User interviews are one of the most commonly used qualitative research methods for user research. And that’s because they have a lot of benefits – they help you get a better contextual understanding of users’ experiences, you can pick up on body language and tone much easier, and you can often help clarify questions or probe for meaning in answers.

But there are different methods for conducting interviews for user research: structured, semi-structured, and unstructured. Each has a unique set of advantages and disadvantages.

In this article, we'll be focusing on structured interviews. We’ll cover:

  • What is a structured interview for user research?

  • When you should use structured interviews

  • Pros and cons of structured interviews

  • Examples of structured interview questions

  • How to conduct a structured interview

  • How to analyze structured interview data

  • How to present findings from structured interviews 

The key to conducting successful user interviews is to genuinely understand the method and approach you’re using. By the end of this article, you'll be fully equipped to conduct structured interviews in your research studies.

What is a structured interview for user research?

A structured interview is similar to a survey. The interviewer asks every participant the same set of questions in the same order, attempting to remove any body language and tone bias.

To compare, an unstructured interview is the most flexible. You may have a set of questions you want to use to stay on topic, but you're open to other questions coming up as the interview unfolds, and you’re asking primarily open-ended questions. A semi-structured interview mixes the two, with a few structured questions mixed in with open-ended questions.

As a UX research method, a structured interview can help you get a slightly more nuanced understanding of a participant's responses, even when you use closed questions with pre-coded responses.

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When should you use a structured interview?

The best time to use a structured interview is after you’ve done a significant generative research study. 

They’re particularly helpful in the following scenarios:

  • When you’re looking for specific information: Use structured interviews when you need exact and comparable data across participants. This way, the questions are the same for everyone and the answers can be easily compared.

  • For quantitative analysis: While user interviews tend to be qualitative in nature, structured interviews are helpful when you want to collect quantitative data. This method allows you to analyze responses statistically, making it easier to find patterns and trends.

  • When you’re working with large sample sizes: Structured interviews are best for large sample sizes. The standardized format helps you manage data collection efficiently because everyone gets asked the same questions in the same way. 

  • When you have clear research objectives: When you know exactly what you want to find out, use structured interviews. This way, you can ask questions that directly relate to your research goals. This makes it easier to gather the information you need.

  • When you’re comparing across participants: When you want to compare answers from different people or groups, use structured interviews. This means asking the same questions to everyone and giving them the same answer options. That way, you can compare the answers and find common themes or different opinions.

Structured interviews

Pros and cons of structured interviews

Depending on the goals of your research, structured interviews may be a great fit. But like any research method, they have advantages and disadvantages. Weigh up these pros and cons before diving into a structured interview study.

Advantages of structured interviews

Some of the advantages of structured interviews include:

  • Standardization will help reduce the potential for mistakes on the interviewer's part when asking the questions.

  • A specific list of questions also reduces variability in both the interviewer's questioning and the responses a participant will likely give.

  • Using closed questions makes processing and analyzing the data much easier and more comparable to other responses.

  • Even though you're likely to use closed questions, you can still get more detailed responses than you would in a written survey.

  • They're quick and easy to conduct.

Disadvantages of structured interviews

There are also some downsides to structured interviews, which you should think about carefully:

  • While research interviewers are (hopefully) trained to reduce bias, their personalities can still influence participants' responses.

  • Building rapport with participants can also be more difficult since the questions are fixed regardless of participant responses.

  • The pre-determined questions are double-edged – while they help provide more consistent data, they also don't allow for explorative questions when a response is particularly interesting, potentially resulting in the loss of valuable data.

Seeing the pros and cons side-by-side helps to put into perspective why it's important to have a thorough understanding of the topic you're researching before deciding on the method you’ll use.

Structured interviews

Examples of structured interview questions

So, what kinds of questions would you ask in a structured interview? As we mentioned above, to maximize the effectiveness of structured interviews you'll want to primarily use closed questions, and potentially add an open-ended question to end the interview.

Below are some example questions. 

Demographic questions

  • What is your age range? (Providing a set of ranges.)

  • How would you describe your ethnicity?

  • How would you describe your gender?

  • What is the seniority of your role?

  • Where does your household income sit in these ranges? (Providing a set of ranges.)

Product experience questions

  • How long have you been using X product?

  • If you could rate your experience of using X product on a scale of 1–10, one being extremely bad and ten being extremely good, what would it be?

  • What is the most essential feature of X product for you?

  • What is the least important feature of X product for you?

  • Do you use any other products alongside X to complete relevant tasks? (This one can be closed with yes or no or elicit other brand names.)

