As you can see, quantitative research can be extremely valuable, but only tells one side of the customers’ story. Qualitative research completes the picture by providing the “why” to the numerical data. That said, the goal of qual research is to get a better understanding of human behavior, specifically in relation to how people use your product. As stated before, the “data” yielded in this type of research is subjective. Collecting evidence of users’ behaviors, opinions, feelings and motivations are some examples of qualitative research objectives. Commonly used ways of gathering this information include conducting group discussions, in-person interviews, and shadow sessions, which are used to evaluate the useability of an app or website. Below, we’ll explore these methods in detail.
To start, user interviews are a great way of getting qualitative feedback about your product or service. For one, they’re relatively fast and easy. They can help determine what parts of your site are memorable and what content resonates with users. They are also good for gathering users’ suggestions for improvements. One thing to remember, though, is that user interviews are conducted to learn more about users' perceptions of our product, and not its useability.
Another effective technique is conducting a focus group. As the name implies, focus groups are conducted by facilitating a group of people with a specific focus and are more open-ended or discursive than user interviews. The value of this comes from the associations and interactions that happen between the participants. Focus groups are great for learning more about what people perceive, how they feel, and what they believe.
Finally, Shadow sessions (sometimes referred to as “shadowing”) are a great way of understanding the current, “as-is'' state of the problem that you’re trying to fix. Shadowing is carried out by observing a person as they use an application and having them explain what they’re doing and why. This method centers around questioning your users’ and stakeholders’ current understanding of the application and its function. The purpose of this is to gain a deeper understanding and empathy of the end-users, specifically to figure out the “why” behind their attitudes and behaviors.
All of these research methods help to give a more nuanced understanding of the end-user and will afford insights that quantitative research can’t. Qualitative data helps designers and stakeholders make informed decisions about how their site or app is used instead of having to guess or rely on intuition. These methods can be used at any time during a product's development or deployment because they are both formative (can help shape development) and summative (can evaluate an existing product).