4️⃣How to take notes

👋🏼 Introduction

Note-taking is more than just transcription. The goal is to go beyond surface-level details and capture meaningful insights, mental models, and implicit biases.

1️⃣ Mindset

Look at the world through participants’ eyes.

Try to forget that you know the product. See what the product experience feels like for someone without all that context. Build your intuitive empathy for the user.

Be curious

You’ll see users make choices that you’re excited about, but also do things that may disappoint or frustrate you. Approach all of the sessions with curiosity and an open mind. Don’t dismiss actions that don’t fit your expectations or understanding.

Designate a note-taker

When starting out, it’s helpful to have a note-taker with you. That way, each of you can maintain focus on your roles. It will also help to debrief between calls so you’re capturing information while it’s still fresh.

As you get more comfortable with conducting an interview and better at identifying which observations are insightful, you may choose to play both roles yourself. In this case, have a notebook handy to jot down key observations. Keep 5-10 mins to reflect on your notes and enrich them before moving to the next interview.

2️⃣ Observations

Initial reactions say a lot.

Look for expressions or comments that indicate what the user might be feeling as soon as they see a screen or the prototype.

Don’t jump to conclusions or solutions.

Stay with observations during the interview. There will be time to talk about possible solutions in the debrief at the end of the day and in the following weeks. Don’t make premature changes to the product or prototype during the sessions.

Beware of taking comments literally.

Watch what participants do vs. what they say. Try to observe if their body language mirrors what they are saying. For example: Are they are looking disengeged while saying it’s interesting? Or are they saying that they want to pick one of the options but they look a little confused? These are good conversation openers — ask them why they look confused or what about it they are finding interesting.

Look for opportunity areas

Identify opportunities for improvement or innovation. Frame observations as How Might We (HMW) questions and note the HMWs down in the notes section for each participant.

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