We all know the difference. Basically. Read on for a quick and to the point description of quantitative and qualitative research.
In order to apply statistical calculations you need numbers. Website visits or page views are two examples. Surveys and questionnaires are the most popular methods to gather the information. Web analytics are a good source of information for digital products. Data is mostly gathered indirectly.
A fairly big amount of people has to be interviewed so that the results can be generalized (or be reliable or representative). If we question only a few people our conclusions could be the result of coincidence. For example, if I ask only 5 people how often they use Internet on their phone they might all answer “never”. The conclusion that people don´t use internet on their phone would be a bad one and would be the result of bad sampling (asking too little or the wrong people or only a specific group of people) or asking the wrong questions.
Quantitative research basically relies on quantifiable data (numbers) and tries to answer the how many and how much type of questions.
Quantitative research in Ux
We often assume that there is not much space for quantitative methods in Ux because UX designers are after more interested in complex aspects of human life such as behaviour, needs, believes. However, attitudes and behavior can be analyzed through statistics. I can statistically calculate the average mean of happiness in a population and its standard deviation by assigning the numbers 1 to 5 to the answers, 1 being very unhappy and 5 being super happy. Numbers however often don’t tell the whole story making it difficult to analyze more subtile behaviors. Don’t discard quantitative research yet. If you want to find out how much or how many then quantitative methods are great. How many people hit the “sign up” button after I changed its position and design? How well does the redesigned website performs compared to the old version? It suites best to measure performance and is often applied in the very beginning or at the very end of the development process.
Quantitative methods in Ux:
- surveys, focus groups, analytics (initial assessment)
- usability benchmarking, online assessments, surveys, A/B testing (performance testing)
It explores the subject of study more in detail. The researcher directly observes how people use technology (or not) to understand problems, behaviour patterns, shortcuts, etc. The researcher has the ability to ask questions, probe on behavior or possibly even adjust the study protocol to better meet its objectives. Analysis of the data is usually not mathematical.Results are organized and categorized to discover patterns in behavior and relations between different pieces of information.
Qualitative research gathers more in depth information about needs, behaviors, attitudes, believes by answering the why or the how type of questions.
Qualitative research in UX
Inspire, explore and choose new directions and opportunities.
Qualitative research is a useful and popular tool to discover technological trends, explore concepts, to find opportunities for innovative solutions, discover behaviour patterns and user goals and spot opportunities for development. It allows the UX designer to get an in-depth understanding of the user. This helps enormously to tailor a digital product to the real needs, expectations and behaviours of users. Quantitative research also optimises design in order to reduce risk and improve usability.
Quantitative methods in UX
- open interviews, ethnographic research, contextual inquiry, diary studies (to explore)
- card-sorting, field studies, participatory design, paper prototype and usability studies, desirability studies, customer emails (reduce risk and improve design)
This was a short recap of the two just to remember the main important differences. Tomorrow we will look at which to apply which method.
Read on for day 3: Understand your research objectives