Switch interviews detail the timeline of a recent purchase or change. First, we
go back to the beginning when the person thought they had found a solution to
their problem. Then, we jump ahead to when they decided to try something
different. We walk through the steps they took to find this new solution and the
pain points that drove them there. Switch Interviews help us understand the
problem in the context of a person's motivation and desire to fix it.
Who to interview
We interview people who have recently switched products or solutions because the
timeline of why they switched is still fresh in their minds. They solved this
same problem with something else before and now have a new solution.
Typically it takes about 8-10 interviews to get valuable information, but we
have gotten away with less.
Use the instructions for sourcing interviewees in Usability
Conducting the interview
Make sure you're recording and documenting these and that you've tested out the
tools that you're going to use beforehand. For remote interviews, Zoom is a
useful tool for both host and record the interview. For additional information
on recording interviews, check out how we record them for usability
Have the rest of the team listening in on them. Similar to a usability test, the
best insights come from hearing the interview first hand.
Right before starting the interview, draw a line on a black sheet of paper to
serve as your timeline as you facilitate the interview. While the interviewee is
talking, add new significant events on the page in the series that they
happened. This is important because the interview rarely will be
linear. Keeping track of the process as it happened rather than how it came up
in the interview will allow you to ask more informational questions.
Having that sheet in front of you also allows you to write down questions that
you might want to ask later because you don't want to interrupt the interviewee
Let's pretend that we're making a documentary about your purchase…
To set the stage for the interview, we'll start off telling them that we're
going to make a documentary about their switch. This allows you and the
interviewer to have a shared mental model of how the interview might go. This
also allows you to ask some more detailed questions without seeming to go off
course. You can set up questions asking for them to "set the scene".
Set the scene of the documentary for me here; what were you wearing that day.
After setting the expectation around, ask them when they first started thinking
about the purchase. As best as you can, work your way from the start of the
process, to other options considered, to their decision, to a switch. Then ask
about they're usage and timeline directly after the switch.
During this process think of questions like:
- What were the emotions that were pushing or pulling them to arrive at their
- What solutions did they ultimately compare the product against?
- Why did they believe it's better?
- How are they feeling about the switch after?
Dig into weird details during the interview as it helps jog people's memory on
important information. Little questions about obscure details can ultimately
lead to significant breakthroughs.
- What were you wearing that day?
- What are the details of that room?
- What music were you listening to in the car ride?
- How much packing had you done up till that point?
Throughout the interview focus on emotion / mental state. While we like to
believe that we're logical, most decisions are emotional. Emotions will help us
better understand the situation they're in when looking to switch solutions.
Emotions amplify the pushes away from their current solution and down-play the
fears of switching to a new solution.
Some of the best insights come towards the end of the interview. Make sure that
you're leaving enough time to get to the meaty part of the conversation or ask
the participant if they would be willing to spend more time with you.
So far, this conversation has been great! But I can see us running overtime.
Would it be ok for us to run over the allotted time, or do you have a hard limit to
your time today?
After the interview
As a team, regroup and share any immediate insights found during the
interview. If in the middle of several interviews, ask what improvements that
you could make or if there is anything else that you should ask in the next
In the next couple of days, sit down with the recording and timeline, and
further document the interview. The documentation should follow a Jobs
Profile format for just that interview.
Resources to learn