  • How much time do you typically spend doing X task?

You may also ask an open-ended question at the end of the interview, such as, "Is there anything else you'd like to add regarding this interview?".

These types of questions allow for consistent responses and the ability to analyze the responses statistically.

Structured interviews

How to conduct a structured interview

Now, let's talk about the practical steps for doing a structured interview study for user research. You should divide your study into three "phases": the pre-interview phase, the interview phase, and the post-interview phase.

Pre-interview phase

This phase is mostly about setting and planning goals and objectives. Determining the goals or objectives you want your research to achieve is critical because otherwise, why spend the resources on it?

In the case of structured interviews, you'll most likely want to validate a hypothesis your team has derived from a previous generative study.

From there, you can construct your research design – you already have the "why" (the goal/objective), but you'll also need to answer the "who," "what," "where," "when," and "how" questions.

Determine your participant criteria (e.g. their demographics) as well as a method for recruitment, for example, recruiting from your own network or via a research panel. You should also craft the questions you want to ask. Then, figure out when and how you'll conduct the interviews – will you do them in person or a remote interviewing tool, for example?

Make sure you document all of this information for anyone involved in the research to refer to.

Use our handy discussion guide template to plan your research and document your questions for user interviews.

Interview phase

Whether you're interviewing in person or remotely, you'll follow the same pattern for all your structured interviews:

  1. Greet the participant.

  2. If interviewing remotely, check all the systems are working. If interviewing in person, set up your recording equipment.

  3. Confirm the participants' consent to participate in the study and be recorded (although it's best practice to get this consent in writing prior to the session).

  4. Set the expectations for the interview (e.g. explain you'll be asking a series of fixed questions, but the participant may ask for clarification of the meaning of the questions).

  5. Ask the questions.

  6. End the interview and answer any feedback-related questions the participant may have.

Nice and easy, right?

Post-interview phase

This is where the fun happens – analyzing and synthesizing your data and figuring out what insights you've gained. Before you start any kind of analysis, though, it's best practice to review any notes you took during the interviews and transcribe your interviews to make analysis much more manageable.

If you're using remote interview research software like Lyssna, you'll get a transcript automatically when you upload your interview videos (or you use the Zoom or Microsoft Teams integration).

You'll also want to use this time to thank your participants in writing (usually by email) and answer any follow-up questions that may have come up after the interview.

From there, you can analyze your results and package the insights ready to present your findings (more on this shortly).

Analyzing structured interviews

Unlike semi-structured and unstructured interviews, structured interviews produce ‌data you can easily analyze statistically.

For example, if you ask a question such as "Which feature of X is most important to you?", the responses can give you insight such as "X percentage of participants thought X feature was the most important."

Because structured interviews have a fixed set of questions, you can also pre-code responses (e.g. ethnicity codes, income range codes, product experience codes, and more).

In an academic setting, most researchers use software such as SPSS to analyze statistical data, but this software can be expensive for brands conducting consumer research. Other tools, such as Dovetail, can help you analyze the data you gather from your interviews at a much friendlier budget.

Besides statistical insights, you may be able to use thematic analysis depending on the depth of responses you get from certain questions. Thematic analysis refers to coding the responses and grouping those codes into relevant themes. These themes can produce insights into the attitudes and behaviors of your participants.

Presenting structured interview findings

As with any research project, you must present your findings in a way that key stakeholders will understand.

With product-led businesses, key stakeholders are likely more interested in hard numbers, so building a UX research report with key statistical highlights front and center would be beneficial (but you know your business and stakeholders best – what would they be most interested in?).

Otherwise, your research report for a structured interview study will look something like this:

  • Research goal/objectives and an overview of any key insights

  • Methodology

  • Findings

  • Statistical findings

  • Thematic analysis findings (if applicable)

  • Discussion/Recommendations

Packaging your research in a report helps organize it along the stages of the product development process and makes it easy to reference in future research.

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Get started with structured interviews

No matter what type of user interviews you’re conducting, having the right tools at hand can make your research easier and faster.

With Lyssna, you can recruit participants from our research panel of over 530,000 active panelists, screen them, and schedule and conduct your interviews.

Your interviews will automatically be uploaded to your Lyssna account with accurate transcriptions thanks to integrations with Zoom and Microsoft Outlook, but you can also upload videos manually to get transcriptions ready for analysis whenever you are.


Alexander Boswell is the Founder/Director of SaaSOCIATE, a B2B SaaS, MarTech and eCommerce Content Marketing Service and a Business PhD candidate. When he’s not writing, he’s playing baseball and D&D.

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