjects, you need to shut up and wait.

Ask your question, let them give you the rehearsed and generic answer, then sit there quietly and see what comes next. You’d be amazed how often this technique yields powerful results.

#13 – Ask for what you need

Seriously, sometimes interviewees are frustrating not because they’re trying to bust your chops but just don’t understand what you want from them.

I find that many interview subjects get a kick out of having you “pull back the curtain” a little and tell them about your process.

You can say, “Listen, I really need a quote from you encapsulating your feelings on this issue,” or “I really need you to walk me through the chronology of this,” or even, “I really need you to take me to a location that is relevant to this issue so I can set a scene.”

For the most part people want to be helpful and you just need to tell them how they can.

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Testing & Evaluation

March 18, 2009


Testing, Evaluation & Documentation

A checklist of checklistsLaunching a flawed application onto the market can be a very costly mistake.  Make sure you have got it right, your job and your reputation are at stake! Also, don’t do all this at the end of the project, anticipate problems at the early design stages, its a  lot cheaper and easier to fix them then than towards the end of a project when the design is relatively closed and expensive to change.

Usability testing

What is usability testing?

Usability testing generally involves measuring how well test subjects respond in four areas: time, accuracy, recall, and emotional response. The results of the first test are the baseline or control measurement; all subsequent tests are compared to the baseline.  A typical usability test would cover the following for around five to ten users

Time on Task — How long does it take people to complete basic tasks? (For example, find something to buy, create a new account, and order the item.)
Accuracy — How many mistakes did people make? (And were they fatal or recoverable with the right information?)
Recall — How much does the person remember afterwards?
Emotional Response — How does the person feel about the tasks completed? (Confident? Stressed? Would the user recommend this system to a friend?)
Short article on Practical usability testing
US Gov comprehensive usability resource
Series of tutorials from IBM on design for ease of use

Screen Testing

Each screen of an application should be tested to ensure that it complies with the design and works properly.  A checklist can be used to work through each item.  Below is a typical example which could be adapted to your project

Does the layout match the design?
Do all the buttons work?
Do all the texts, fonts colours and sizes match the original design spec?
Do  text scroll functions or animations work?
Do the non functioning controls grey out when not needed?
Is there a visible continuity between screens?
If there are any applets, SWF’s or other plugins and do they operate correctly?
Has the text been spell checked?
Do video and audio files load quickly enough and play smoothly?

Navigation testing

Is your navigation scheme logical and fully functioning?  A typical test checklist would include

Do all the links within the application work?
Do all the hyperlinks function correctly?
Are there any broken links?
Is there a smooth transition between screens?
Is there consistency between screens?

Accessibility

How many different types of people can use your application without modification?  Is your design inclusive?  Can it be used by as many people as possible regardless of their age, ability or situation?

W3C web accessibility guidelines
RNIB good design advice.  There are two million people with sight problems in the UK. Good design can make websites, information, products, services and buildings accessible to them.
About Inclusive Design at the Design Council

Security

Are there any security issues that have to be covered?

Dancing pigs (warning this link could be insecure, your bank account could be cleared out and all your children be born with tails)

Evaluation

Any multimedia application should be evaluated especially in terms of its fitness for purpose.  Have you met all the requirements of the design brief?  Will you get paid?  Some contracts require the developer to produce an evaluative report prior to product launch.

Does the application do what it is intended to do?
Has the designer designed the best solution for the problem?
Does the application work in an efficient manner?
Is the application robust?
Is the application easily maintained?
Has a technical and user guide been provided?

Documentation

People need to know how to use your application and that it will work on their machine.  Do not assume they will know what to do or have any technical knowledge.  If they can find a way to break it they will!

Instructions – “……….press any key”
User – ” Where’s the any key………?”

You will need to establish the platform and lowest specification that will play your application.  A typical specification would include

Operating system
Clock speed of CPU
RAM
Hard drive space
Optical drive type
Sound card  configuration
Video card configuration
Screen resolution
Internet access

Instructions for using the application and sources of support also need to be included.  For example

Insert into DVD drive
If auto run does not work navigate to “game” folder
Left double click on game icon
How to write instructions for busy, grouchy people.

Copyright

Is it all your own work? Any multimedia application must take into account the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act. The creator of a multimedia application must ensure that all appropriate licences and permissions have been obtained for their particular purposes.

General copyright issues
ver 12/5/6 cb

Joint Evaluation process

March 18, 2009


avtechmdmajoint-evaluationassessment