User (UX) research< User (UX) research<

User (UX) research

There are two sides to the creative process. You can create an amazing product, but if you don’t put it out into the world, you’ll never know what others think about it. The more feedback you get, the more you’ll be able to fine-tune your operations. And, ultimately, the more successful you — and your company — will become.

The best way to anticipate how your product or service will be received is through user research. Learning who your consumers are and how you should market your product to them will improve your service/product and, simply put, give the people what they want.

This guide will walk you through the different types of user research and how you can use it to build your business and create mutually beneficial feedback methods.

Here are some of the topics we’ll cover:

  • The types of questions should you ask in user research
  • Why you should ask these questions
  • How conducting user research can take your business to the next level
  • How to use the data you gather to your advantage

Once you’ve conducted user research, you’ll be able to have constructive and collaborative conversations with your team members about how to proceed with a project and, on a larger scale, how to shape your business’s present and future.

We’ll go over everything you need to know to conduct effective user research, including

  • What user research is
  • The different steps that comprise user research and what you need to understand to perform them
  • Classifications of user research, their components, and the different results they produce
  • The technical aspects of user research and how they apply to your business’s functions
  • A platform where you can store the results of your user research and the types of data collection available

Let’s get started.

What is user research?

You can’t apply a concept before you understand exactly what it is you’re doing and the right ways to do it. This especially applies to the work you perform to better your business. You don’t want to do any unnecessary tinkering that throws you off track.

Once your product or service goes public, you’re going to start developing a reputation. Understanding what your users are saying about you, how they’re likely to react to new ideas, and how they engage overall with your business is important — and that’s where user research comes in. 

User research is the process of gathering information about your users’ desires, tendencies, and emotions. Though it’s valuable throughout, user research is usually performed toward the beginning of a project. This way, you can put what you learn into action to move from idea to reality. 

There are lots of different user research methods and experiments to try. Once you classify the type of data you’re gathering, plug it into an appropriate test. Or you can target a specific part of a project or your overall business, and conduct research to get feedback on how it’s performing. 

This is the benefit of user research — because no two companies’ users are the same, you’re going to get results unique to your business to help chart a path forward.

Why you should invest in user research

You spend a significant amount of time thinking about how your business is going to make your life better and earn money, and understandably so. But it’s important to take a step back and consider the customer side of the equation. 

User research provides a 360-degree look at how your product can make your users’ lives better. Plus, with outside feedback, you can limit any bias you might have. People are more likely to feel drawn to you and your business if you work to build an emotional connection.

Make user research an inclusive process

User research should be a team effort. By reaching out to the different members of your team throughout the user research process, you can ensure that you’re conducting the right tests. For example, someone on the technical side of your team might raise a point about the functionality of your product that you hadn’t thought about before, making the questions you’re asking even better.

However, there’s a difference between getting actionable feedback and getting feedback that doesn’t help you improve your business. Involving your team in the design process fosters a sense of togetherness, creates motivation to get usable results, and lets everyone in your company know that they have a stake.

Product benefits of user research

Let’s say your company is launching a new product in a crowded market. You believe that your version of this product will be better than your competitors’. Conducting user research is a great way to make sure it is. In the preliminary design stages, ask users what they like and don’t like about similar services or products, making sure that what you offer reaches any previously set expectations.

If you don’t ask these questions, you’re going to have uncertainty throughout the design process, and you’ll probably have to engage in some guesswork. That’s not smart business practice, especially when you have consumers as a resource. 

You’ve probably heard of companies building something, launching it, and people not buying it. If you don’t understand why you’re building something — or, should it be unsuccessful, why your customers didn’t respond well to it — you’re bound to repeat the same mistakes. 

On the flip side, if you launch a successful product and want to release an updated version, conducting user research to figure out what worked well the first time can inform your processes in improving the design and save you time and money.

How do customers benefit from user research?

It’s important to put yourself in the mind of a consumer during the user research process. Think about the types of things you want when you interact with a company and what you expect out of the things you buy. Thinking this way not only helps you understand how to market your business, but it can also assist with big picture thinking about how the questions you’re asking will benefit your users.

There’s a delicate balance in this process, however. While it’s important to listen to your users and be proactive in anticipating their needs, no one knows your product better than you. Asking thoughtful and in-depth questions of your users — while following the instincts that got you where you are — is going to elicit more reliable information and, in the end, deliver a better product.

