5 Why's interview illustration

Lead paragraph

The 5 Why’s tool can be used independently or combined with other tools to get to the core of a person’s beliefs, motivations and values.

PREPARATION: 1-3 hours
DURATION: 15-45 minutes interview
TEMPLATE OR GUIDELINES: Create own guidelines
FACILITATORS: 1 -3, design team members
RESOURCES: Notebook, photo camera, voice recorder, video camera
PARTICIPANTS: 5, Users, employees, or other stakeholders

By using the 5 Why’s interviews, designers tap into human and emotional roots of a problem. Designers conduct the 5 Why’s interview with users, employees, or any other relevant stakeholders to get answers to complicated issues that are relevant to the design challenge.


Define the focus of what you are interested in and consider what you want to do with the findings (build personas, journey maps, system maps, etc.).

Based on the selected focus area, define the criteria for selecting suitable participants.

Think about how you will recruit the participants, what expectations will be set up-front, how you will start and end, and how much time they are expected to dedicate to this activity.

After deciding the best times, length and depth of the interview, start by asking open and non-leading questions about your Interview participant’s habits or behaviours then ask ‘Why’ to their response five times in a row. The aim of asking five times ‘Why’ is to reach depth and latent motivations (e.g. you can start with, What are your daily routines?).

Write up key learnings right afterwards. Review all the data and highlight important issues. Pay special attention to moments when it feels like you reached a deeper level of understanding of why the person does something. Make a short summary that includes the key findings and examples from the data that exemplify these, such as quotes, photos, or videos.

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