Anne Haines, Web Content Specialist at Indiana University Libraries, shares strategies to get at what people really need.
4 Levels of Information Need
- Hat-tip to Robert S. Taylor
- Don’t have the words to describe the need
- Ambiguous, rambling statements
- Can form a qualified and rational statement of what user is looking for
- Phrasing question in terms of system user thinks can help them
Interview as Negotiation
- Iterative, collaborative
- Not adversarial or judge-y
What We Need to Understand
“Inquirers frequently cannot define what they want, but they can discuss why they need it.” – Robert S. Taylor
- The situation
- The context of the question
- The gaps
- What is it that they don’t know and need to know
- Ask people to describe what they don’t know
- The uses
- What does the person want to be able to do after bridging this knowledge gap?
- Helpful to focus the convo
- Infinite set of possibilities
- Get your person talking and you’ll understand their context better
- AKA: sense-making questions
- Subset of open questions
- How much info do you need?
- What’s your deadline?
- What are your top priorities?
- What have you done so far? Where have you looked for answers?
- What do you plan to do with the info?
- What would a perfect solution look like?
- Slow down
- Be as present with the person as possible – don’t try to jump ahead to solving the problem
- Things to do/say:
- Tell me more
- Can you explain how you came to that idea?
- Loop back – “Earlier, you said…”
Resist Premature Diagnosis
- Let people finish explaining what’s going on
- Hear everything else
- Don’t box yourself in with pre-conceived solution (will color your thinking, you’ll hear the rest of the convo through the context you decided on)
- Email, Skype, IM, face-to-face meetings, etc.
- Choose the best channel for the need (death to unnecessary meetings!)
- Ask for clarification
- Be deliberate and careful in how you word questions – nuances matter
- “Can I help you?” vs. “How can I help?”
- “Can I help you with something else?” vs. “Can I help you with anything else?”
Anne’s resources and slides posted here: https://blogs.libraries.iub.edu/redux/2015/05/22/if-she-knew-what-she-wants-resources-follow-up/