Plus, when you engage your users, they’ll be part of the team that makes up your business. No one wants to feel like the businesses and products we invest our money in don’t care about us. The two-way process of user research gives users the peace of mind that their money, time, and resources are well spent.

How to conduct user research

We’ve defined user research and explored the benefits it offers your company and consumers. Now it’s time to turn that knowledge into action. Once you have a good understanding of user research, start to think about how you can mold it to your business and the types of things you’re hoping to learn.

Thankfully, there are guidelines you can follow to make sure your user research leads to actionable results. Here are the different steps involved in the user research process that we’ll dive into:

  1. Objectives. What do you hope to accomplish? What do you want to discover?
  2. Hypothesis. How will what you think about your users influence your research?
  3. Methods. What is your research capacity? How will you proceed?
  4. Conduct. Gather data, research, answers, and anything else that you’ve decided should be part of your research process.
  5. Synthesize. Examine the data, paying attention to how it aligns with what you originally expected. Find opportunities to use this information for your future product design.

Each of these steps is very involved. And that makes sense — to get the most out of user research, you have to put in the work. A great hypothesis followed by weak data gathering isn’t going to tell you much. That’s why it’s important to understand the different components of user research and the things you should do to ensure fruitful results. 

Set your objectives 

Once you’ve decided to conduct user research, think about what you’re hoping users will tell you. Why did you decide to do user research? The reason will help you better design the next steps. 

After all, your objectives are the why of your research — they’re the foundation you can turn to throughout the process. You’re doing user research for a reason, so don’t be afraid to get deep into the details about that reason.

Brainstorm

When deciding what you want from your research, don’t go at it alone. Earlier, we mentioned the benefits of teamwork in user research. This is where you can put that into practice

Ask your team what they’d like to know. Think about questions or exercises to conduct with your users to target certain areas of your business or get a general understanding of your overall reputation.

There are many different variables to consider when deciding how to carry out your research. Certain users are more likely to engage with certain factors, so make sure your research targets the right people. 

Just as you have clear reasons for doing user research, you also know why you decided to create the new product or service you’re doing research for. See if you can find things that will reinforce your decision — or turn your attention to blind spots.

Don’t get overwhelmed

We all tend to do too much. In the objectives phase of user research, it’s certainly important to have clear goals and think about all of the angles. But if you cast too wide a net, your research could become unfocused

If there are things you feel absolutely must be included in your research, set up multiple studies to break things down.

Creating hypotheses

There are things that only you and your team members know about your business and internal operations. However, if you operate your business solely based on these ideas, you’re not going to innovate. It’s time to form hypotheses

Hypotheses, in this instance, are no different than what you learned in science class. But in this case, a hypothesis refers to things you think about your business and how the user research you’re going to carry out will either reinforce these ideas or open you up to new insights.

Types of hypotheses

The type of information you’re asking your users for will shape the type of hypotheses you generate. If you want to find out whether your users will act or interact with your product in a certain way, form behavior-related hypotheses. 

If you’re studying how users feel about a certain thing or how they’re influenced by marketing, make attitude-based hypotheses. And if you’re looking into the popularity of certain things your business offers and how they affect user decision-making, you’ll be making feature-based hypotheses.

Regardless of how you arrive at your hypotheses, carrying out this step in the user research process is essential. It can also be extremely beneficial. Verbalizing exactly what you think others are going to say about your business could be a discovery process about how you and your team see your operations internally and how you think you’re perceived. 

You might not have these types of conversations on a day-to-day basis — all the more reason to take the time to be thorough and think critically. 

How to form a hypothesis

Once you’ve defined your objectives, it’s time to use your brainstorming sessions to predict what you’re going to find out. 

To form a hypothesis, look to the objectives you set and think about what the answers to these objectives might be. From these answers, you can form hypotheses that clearly define how you expect this information gathering to play out.

Once you have clear ideas as to how your research will go, you’ll likely be more accurate in designing the methods to conduct your research.

Devising methods

We’ve talked about how to define your objectives and how to predict the result of your user research. Now it’s time to devise methods consistent with the work you’ve performed to make sure what you’ve done in theory will be carried out in practice.

