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How to analyze user interviews in 5 easy steps

User interviews are a valuable way to unlock customer-centric insights at any stage of your development process. But how do you synthesize the raw data you get from interviews into qualitative research you can use to make informed decisions?

Last updated

23 Aug 2023

Reading time

6 min


[User interviews] how to analyze

This chapter shows you how to analyze user interviews to ensure no insight goes unused. By incorporating this analysis process as part of your workflow, you’ll get more from your user interviews—so you can revisit them again and again to meet all kinds of research objectives.

TL;DR: 5 steps for analyzing user interviews

  1. Set your user interviews up for success. Recruit diverse participants with key demographic data, and choose a user interviews tool for efficient recording and sharing. Take notes during the session and debrief afterward.

  2. Organize your data. Centralize your notes in one place, virtually or physically. Group insights into themes, using tags or color codes for easy analysis.

  3. Identify patterns and themes. Find sub-themes within larger themes, and create clusters to connect related observations.

  4. Summarize and share your key findings. Write a summary using bullet points for easy scanning. Create takeaway sentences for each cluster.

  5. Triangulate your data. Cross-reference your interview insights with other data: compare with session recordings, heatmaps, and other behavior analytics data.

5 steps for analyzing user interviews

1. Set your user interviews up for success

Planning your user interviews with your ultimate research goals in mind helps you streamline the process from beginning to end. Here are some simple ways you can set your interviews up for success.

  • Recruit the right participants. Aim to get a diverse range of viewpoints, and be sure to capture key demographic data (such as location, industry, and age) you can use to analyze your results for trends.

  • Use a user interview tool that records and transcribes the session for you. To make things even more efficient, look for one that lets you easily share time-stamped clips and notes once you’re in the analysis phase, so you can quickly pull out relevant data points to share with stakeholders.

  • Make notes as you go. A time-stamped transcription means you don’t need to take notes, but it’s still worth jotting down standout points to revisit later. Your notes should directly reflect what the participant says or does, not what you interpret them to be saying. This ensures more accurate data and avoids introducing bias that could skew your analysis.

  • Do a debrief after each session. After your interview, review your notes while your memory is still fresh. Fill in any gaps and add paragraphs or headlines to help you scan the notes quickly. Note down any initial ideas you have, as these can be the starting points for data analysis.

🔥 Setting your user interviews up for success is easy with Hotjar Engage.

Hotjar Engage (hi, that’s us! 👋) takes the hassle out of user interviews by streamlining and automating all of the admin—so you can focus on connecting with your participants. It enables you to effortlessly

  • Recruit the right people from our pool of over 200,000+ global participants, or invite your own

  • Easily schedule, host, and record your interview, so you don’t have to waste time sending calendar invites back and forth

  • Invite stakeholders to observe the session

  • Instantly receive a time-stamped transcription after your call, making it easy to pick out keywords or valuable insights

  • Quickly create highlights to share with your team to support your recommendations and increase buy-in for your next steps

Hotjar Engage records and transcribes your user interview for you, making it easier than ever to schedule, host, and analyze user interviews

2. Organize your data

When you have your notes from step one, collate them in one central place. Put each thought or response on a separate ‘sticky note’—either virtually, using an app like Miro, or physically, using actual sticky notes and a forgiving wall.

Then, start dividing insights into broader themes. If you’re doing this virtually, create the main themes you’ve identified as tags and tag relevant sticky notes for each one. You could also color-code your physical sticky notes using highlighters or move them into relevant groups or ‘columns’ on your whiteboard.

Effortlessly schedule, run, and analyze user interviews with Hotjar

Hotjar Engage makes it easy to recruit participants, schedule and host your user interview, and share the results with stakeholders to drive decision-making. 

3. Identify patterns and themes

Once the notes have been grouped into larger themes, you can begin looking for sub-themes or patterns.

Focusing on one theme at a time, find commonalities or contradictions among the responses, and create sub-groups of related observations called clusters. This method is also called affinity mapping or affinity diagramming.

The goal of affinity mapping is to connect pieces of evidence to create a broader insight, helping you connect the dots between discrete pieces of information to see the bigger picture.

4. Summarize and share your key findings

Now that you’ve done your thematic analysis and analyzed your interview data, summarize your findings and share them with your team members and any other stakeholders.

We recommend writing a TL;DR or using bullet points to make it easy for people to quickly scan and get the information they need. You can also write a summary sentence for each cluster you identified above with the key takeaway and your recommendations for next steps.

📹 Pro tip: if you’re using Hotjar Engage, share short, relevant clips from your user interview as evidence to support your key points. This will help you validate your takeaways and get buy-in for next steps.

