Methods to build empathy for the project and people involved.

Stakeholder and user interviews


A wide-spanning set of semi-structured interviews with anyone who has an interest in a project’s success, including users.


To build consensus about the problem statement and research objectives.

Time required

1–2 hours per interviewee

How to do it

  1. Create a guide for yourself of some topics you’d like to ask about, and some specific questions as a back up. Questions will often concern the individual’s role, the organization, the individuals’ needs, and metrics for success of the project.
  2. Sit down one-on-one with the participant, or two-on-one with a note-taker or joint interviewer, in a focused environment. Introduce yourself. Explain the premise for the interview as far as you can without biasing their responses.
  3. Follow the conversation where the stakeholder takes it. They will focus on their priorities and interests. Be comfortable with silences, which allow the stakeholder to elaborate. To keep from getting entirely off course, use your interview guide to make sure you cover what you need to. Ask lots of “why is that” and “how do you do that” questions.
  4. If there are other products they use or your product doesn’t have constraints imposed by prior work, observe the stakeholders using a competing product.

Examples from 18F

Applied in government research

No PRA implications. The PRA explicitly exempts direct observation and non-standardized conversation, 5 CFR 1320.3(h)3. See the methods for Recruiting and Privacy for more tips on taking input from the public.