This is an important step in the process because it’s the last one that happens before you do your research. That’s why you need to be certain about the type of research you want to do, why you’re doing it, and how you’re going to do it.

There are different methods and thought processes for going about user research, and it all depends on what your objectives are. 

If you want to discover information about your users, you’ll probably want to conduct surveys or interviews of individual people and record their responses. This is known as qualitative research.

But if you’re after numbers and statistics, like projected sales figures or the number of customers buying a certain product, you’ll want to lean on mathematical analysis through polls or questionnaires. This is known as quantitative research. We’ll get more into both qualitative and quantitative research later.

Consider the variables

There’s a difference between a hypothetical and how something plays out. You could have a perfect plan, but if you don’t think about the different things that could affect your research, you’re not going to have a satisfying result. 

If your goal is to reach 60 of your users, consider when you’re going to reach out to them and the time frame needed to accomplish this task. If you’re entering a busy season with your business overall, make sure you budget the right amount of time for your research so you don’t sell yourself short. 

Remember, things you didn’t plan for are going to arise in the middle of your research. What matters is how you respond.

Conducting user research

You’ve done all the necessary prep work. Now it’s time to gather your data and put your plans into action. This should be a relatively pain-free process, as you’ve done all you need to get ready. You’ve created schedules for your research, classified who you’re reaching out to and who on your team is responsible for each task, and considered the types of questions you want to ask. 

Before you do your research, look over your methods once more to make sure everything is in place. Are your prepared questions concise and easy to understand? Are your mathematical models positioned to gather accurate results?

Once you’re ready to proceed, the only thing that’s left to think about is how you’re going to store all of this information. Don’t be afraid to look for outside help categorizing and storing your user research data. 

With Jotform’s easy-to-use Form Builder, you can customize form templates to fit your needs. You can also import data from other third-party platforms like HubSpot or Salesforce that your business uses as part of its operations. 

Throughout this user research stage, your progress and information collection will be fluid. Make sure you have the right forms and data storage mechanisms in place. This will help you keep the process running smoothly and allow for easy access when you want to look back at your results.

Synthesize your results

Once you’ve finished gathering your research, it’s time to analyze what you found and draw conclusions. Before you get too far into this process, schedule a meeting with your team to present your results in their raw form. 

Ask them what they make of the collected data and if it reflects what they anticipated at the start of the process. This way, you can decide how to organize things and see if the research you produced matches what you thought it might when you created your hypotheses.

Why synthesize?

It’s important to remember that there’s a distinction between presenting a bunch of numbers or interview transcripts and presenting actual findings from these methods. When organizing your user research, do the latter so that you have a concrete understanding of what you’ve found. 

Think about how to present the information and the different ways it can be represented. If your findings show that a particular answer came up often in interviews, create a graphic or word cloud to illustrate this. 

If you conducted numerical research, make graphs or charts that show different trends in the results. This way, when you look back at your research for reference, you’ll have no trouble accessing results and remembering what you were thinking at the time. 

Plus, varying how you organize your information is visually pleasing, and, by mixing up how your research reads, you can highlight important data that might otherwise get buried.

Taking stock of your user research

The user research process requires a lot of care, communication, and collaboration between everyone on your team. When done correctly, you’ll get invaluable information about your business’s users and financials that can help steer you to future success.

That said, make sure you understand the language of user research, so that collaboration and communication remains on track. In the next section, we’ll get into this language and the different types of research and the various tests you can conduct to get detailed and actionable results.

Quantitative user research

Numbers are all around us. Without numbers, we wouldn’t know how much money we have in our wallet or how much a plane ticket for a beach vacation costs. Numbers guide our lives and provide order.

In business, numbers signify how you’re faring. They’re what you look at to inform your future direction and closely examine your operations.

There are different ways to produce your own numbers. You can gather hard data and devise mathematical techniques to survey and poll your users. This is known as quantitative user research.

In this section, we’ll take a look at quantitative user research, its benefits, and the different tests you can conduct.

What is quantitative user research?

Quantitative user research refers to the gathering of data through mathematical, statistical, or computational formulas. Think about quantitative user research as an investigation.

Remember when we talked about how to set objectives and expectations for what your research will produce? If you decide through this process that you’d like to take a sample of your users and generate numeric data like customer base or sales projections, then it’s quantitative user research you’re after.

