Tips for Conducting In-Home Medical Product Usability Interviews

May 1, 2012

By Lindsey Messervy, Research & Product Strategist

At Ximedica, we prefer to conduct consumer interviews in people’s homes, rather than in a facility, when we are seeking rich and deep insight into their context and experiences. Crossing the threshold into into a person’s home can be a delicate matter for both you and them. Here are a few tips that will help you navigate through planning, conducting, and following up on in-home research.

Before the interview…

Consider the population you’re targeting: When planning for in-home interviews, make research decisions based on the lifestyle of the population you will be interviewing. There’s a big difference between conducting interviews with elderly people and teenagers. If you will be traveling to international markets, make sure to familiarize yourself with the typical customs. is a great resource to start you off.

Don’t bring an entourage: The ideal number for an in-home interview is 2-3 people, so as not to overwhelm the participant. If you are bringing extra people, make sure everyone has a job – it could be note-taking or capturing photos – so the participant doesn’t feel intimidated.

Be prepared: Before you leave for the interviews, use a checklist (or, at least a mental one) to make sure you are bringing everything you need. This could include camera equipment, voice recorders, extra batteries, discussion protocols, consent forms, or compensation. And if you are bringing recording equipment, make sure you know how to use them (including setting up and breaking down) before you get into people’s homes. Otherwise, you may be using up precious time by fumbling with your gear.

Take time for yourself: Usually, the Ximedica team will conduct a marathon of interviews each day, so it’s important to leave enough time for travel between homes as well as meals. When you are juggling multiple responsibilities, it’s easy to overlook your own needs.

Upon arrival…

Be a polite guest: Offer to take off shoes, let the participant choose where the interview should take place, and introduce everyone by name (though you don’t have to say the company they work for, especially if the client wants to stay anonymous). And remember to turn your cell phone off – if we are asking participants to share their lives, opinions, and emotions with us, the least we can do is be fully engaged.

Start building rapport: Start with a little small talk – such as how their day is going or whether they’ve ever done an in-home interview before – to build open communication and empathy. It helps to relax the participant and shows them you aren’t all about business. It also opens people up to letting you know whether they are feeling nervous or anxious about the interview, so you can alleviate any fears they may have.

Let them know what to expect: Remember… many people have never participated in an in-home interview before, so it is best to set expectations to make them feel more comfortable. While they should have been briefed beforehand by the recruiter, make sure to reiterate what will happen during the interview session when you arrive.

Let them control their comfort: Always let people know that they can stop the interview at any time, or at least pause it for a bathroom break or drink. Make sure they are still comfortable with the team taking recordings and viewing other areas of their house, even if they provided their consent when they were recruited.

During the interview…

Moderate the discussion: Start with easy, general questions. Build up to more in-depth or personal questions. And while it’s easy to let the conversation keep flowing, value the participant’s time and don’t overstay your welcome.

Let them be the experts: If they make a mistake or say something incorrect, don’t correct them. Instead, use it as a chance to probe into why they think that – it may lead you to some interesting insights about their beliefs and experiences.

Value each session:
Whether it’s the first interview or the 51st, view that interview as a unique learning opportunity. Maybe there’s some kind of interaction outside your planned discussion that is particularly insightful – let the line of questioning be flexible enough to accommodate those unexpected nuggets of information.

Upon departure…

Don’t leave them hanging: Thank them for their time and see if they have any unanswered questions or concerns. If they are being compensated, let them know when they should expect to receive their check and how it will be delivered (if you aren’t already compensating them on the spot).

After the interview…

Download your thoughts: Make high-level notes about big ideas and connections you heard from the day. Maybe there’s something particularly interesting you heard or saw – it’s best to capture that insight as soon as you can following the interviewing, when it’s fresh. It helps to do this with other team members to get their perspectives, thoughts and insights.

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Remember, this should be an enjoyable experience for you and the participant. One of the most rewarding things you can hear from the participant is, “Wow, that was actually fun! “

Learn more about our research practices.