Guide to Creating Website Information Architecture and Content :: Version 2.2 :: 01.22.09
Activity: Conducting user interviews and creating data sheets
Interviews can help you understand users and what they come to your site to ﬁnd.
Interviewing users helps you to ﬁlter out your personal habits and focus instead on
the behaviors and motivations of your target audiences.
In Step 1, you prioritized the target audiences of the site. While a strong preference
should be given to your primary target audience, you should select a variety of
interviewees from each of your audiences to get a reliable sampling of visitor
behaviors and characteristics.
If you cannot conduct interviews, you can still use the questions below to help you
imagine the characteristics and needs of your users. Interviewing seven to 10 users
(real and/or imagined) is usually sufﬁcient to represent the majority of relevant user
traits and goals.
First, collect general information about each of your interviewees. Below are
examples of the kinds of information you might want to gather. You may not need to
gather all of this information as some elements may not be relevant to your project.
Name • Profession/Role (e.g., faculty, administrator, reporter, student) • Location •
Geographic proﬁle (including if he/she comes from a suburb or a city) • Education
• Interests/sports/hobbies • Family type (e.g., single/married, number of children,
number of children in college) • Financial aid needs • Type of computer the
individual uses to access information (desktop, laptop, PDA, cell phone) • Web
browsers the individual uses • Type of Internet connection the individual has (dial-
up, cable, etc.)
Second, ﬁnd out about the interviewee’s goals upon visiting your site:
What does the individual really want to accomplish? • What type of information does
the individual seek? • Does the individual need certain areas of the site to be secure
(e.g., entering ﬁnancial and personal data)? What impression does the individual
want to have upon exiting the site?
If you are redesigning an existing site, you should ask these additional
What does the individual like about the existing site? What frustrates the individual
in the current site? Is the content written in a way that the individual understands?
Now, create data sheets for your interview ﬁndings:
Once you have completed this exercise, you will need to create data sheets (see
the illustration on the next page) for each of the interviews. Data sheets are active
tools. They build a common understanding of users’ objectives and remind the
development team — at each stage of the process — to consider these needs. The
data sheets can include a photo or drawing to represent your user, and a sampling
of key information to remind you about his or her goals, needs and interests.
/ Who, what, why
/ Stakeholder goals
/ User goals
+ data sheets
/ Content areas
/ Site map
/ What’s next
(continued on the next page)
1 “Persona Creation and Usage Toolkit” (George Olsen)