What are the best practices to document interviews with users - do you just document the conclusions and take aways or do you do a full transcript or both?

4 Answers 4


I would guess that anyone actually working in UX would not have the time to do a full transcript for each interview.

I typically get permission to record the interview with my phone and make a few short notes from time to time as i go. I will listen to the full recording later in case I missed something important. I find a simple spreadsheet document with a sheet for each interviewee each containing a column for the questions, another for the corresponding responses works well.

In the rare event that I can't get them to let me record, then I simply need to work harder on live note-taking and lose a lot of the 'conversation' element of the interview.

When presenting findings to others, I naturally I summarize the important points with some visual data like pie charts etc. alongside some key quotes from the interviews - I sometimes tie them to personas.

Hope this helps.

  • A recording is useful if you need to double check stuff. If you've got a budget for it, getting someone else to transcribe it makes it quicker to find key content than having to wade through hours of recordings. Taking notes is essential to capture points that you need to clarify in the course of the interview.
    – PhillipW
    Sep 17, 2012 at 10:52

There is no best practice :-)

You're doing a user interview for a purpose. The output from that interview needs to be something that's fit for that purpose.

For example, currently we're doing some user interviews to validate some assumptions we've made about how a particular product idea will be used. All we're doing there is taking some notes during the interview on post-it notes, heaving them up on the wall back at the office, and affinity diagraming the heck out of 'em. Because doing any more than that would be a pointless waste for our context.

Always approach deliverables like any other UX problem. What's your working context? What does the end-user of the output from your user interviews need? That'll give you the clues you need to figure out the best deliverable (if any - a conversation might be best - depends on your context).

  • +1 for "approach deliverables like any other UX problem" Sep 17, 2012 at 9:15

Typical user interviews have two aspects:

  1. Documentation for conducting the research : This includes, at minimum the Interview Discussion Guide, Consent form, Screener questionnaire and Compensation form.

  2. Documenting the actual user interviews: The fastest method for us has been to convert the entire Google sheet to a Google form (for Quantitative insights) and leaving 'short answer' format for qualitative insights. This method leads to automated time stamping, compiling and data viz.

Another way is to utilise two colour post it (for user testing) where Colour 1 captures observational with timestamp insights and colour 2 signifies direct insight (a comment/clause) from the user's end.


A full transcript isn't necessary if the session is recorded - instead, I've always delivered user testing results in the following broad format:

  • The essential takeaways; identifiable actions and conclusions
  • Answers to the key questions set out in the test plan; augmented with direct quotes and cases only if they elucidate the argument
  • Table of tasks, detailing how successful users were in completing each action
  • Elements that still require clarification or further testing

If you feel that isn't quite enough for your stakeholders, something else you can do is invite them to observe a session remotely with the observer. This is a good opportunity for them to converse with the observer and for the observer to hopefully make the case for UX's claims.

  • Oh, thanks for your answer. My question was more about user interviews in order to understand for examples the scenarios behind using a website than regular usability tests. Sep 16, 2012 at 19:17
  • @TonyBolero - in that case, most of the same remains valid - present people with conclusions and answers to the questions you identified as necessary to answer, and quote users only when it elucidates your argument. You'll usually have a recording anyway, so a transcript is still unnecessary. Sep 16, 2012 at 20:48

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