How to Use Qualitative Research to Improve User Experience

by | Jul 6, 2017 | Market Research, User Experience

Using user research to improve user experience requires ensuring your research reflects users’ opinions and behaviours rather than your own research bias. Some think quantitative research is thus better than qualitative research, because it relies on numbers. But the two research methods use different approaches for different outcomes. Here are three ways to use qualitative research to improve user experience:

1.Use Qualitative Research To Find Useful User Response Themes And Categories

Quantitative and qualitative user research differ thus:

In quantitative research, researchers use methods such as surveys and user-based metrics (such as time on page for website traffic) to obtain statistical data to guide decisions. A researcher might measure, for example, what percentage of randomly chosen visitors clicked a sign-up button after a change to a website or app’s layout. Objective, metric data is used to determine results.

Qualitative research depends more on the researcher’s interpretation. It uses interviews or user testing, requiring researchers to interpret users’ responses. This enables researchers to find common patterns and themes in responses (such as ‘it took too long to find page item x’). It’s thus useful for pinpointing usability issues designers may have missed, for example, and not just measuring and understanding performance metrics.

2.Use Qualitative Research When You Don’t Yet Have Enough Information

A key difference between quantitative and qualitative research is that qualitative methods are effective when you don’t yet know a lot about the topic you’re researching.

If you don’t yet know, for example, what problems visitors to your website have, or the themes and categories of their issues (such as navigation confusion), you don’t know what quantitative questions to ask (e.g. ‘How long do you think signing up should take?’)

Qualitative research allows you to find answers that cannot be reduced to numbers. Because quantitative research requires large numbers of participants for accuracy, qualitative is also better when you have a smaller pool of users to test.

3.Use Best Practices In Qualitative User Research

Qualitative research is only effective for improving user experience when it yields actionable user experience insights. To do so, it must:

  • Be free from bias: you need to analyse user feedback systematically to avoid assumptions based on expectations, for example
  • Use intersubjective knowledge: multiple people should interpret the qualitative data you gather to avoid results conforming to a single person’s perspective. One way to ensure this is to share your analysis with research participants, as they may point out false conclusions or assumptions
  • Adequate to the user experience you’re investigating: choose a user research method (such as usability testing or interviews) that best suits the goal of your research (for example, understanding and removing website navigation issues)

Do you find qualitative user research overwhelming? Contact Interact RDT today for help.


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