Classifying quantitative user research

It’s important to understand the different components that make up quantitative user research.

There are certain terms you should be aware of. Let’s define them:

  • Sample size. In quantitative user research, you’re going to target a specific number of people. Figuring out your sample size is key to determining which quantitative user research method will produce the best results. We’ll get more into those specific methods later in this section.
  • Population. Where sample size refers to the specific people you’re surveying, population refers to the total number of people you have to choose from to form your sample size. It’s helpful to identify your population early in the process. While it’s unlikely you’ll survey an entire population, you can use this information to single out the specific groups of people you want to target in your research.
  • Quantitative data. Quantitative data is your safety net. Numbers are absolute — there’s no disputing them. Use this to your advantage in devising your user research methods. At the end of the process, you’ll have concrete data to analyze. Most of the time, this type of data is represented by charts, graphs, or tables. This is part of the synthesizing process we talked about earlier, where you shape your raw data into a presentable and digestible format.
  • Closed-ended questions. Your objectives are your user research roadmap. You’ve determined what you’re hoping to find out by conducting research. You’ve also determined the type of data you want to produce. The best way to do this is to ask closed-ended questions that don’t leave any room for uncertainty.

Quantitative user research comes in different forms

We’ll look at specific methods you can use to conduct quantitative user research later, but it’s important to understand the different types of quantitative user research before you decide which one to use. Let’s take a moment to broadly examine them all:

1. Survey research. Survey research is the most common quantitative user research tool. Every business wants to know what current and potential customers think of them, and conducting surveys is a great way to do that. Plus, you can zero in on specific sample sizes or several different groups. One thing to remember: These groups must consist of randomly selected members. This way, you’re sure to get a wide variety of responses and usable results.

2. Correlational research. Isaac Newton said it best: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Correlational research follows this idea — one thing in your business is going to affect the progress or efficiency of another. Correlational research allows you to study these effects and identify patterns and trends.

For example, if you decide you want to produce a product that requires a lot of steel, but you already have another product on the market that requires a significant amount of steel, you might do some research to see how this product is selling.

From there, you can explore how producing less of your existing product to make your new product will affect your business. Keep in mind, while this practice can provide insight, you should tread lightly in correlational research, using it more for supporting information, not as a primary decision-making tool.

3. Causal-comparative research. Parts of your business, like employee salaries, are constant, while other parts, like the amount of product you produce in a given month, are variable.

Causal-comparative research explores the cause-effect relationship between these independent and dependent variables. If your user research results show that there’s more of an appetite for one of your products than you originally thought, then you’re going to produce more of it and hopefully, sell more of it.

If you’re making more money, you can pay your employees more. In this instance, the dependent variable — how much you produce — increases, and the independent variable — the salary of your employees — increases as well.

Now that we understand the different forms quantitative user research takes, it’s important to understand the why how conducting quantitative user research can help your business provide the best results.

Why quantitative user research?

There are many benefits to quantitative user research. Let’s break them down:

1. It’s quick and easy.

Because of the types of questions you’re asking, it’s more than likely you’ll get results quickly. Imagine you’re developing a new product. The user research you conduct will be a major factor in deciding how to proceed, and you’re going to want this information as soon as possible so you can make decisions.

2. Checking your work is a cinch. 

In quantitative user research, you devise models and formulas to produce your results. This way, when you get these results, you can compare them to what you were expecting. Plus, you can make sure that the models you set up produce accurate results for future potential testing.

3. Randomization ensures unquestionable results. 

Sometimes, your users might answer the way they think you want them to. But with quantitative user research, you’re dealing with numbers, so you can eliminate bias.

4. Anonymity is your friend.

When conducting surveys, you shouldn’t require any of your participants to provide personal information. Keeping your respondents anonymous creates a trust factor. It’s more likely that people will give honest answers when they know that these answers won’t be traced back to them.

5. You can emphasize specificity. 

Your quantitative user research might focus on a very specific data point or piece of information you’re hoping to learn. This research produces data points you can use to understand user behavior and preferences and draw conclusions.

6. Broader studies mean better results.

Above all else, you want accurate results in your user research. And because of the nature of quantitative user research, the data you get won’t be open to interpretation. Keeping things black and white provides reassurance that you’ve asked the right questions and used the correct methods in your research.