5. Triangulate your data

Triangulation isn’t just for spy movies in the early 2000s. In research, triangulation is the process of using multiple sources or methods to get a deeper understanding of your topic.

Cross-reference the findings from your user interview analysis with the data and findings from other sources, such as session recordings, heatmaps, surveys, and feedback widgets. How do they compare? Does looking at them in tandem reveal any further insights?

For example, session recordings and heatmap data may reveal discrepancies between what people say and user behaviors or actions. Your interviewees might think your homepage is simple to navigate, but if your heatmap shows users rage clicking—that is, repeatedly clicking on something as a sign of frustration—it’s worth exploring further.

📐 Combine Engage with other Hotjar tools to triangulate your data and understand your users like never before.

While user interviews are super useful on their own, they become even more powerful when combined with Hotjar’s other tools.

  • Engage + Surveys: validate your assumptions after your user interview and see if other users feel the same way as your interviewees

  • Engage + Feedback: get real-time feedback on the user experience as people scroll through your site, then follow up with user interviews to discover how to improve low-ranking pages

  • Engage + Heatmaps: identify areas of high and low engagement on your site, then conduct usability tests or UX research via user interviews to learn more

  • Engage + Funnels: see where users drop off in your checkout flow, then interview users to understand the barriers to conversion

  • Engage + Recordings: watch how users navigate your site and quickly spot issues, bugs, and opportunities. Interview users about their biggest pain points goals, then combine these insights to prioritize your roadmap.

By using both qualitative and quantitative user research, you'll get the full picture of what your users need—and make improvements that really move the needle for your business.

Combine Engage with other tools like Recordings to get even more from your user interviews

6 times to conduct user interviews and analysis

Now that you know how easy it is to conduct and analyze user interviews, there’s no reason not to use them throughout the entire development process. Here are six times user interviews can help you stay close to your target audience and unlock empathetic, actionable insights.

  1. 📋 Before building a new product or feature: schedule user interviews to do market research, understand your target audience’s pain points, and learn what they’re looking for from a product.

  2. 🔬 At the concept testing phase: use user interviews to validate assumptions about your concept or prototype before you invest resources into building them

  3. 🤔 When your product is in beta: leverage user interviews as part of your usability testing phase to understand the user experience and get crucial feedback to make your product or design more user-friendly.

  4. 🧑‍🚀 Pre-launch: once you’re ready to launch your new product or feature, conduct user interviews to understand whether the messaging in your marketing campaign resonates with your target audience.

  5. 🚀 Post-launch: run user interviews after users have had a chance to engage with your new product, feature, or design to get their honest feedback, so you can continuously iterate and improve.

  6. 📉 When you notice something wrong: spotted something in your session recordings or heatmaps that you want to investigate? Noticed a suspicious change in your conversion rate or a drop-off in your funnels? User interviews are a great way to talk to real users to understand what could be driving these changes.

Engage allowed us to make user testing a habit and a truly fun thing to do by taking care of the painful parts. Engage repeatedly connected me with people with just the right background, allowing us to focus solely on testing.
Product Manager at One Identity
We got much closer to users than we have ever been able to before. The insights gathered continually help us better understand their needs and create experiences that truly help them achieve their goals.
UX Lead at Silentnight
Engage helps us iterate drastically faster on our designs. Preparation for user tests used to take at least two working days, including screening & recruiting. Since we started to use Engage, this takes us only half a day.
Product Manager at Skyscanner

Why you need to make user interviews and analysis a regular part of your workflow

While user interviews are an empathetic, user-focused research method, they have traditionally been time-consuming to schedule and run, particularly when you’re doing one-to-one interviews. In the past, parsing through recordings to find the exact nuggets you needed would take time—as would finding ways to synthesize the data gleaned across multiple interviews.

Now that it’s easier than ever to conduct user interviews and turn your insights into actions, there’s no reason not to use them for all of your pressing research questions. Here are three compelling reasons to incorporate user interviews and analysis into your workflow.

📖 Want to become a pro interviewer? Check out our tips for mastering user interviews.

Enrich any research project with regular user interviews

User interviews uncover unique insights that help you empathize with your users, but to unlock their true potential, they need to be analyzed properly. Use the tactics outlined above to transform your user interview data from notes on a page into tangible improvements that delight your users.

Effortlessly schedule, run, and analyze user interviews with Hotjar

Hotjar Engage makes it easy to recruit participants, schedule and host your user interview, and share the results with stakeholders to drive decision-making. 

FAQs about how to analyze user interviews