[test] How many interviews do you need for customer alignment

Written By: Subir

As a behavior driven user experience consultant, I do a lot of user research and user testing

Across a wide variety of customer segments and industry categories. So over the last 19 years, I’ve learned a lot.

By listening.

My goals in user testing are two-fold:

  • Find and correct basic usability issues that prevent the user experience from failing
  • Get insights that help my client(s) get a competitive edge

What's the right consumer research method?

I’ve found one-on-one user research to be the best approach to hit both of these goals.

Why one-on-one research over focus groups or surveys? Focus groups are better at the why and the what – but the why is surface level. The very nature of social settings lends participants to present an ideal version of themselves. In doing so, they hide the personality quirks that define their real-world behavior.

So it’s no surprise, that when I talk to my product or marketing friends about one-on-research, I get the same question.

How many customer research interviews do I need to align my experience to my users' needs?

For qualitative research, my answer used to be – well, it depends. Or sometimes 5-7 users – a Nielsen recommendation – if I sensed the desire to do just a few.

And fit is extremely important – fewer, representative users are far better than a larger pool of users who don’t fit your persona(s).

My goals in user testing are two-fold:

  • Find and correct basic usability issues that prevent the user experience from failing
  • Get insights that help my client(s) get a competitive edge

What's the right consumer research method?

I’ve found one-on-one user research to be the best approach to hit both of these goals.

Why one-on-one research over focus groups or surveys? Focus groups are better at the why and the what – but the why is surface level. The very nature of social settings lends participants to present an ideal version of themselves. In doing so, they hide the personality quirks that define their real-world behavior.

So it’s no surprise, that when I talk to my product or marketing friends about one-on-research, I get the same question.

How many customer research interviews do I need to align my experience to my users' needs?

For qualitative research, my answer used to be – well, it depends. Or sometimes 5-7 users – a Nielsen recommendation – if I sensed the desire to do just a few.

And fit is extremely important – fewer, representative users are far better than a larger pool of users who don’t fit your persona(s).

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I went back and did some analysis. And reviewed it in subsequent research projects over the next year.

I was stunned to find that the answer could be illustrated in a simple sketch. Or, to borrow a photography term, near the top of an S curve.

Here’s the sketch that shows how many users to include in your customer research project.

Sketch:How many user interviews to get alignment​

5-7 Research Interviews: Basic Usability

Basic usability issues are solved near the low end of the curve. 5-7 representative participants are enough to identify issues with usability.

  • Basic comprehension (message clarity)
  • Navigation – organization and labels
  • Message clarity
  • Content priority
  • Calls to Action visibility

At this point, you’re simply trying to figure out what works or doesn’t work and why. And get consistent WHY so you can move on to the next step. At this point, you also start to identify any outliers.

User research and user testing

Across a wide variety of customer segments and industry categories. So over the last 19 years, I’ve learned a lot.

By listening.

It’s also important that you focus on understanding and listening more than solving problems or pitching your product. Here’s a useful guide on how to be a good moderator.

Secondary Insights

At this point, you’re simply trying to figure out what works or doesn’t work and why. And get consistent WHY so you can move on to the next step. At this point, you also start to identify any outliers.

Tertiary Insights go here ans

At this point, you’re simply trying to figure out what works or doesn’t work and why. And get consistent WHY so you can move on to the next step. At this point, you also start to identify any outliers.

Other Insights

At this point, you’re simply trying to figure out what works or doesn’t work and why. And get consistent WHY so you can move on to the next step. At this point, you also start to identify any outliers.

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About the author

About the author

Subir Kumedan founded UX for All to help teams of all sizes and shapes avoid the heartache that comes with creating winning customer experiences. He likes to simplify and streamline everything.

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