Quantitative user research has far-ranging benefits for you and your team when it comes to making actionable decisions. But how should you go about conducting this research? And how do you decide which method is best for what you’re hoping to find out? Read on as we explore the different methods of quantitative user research and their advantages.

Choosing the right research method

Once you’ve determined the type of research that makes the most sense for your business, it’s time to decide how you’re going to gather your data. Let’s examine the different methods you can use to conduct the best quantitative user research possible.

Surveys

By far the most common quantitative user research method is the survey. Questions can range from the number of times a user does something in a week to the percentage of people who answer yes or no as to their preference for something your business offers.

Surveys are popular because they don’t cost much to put together and don’t take too much time to complete. You can create a survey and send it out via email or embed a survey on a website and share the link with your sample group.

When designing your survey, make sure the questions are clear and easy to understand so you don’t get faulty responses. Be mindful that your survey participants are providing you a service. Don’t make your survey too long — you don’t want respondents to lose interest or become frustrated.

Interviews

An interview has the advantage of verbal interaction with your respondents. You can choose the format too. Maybe it’s a simple list of questions, or perhaps you want to be more flexible.

If you’re asking questions, draft them beforehand. This can save you time and ensure that everyone in your sample receives the same experience. Use this format when there’s something specific you want to home in on.

Alternatively, maybe you’re willing to react on the fly in your interview and have a back-and-forth conversation. You should still prepare questions and anticipate what your respondents might say, but in this format, there’s room to improvise.

Plus, because you’re not committed to a certain interview length, the data you gather in an unstructured interview will likely be more in-depth and could reveal insights you hadn’t thought about.

Record

While record- and note-taking is a more impersonal exercise, that doesn’t mean it’s not useful. If you’re hoping to observe a trend over six months, making records and comparing them with your hypotheses can be effective. Comparing and contrasting how certain variables in a market are changing can provide information about how similar processes in your business might perform.

Records usually come in the form of statistics or numerical data. Because numbers never lie, you can be sure that whatever you’re categorizing is accurate.

Experimentation

If you want to determine cause-and-effect relationships, experimental research is the best method. Your experiments can be controlled, changed to fit your needs, or randomized depending on what you’re studying. Experimentation allows you to be flexible and specific in your testing design.

For example, if you want to test the effectiveness of one of your prototypes, you can give the original prototype to one group and a modified prototype to another, and then observe how each group responds. This is known as A/B testing. Let’s dig a little deeper into the concept.

Give yourself options with A/B testing

You have data, and you’ve worked out the kinks in your research design. But say you want to take things a step further and refine your research. That’s where A/B testing comes in.

A/B testing is a great way to measure user behavior. Here’s how it works. You have two control variables, and you want to see how users respond to each. If you tested just one version, you’d only have one set of results to rely on. By running a simultaneous experiment, you can generate two sets of results. This way, you can make decisions and act on the information that gives you the most favorable result.

The design stage of your user research process is where A/B testing is most useful. If you’ve narrowed down a few different options or methods to conduct your research but aren’t sure which to choose, why not pick both?

You’ve already done your homework in narrowing down the most effective research methods to use, so you can be fairly sure that you’ll get helpful results either way. Plus, limiting yourself to two or three design options ensures that things won’t be too complicated for your users.

A/B testing can also assist with functionality of a service on your website. You can ask people what they like or don’t like about the service, and based on this research, make adjustments. From there, you can do an A/B test to see whether your improvements work better than the original website feature and how your users respond to it.

This is the great thing about user research — it has many different uses, and there are several ways you can improve your effectiveness. A/B testing falls into this category, allowing you to clean up your user research process and giving you further confidence in your results.

Use the tools at your disposal

You can have all the knowledge in the world about how to conduct user research, but if you don’t have the right tools in place, you’re not going to get very far. With Jotform, you can optimize your user research processes and build forms for the many different methods we’ve discussed in this chapter.

Send out surveys

Jotform’s survey templates are great whether you’re asking for feedback or doing research. Even if you know exactly what you want to ask in your survey, manually creating and conducting a survey is tedious and takes time. Jotform has more than 280 customizable survey templates to choose from. You can add questions and even change the design of the survey to ensure it matches your company branding.

