Qualitative User Research vs. Quantitative User Research

Both, qualitative and quantitative user research plays a very important part in the design cycle of any product or service. While on one hand, Quantitative User Research informs the business about benchmarking programs and ROI calculations, on the other hand, Qualitative Research provides the basis for the design flow and process. Qualitative is commonly referred to as “Qual” while quantitative is commonly known as “Quant”.

Let’s begin with distinguishing between the two. The kind of questions each of these researches seek to answer and the kind of data and information they want to derive is very different from one another. In fact, their respective names are the best examples of what they mean. Qualitative User Research is to get data and information that is rich in quality while Quantitative User Research focuses on numbers and the quantity of information. Qualitative Research method answers questions like “how many?” or “how much?” and the Qualitative Research method answers “why?”. Qualitative Research helps in exploring and understanding user opinion and feedback, their pain points, their perspective about the brand, etc. while Quantitative User Research uses data that can be measured numerically.

Here are a few effective Qualitative User Research techniques

The sole agenda of Qual is to gather may be less in number but definitely high in quality data.

Moderated & unmoderated user research

You can collect Qual data from your participants by asking them to perform a certain task. Moderated user research is when you are physically present with the participant and are observing every minute step they take. However, on the other hand, unmoderated user research is when you ask a participant to perform a task without anybody else in the research lab. It is noticed that unmoderated user research is faster, cheaper, and very easy as compared to moderated tests.

In-depth interview sessions

These are professional sessions set up usually in research labs with both the participant and the moderator present. The moderator comes with a set of questions and the participants have to answer those questions or perform those tasks and give their input and feedback about the same. This helps the moderator get complete exposure to understand every single action of the participant. To compile data which includes capture points from facial expressions to body language and even the way participants respond while performing a particular task is very rich in quality.

Participant observation

The purest form of conducting user research is to face to face observe participants preferably in their natural environment or a place of their comfort and extracting as much as information as possible. Here, even if participants miss to report something while they are performing a particular task, the moderators are physically present to capture that missed point. This method helps in extracting accurate and useful data which is very high in quality.

So it is clear that Qual is very effective and efficient in capturing data and refers to research done in the form of sharing comments, sharing thoughts and feedback, observation, and understanding user behaviour.

Here are a few effective Quantitative User Research techniques

The reason businesses conduct Qual User Research is to get a report of results that can be numerically measured and is high in quantity.

Eye-tracking

This method requires certain types of technological advances tools that use heat mapping software to track the eye movement of users and how their eyes move on a particular website or application while they interact with that particular page. Eye-tracking methods help researchers measure in time for long is a particular user gazing at a particular spot. This helps moderators and researchers understand what attracts the participants and gets them to roll their eyeballs towards a certain spot.

Benchmarking

Benchmarking enables businesses to track the usability progress of a particular product or service over a period of time checking various benchmarks. Whether it is noting the average time taken to make a purchase by a user or calculating the success rate to complete a task or even keeping a track of the number of clicks done to complete a particular task, these answers should be quantified and a report about the same should be created. Once you have these numbers you can start comparing it to other data available in the market to get an idea of what is good and what is a band and where your brand, product or service stands in terms of numbers.

Card sorting

In card sorting, participants are handed over labeled cards and asked to sort them and organize them in a way that they are grouped based on how appropriate which group is to validate that card. This technique helps in creating workflows, website or application navigation, design information architecture, etc. Card sorting is relatively cheaper than many other user research methodologies and is mainly used to understand how would a participant or user channelize and structure data based on their logic and intelligence.

Every User Research method has its own set of pros and cons, benefits, strengths, and weaknesses. You must first identify the goal and agenda of the user research you wish to conduct and then wisely select a user research method or technique which will help you achieve maximum results.

Now that we know about what Qual and Quant user research is and the kind of methodologies used in them lets have a look at the benefits of both user researches.

Benefits of Qualitative User Research

l Gives an in-depth understanding of what users feel about a particular product or service.

l This is emotionally driven so the chances of extracting pure and real data is very high.

l Participants may find expressing their feeling and thoughts more comfortable as compared to ticking and selecting numbers to validate their thought.

l This gives you an answer to why users perform a task in a particular way as compared to getting just a numerical representation of data of the pain points.

Benefits of Quantitative User Research

l Qual data is easy to gather and does not require continuous moderation.

l As this method has more to do with a large number of participants they are taken as a representation of the population and not just and individual.

l This helps justify investments made by the company.

l Gives a complete statistical overview of the business.

Both, Qualitative User Research and Quantitative User Research aim at achieving the same goal and end result, and very often data from both these methodologies helps businesses grow and make the right amendments.

In conclusion

This article has given an overview of the two i.e Qual and Quant User Research methodologies, their benefits, and the different types of techniques in them. You can select the method of your choice based on your business requirement and agenda. Also, you can use multiple methods to measure similar outcomes. If you wish to create great designs that make a positive impact on your audience consider user research as an integral part of your business model and create products and services that validate and are liked by the users you are catering to. This not only helps in solving real user problems but also helps businesses get first-hand information on what their users feel about their product or service and make the required changes.