User interviews (based on proto-persona) & Hypothesis

Yaroslav Zhmikhov
Yaroslav Zhmikhov
127 December, 15, 2021 5 min read
127 December, 15, 2021 5 min read


The interview (part of the Customer Development methodology) is based on open-ended questions, and answers the question ‘Why’ and is also a qualitative research method.

The main goal after the interview is to confirm or refute hypotheses with the help of the used data.
Interviews are performed when we use market feedback to test our ideas, find out what difficulties people are going through, what they want and create a product specifically for their needs.
Hypotheses are a way of noting some assumptions for further testing.
An example of a user interview results for an online e-learning platform

The purpose of the problem interview

To validate the hypothesis and learn non-obvious problems of users.

The purpose of the solution interview

To test the solution (or prototype) on real users, and identify or supplement problems.

Value for the team

This is one of the most effective techniques to help the users understand and identify insights, as there is direct communication without any intermediaries, where we can understand users’ problems, pains, goals, etc.

Value for business

Will give in-depth knowledge about users, the opportunity to learn new insights, or some other useful information.


  • Preparation: up to 8 hours
  • Main activity: from 1 to 2 hours per 1 respondent, and it is necessary to set aside time to create a proto-person (if this is the beginning of the project, and there is no empirical person), you may search for it with the help of recruiters or yourself, prepare for the interviews and report for stakeholders and the team.

Creating process:

Step 1. Define the target audience (TA). It is necessary to understand with whom you want to communicate, what exactly you want to check (for what purpose) to further create hypotheses and questions, which you will ask the respondent. So, first of all, it is necessary to think about users, namely to create a Proto-persona (Non-empirical persona), which is a collective image of the target audience, based only on the team assumptions and not confirmed by research results; it serves as a preliminary presentation of TA before research. 

In the future, it will be transferred to Persona (Empirical persona) - a representation of the TA part of the product, which has common behavior, goals, and motivation, and is based on the conducted research. You can learn how to build them correctly in the article - User personas (link below).

Step 2. Search for potential respondents. This can be done by a recruiter or you with the help of:

  • Social networks. We search for groups, contact the admins and ask them to place a questionnaire, where the last item will be “Would you like to talk to us in more detail?” or a full-fledged post with a request to respond to interviews with developers.
  • LinkedIn. We are looking for the right audience and ask for a conversation.

Step 3. Hypotheses. After creating a proto-person, you need to move on to hypotheses that should be clear to all team members. It makes no sense to go to users without hypotheses. Hypotheses are our everything! An example of a simple hypothesis is that analysts cannot get the data they need and as a result make the wrong decisions.

Important. If we talk about the right way to make hypotheses (as per instructions), it looks like this:

We believe that doing/building/creating [this] for [this user] will result in [this outcome]. We’ll know we’re right when we see [this metric/signal].

Step 4. Think over the interview questions. Now that we have a hypothesis, we can work out questions for respondents, for example:

  • Where do you get the data for analysis?
  • Who is involved in data retrieval?
  • What are the difficulties at the data search stage?

Step 5. Ask additional clarifying questions. Be prepared for the fact that you always need to be attentive and, if necessary, ask additional, clarifying questions that may reveal important things.

Step 6. Quickly write down key things on the paper or take notes. Sometimes, the interviews last more than an hour, and in order not to listen to a long interview record to find out some necessary things which you heard but haven’t written down, make notes during the interview, or if possible, take a colleague with you, who will perform this role.

Step 7. Interview recording. Record the interview on a dictaphone, or if it is a remote one, capture the screen, but you MUST ask permission and explain that you are doing it solely for research and data analysis, and this material will not be posted or passed on to third parties.

Step 8. Report on the work done after interviews with respondents. Mostly, it is done randomly, but it should contain key points, insights, and define problems that will eventually confirm or refute your hypotheses.

Example: User interviews & Hypothesis

Relevant links:

Thank you very much to all the authors! This article would not exist without you