Get the most out of a questionnaire

Questionnaires allow you to get specific with the information you’re seeking. Compared to surveys, questionnaires are more open-ended, allowing you to play with your forms and ask different types of questions.

With Jotform, you can ask yes-or-no or fill-in-the-blank questions, include dropdown menus, and add text boxes for longer responses. With Jotform, you can add rating tables, customize your questions, and publish your questionnaire online.

Target your users directly

User testing is a specific form of user research. In this method, your goal is to get your users’ opinions about your product or service. If you’ve recently launched a new product, you can ask your users what they think of its rollout and effectiveness. You can also use a rating scale system to ask them questions about its quality.

And with Jotform’s user testing template, you can customize user questions and use different methods within your form to get diverse results. You’ll be able to record and tally responses easily and get a clear picture of your reputation among your users.

Quantitative user research — explained

Quantitative user research takes many different forms. You can mold it to your needs and fit it to suit your objectives. You can choose the method that works best for you, and from there, tinker with your processes to ensure the most usable and accurate results possible.

At the end of your user research, you’ll be left with representations of your data that you can carry with you in the next stage of your business development.

Qualitative user research

In the early 2000s, a specific type of reality show where unsuspecting people were filmed with hidden cameras rose to popularity. Shows like Punk’d captured celebrities in the midst of a prank, and the producers let the scene play out as if it were actually real.

While this was done for entertainment purposes, it was also sort of a social experiment. The viewer observed how someone reacted in a given situation and decided for themselves why they acted that way.

There were no scientists in lab coats on the set of Punk’d, but if there were, they’d probably note that exercises like these are a close cousin to what’s known as qualitative user research.

In the last section, we learned about quantitative user research, which concerns the “what” — quantifying your research with numbers and statistics. Now let’s focus on qualitative user research, which concerns the “why” — reasons people act the way they do and how their personal beliefs impact their thoughts about a given question or idea.

In business, qualitative user research is a valuable tool to figure out what makes your users tick. More specifically, qualitative user research is any research where you observe; take note of comments, thoughts, or feelings; and gather anecdotal data about a user’s experience with your product or service.

You can look into how people use your product as well as their opinions about that product to make more informed decisions. Ideally, at the end of your qualitative user research, the ideas work together to help you proceed.

In the previous chapter, we went over the keywords related to quantitative user research. For this chapter, let’s explore some of the characteristics of qualitative user research.

Qualitative user research takes many forms

In qualitative user research, you’re more concerned with the meaning of things rather than numbers or figures. The people who participate in your research have added importance, as you’ll be closely monitoring their behavior throughout the process. With this in mind, let’s explore some of the nitty-gritty details of qualitative user research.

  • It’s flexible. You can’t change numbers, but you can change behavior. This means that in all aspects of your qualitative research, you have to be willing to think on your feet. Though you’re going to work hard to make sure your methods are well thought out, you can’t be certain what your test subjects are going to do until they do it.
    It’s a two-way process. Qualitative user research is one scenario where you want your subjects to know things about you. Feel free to share why you’re conducting this research so that your subjects understand the types of things you’re looking for.
    It’s ongoing. Qualitative user research is less of a one-time call and response and more of a running exercise. Keep a constant watch of your results to see how one user’s response or attitude differs from another’s. This can help you make adjustments in the study and assist with meeting your research objectives.
    It has a different objective. Think of qualitative user research as a problem-solving exercise. Your goal isn’t to get solid figures but rather to make sure you understand why you’re asking a certain question, and through your research, gain a better understanding of how to both define and solve it.
    It’s random. Random sampling is one thing this type of research has in common with quantitative user research. In qualitative user research, if your sample is filled with like-minded people, the results aren’t going to tell you much about what people think of your product. It’s likely you’ll get similar answers throughout, and that isn’t very helpful. Ensuring that your sample is randomized and that you obtain different perspectives will give you a wide range of information to draw from.
    It’s collaborative. Don’t feel like you have to go about your research alone. Different members of your team might work more closely with different parts of your business. In the design phase, be sure to include the designers in brainstorming and formatting your research. Even better, have them conduct the parts of your research that concern their area of expertise.
    It paints a big picture. The conclusions you come to at the end of your research are likely going to be broader than what you glean from other research methods, and that’s fine. The nature of qualitative user research is to produce results that allow for wider conclusions. There are a lot of factors to consider, and there’s a level of unpredictability at play. Behavior and attitude can’t really be quantified, so the types of reports you produce from your research will reflect this.

