Amongst the tools available to user experience designers, and anyone wanting to find out more about how people use their “product”, we have interviews.
A face-to-face way of asking questions and gathering feedback and opinion. This is not, of course, the same thing as observing what people actually do, which is the realm of usability testing, but it can be really useful when employed appropriately, and at the right point(s) in a project.
Jakob Nielsen (you know… that usability guy) wrote a really good article recently, discussing the pros and cons of interviews. What are they good for? What are they not good for?
It’s dangerous to make big design changes because “users didn’t like this” or “users asked for that.” If you ask leading questions or press respondents for answers, they might make up opinions that don’t reflect their real preferences in the slightest.
Check it out.