I'm planning a round of user interviews.

However, my client's working on a product for helping people identify and handle various legal issues, so I'm concerned that interviewing people about this problem space will be difficult, given that I'll likely have to ask about sensitive or highly personal information (various legal issues people face (not like criminal charges, but, for example, housing issues or marital disputes)).

What advice do you all have on investigating problems spaces like this? How would I go about conducting interviews with people while respecting / not impinging on their privacy re: these likely sensitive topics?


3 Answers 3


There's some good literature available about interviewing on sensitive topics. Following are the links:

Paper - Interviewing people about potentially sensitive topics

Article - Undertaking Sensitive Research: Issues and Strategies for Meeting the Safety Needs of All Participants

Some of the common points outlined are:

  1. Appropriate use of self disclosure

  2. Creatting a comfortable environment for interview

  3. Good understanding of the protocols and procedures when interviewing on sensitive information (This isimportant when dealing with legal matters)

  4. Consider the timing of the interviews - Is the interviewee still distressed? Are they feeling safe at that time?
  5. Appropriate assessment of risk

Hope this helps!

  • Hi! Sorry for my super late response. Thanks for pointing me to those resources. And thanks for drawing up that outline; super helpful! Feb 17, 2017 at 13:08
  • Most welcome! :)
    – Adit Gupta
    Feb 17, 2017 at 16:44

although there is no specific set of instructions for user research, I can give you few suggestions that would be helpful. 1. instead of asking directly you can create a scenario with some dummy names and ask them to give the verdict. Be careful that you are biased and never give options for the user and ask him to pick one instead ask him to answer in his terminology. 2. also you can get few users who can do this just find them.


Using vignettes studies in survey research can help with sensible topics since provides a less personal response and therefore less threatening way of exploring sensitive topics.

You can learn how to use them here: http://www.slideshare.net/jameslittlerose/vignettes-in-survey-research

Other topic you can follow here on UX StackExchange, about vignette studies, is this one: Capturing UX using Factorial vignette studies

  • Oh, very cool, I hadn't heard of vignette studies, I'll check those out. Thanks for letting me know! And I apologize for my delayed response! Feb 17, 2017 at 13:09
  • @ZackMcCartney Glad to help :) Feb 17, 2017 at 13:11

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