Now that you understand how to classify qualitative user research, let’s explore its benefits and how it can help you achieve your objectives.

The benefits of qualitative user research

There are many unique benefits to conducting qualitative user research:

  1. You can adjust on the fly. There’s a level of unpredictability to qualitative user research. But there’s no need to worry — just because your results aren’t coming out as you expected doesn’t mean they aren’t useful. If you work for a snack company that’s testing to see how your customers respond to your new products, and you find in the middle of the process that one product is more popular than another, you can create more exercises and questions to learn more about the popular product. Be prepared to take quick stock of your results and what they mean for your overall process. This way, while you’re still in the midst of your research, you can adjust if need be.
  2. You can use your instincts. Numbers aren’t interchangeable. They’re concrete and definitive, and the models you design for quantitative user research will reflect this. But in qualitative user research, there’s room for interpretation. You can operate off your intuition. You know your business well and have an idea of what might work. Don’t be afraid to lean on this knowledge.
  3. Your users can be expressive. Qualitative user research is based on feeling and emotion. Users are going to tell you why they feel a certain way about your business or product. If certain words come up frequently, for example, you can file them away for marketing purposes. If one of your friends is upset, you ask them what’s wrong, and they tell you. The type of research you’re conducting is very similar — you present an idea, and people tell you how they feel about it and why.
  4. Collaboration is key. We touched on this in the previous section, but it’s important to emphasize. The different people in your organization and their perspectives are your company’s secret sauce. When you’re dealing with research that’s subjective, make sure you have control of the chaos. Involving your team members and getting the perspective of different departments about how your research should go — and their thoughts as you do it — will go a long way in determining your study’s effectiveness.
  5. You can sprinkle in some fun. Just because you’re engaging in serious research doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. In fact, the more relaxed those in your study are, the more likely they’ll give you useful information. Don’t be afraid to inject some humor into interactions with your users — it will make them feel comfortable and included in ways they wouldn’t in other research formats.
  6. It opens new doors. Because you can’t be sure of the results your research will produce, you could potentially be exposed to exciting opportunities. The way one of your respondents talks about a product you’re testing could open up new marketing avenues. For instance, if someone makes a broad statement about your company and how you design your services, you can adjust based on these ideas. If you want to keep your users and attract new ones, you have to meet them where they are. Qualitative user research is a great way to examine users’ opinions and make sure you’re not out of touch with what they’re feeling.

Now that you understand the many advantages of qualitative user research, it’s time to learn how you can put it into practice. In the next section, we’ll break down the different methods you can use to conduct qualitative user research and achieve worthwhile results.

How to conduct qualitative user research

Remember, when you do qualitative user research, you’re observing behavior and feelings. So, in creating methods to carry out this research, structure your design to get these types of results. Here are some of the best methods for conducting qualitative user research.

Interviews

Think about how refreshing it is to meet up with an old friend. It’s easy to slip right back where you left off. Apply this idea to interviews in your research process. Among the most common qualitative user research methods, interviews are a great way to connect with your users face to face and have in-depth conversations about their thoughts and feelings.

Plus, your customers want to feel included. Conducting face-to-face interviews is a way to show them you care. With this in mind, it’s important that you carefully consider your interview questions. If you ask questions that make participants feel like you’re not looking out for them or only looking for one specific thing, they’ll be less likely to open up. 

If this happens, pay close attention to their body language — what they don’t say is as important as what they do say. Human behavior is unpredictable, but it’s also extremely visual. Take note of your participants’ nonverbal reactions as much as what they tell you. This way, you can have a 360-degree view of the overall process.

Focus groups

Where interviews are more individual, focus groups involve a group of people. You want to see who speaks up the most in a focus group and what the group says about the questions or information you present. 

A good focus group involves a lively and open conversation. And the more those involved see each other speak up, the more likely they’ll be to offer their opinions too. As we said before, if you’re finding the same thoughts or words come up, you can file them away for future marketing or product adjustment. Plus, from a pure numbers perspective, a focus group is an effective way to generate a lot of different thoughts and opinions at once.

