During contextual interviews, researchers watch and listen as users work in the user’s own environment, as opposed to being in a lab. Contextual interviews tend to be more natural and sometimes more realistic as a result. They are also usually less formal than lab tests and don't use tasks or scripts.
In a contextual interview, you watch and listen as the user works. You don't usually give the user tasks or scenarios. To understand what a user is doing or thinking you can ask questions as the user navigates the site. The results are usually qualitative, observed data, rather than quantitative, measured data.
- Introduce yourself and build rapport with the user
- Transition from a traditional interview to a master-apprentice model. Tell the participant that you want to learn by watching and asking questions, as if you were an apprentice learning how to do their job
- Observe. Resist the temptation to continually ask questions. The observation phase is where you should spend the bulk of your time.
- Interpret: verify your assumptions and conclusions with the participant.
- Summarize. Immediately at the end of each sessions, write down your immediate thoughts and observations.