Direct observation

We’ve talked about how, by nature, qualitative user research is based on feeling. But it’s also based on observation. This means taking note of how your participants respond to what you put in front of them, whether it’s a presentation or a product. Look at how they interact with fellow respondents if they’re gathered in a group. 

Because you’re not an active participant in this form of research, the results and conclusions you draw will be subjective. That’s why, if you choose this method, you need to be razor-sharp in your note-taking. Removing yourself from the equation carries risk, but it can also be a useful way to observe how your participants act and react with no third-party interference.

Ethnographic research

Ethnographic research is, at first glance, perhaps the most abstract of qualitative user research methods, but it’s actually fairly simple. Ethnographic research involves observing your consumers’ habits to learn more about the how and why of their purchases from your business.

You can send open-ended surveys, where you’re sure to get a wide variety of responses. You can study behavior patterns to zero in on the most popular or effective parts of what you offer. And you can conduct field studies to see how people respond to certain scenarios. This type of research is rooted in your users’ needs and can help you create happier customers.

In conducting this type of research, you need to be sure you’re posing the right questions. Ask users what they like about your product as well as areas where they’d like to see improvement. While their answers may vary, you can identify patterns that will provide invaluable intelligence.

We know the different methods to use in qualitative user research. But what tools can you use to make sure everything goes smoothly? In the next section, we’ll explore the different platforms and tools you can use to eliminate as much uncertainty as possible in your research.

Tools of the trade

With so many options to choose from, figuring out how to conduct your research can be overwhelming. You need resources that keep you organized and allow for easy access throughout. Jotform provides countless options to carry out the methods we’ve discussed.

Interviews

We talked about how the interview process can produce wide-ranging and useful results in your qualitative user research. And with all these interviews, you’re going to need a place to catalog everything.

Jotform’s interview questionnaire form lets you upload questions, customize a design, and save answers to the interview questions in one place. You can also record personal information to handily categorize your respondents and make adjustments to your forms on the go if you find yourself shifting your methods during the process.

Focus groups

Focus groups foster open discussion and allow you to collect a lot of responses at once. But when you assemble a focus group, make sure you gather people who will provide different perspectives.

Jotform’s focus group screener can help you do just that. Add questions about occupation and personal information to ensure you hear from different demographics.

You obviously need to stay on track during your research process, and if you’re not organized when it comes to assembling the people who are going to give you the responses you’ll draw from, you’re going to get thrown off track. After all, you have to walk before you run.

Field studies

If your research takes you on the road or out in the field, it’s important that you have a place to access your data on the go. With Jotform’s Mobile Forms, you can collect and manage data offline on your phone or tablet. It works across devices, too — if you start a form on your desktop, you can continue to work on it on your mobile device.

Plus, Jotform’s advanced features allow for recorded voice and electronic signatures, so you can be creative.

Jotform’s interface makes it easy to collaborate with your team. You’ll receive a push notification when anyone inputs information. If someone on your team is responsible for a certain aspect of your research, you can use Jotform’s Assign Form feature to give them their assignment and share results with other team members.

What’s more, Jotform’s mobile app makes it easy to share your research via email or Facebook with a single tap.

User feedback

Ultimately, in qualitative user research, you’re searching for feedback. With Jotform’s feedback form templates, you can customize the type of feedback you’re asking your users to provide and shape it to your objectives. You can build each aspect of the form to match what you’re asking exactly to what you’re hoping to discover. Get feedback on your website, a specific product, or even a testimonial — the possibilities are endless.

Qualitative user research is a study of the world

We all have our likes, dislikes, and opinions about the way things are and the way they should be. These are the things that make us unique. And when you’re running a business, having the opportunity to pick the brains of your users or potential customers and get to the heart of what they believe is extremely valuable.

If you know what the people who use your product and the people most likely to use your product want and feel, you can make sure you give it to them. By observing your users, asking them questions, and showing them you care, you’ll exit the qualitative user research process a healthier business than when you came in.

Conclusion

Think of conducting user research as a form of self-reflection. Deciding to look into where your company can do better and what others think about your business is an admission that you don’t have all the answers. Be proud of the fact that you’re taking this step, and know that conducting user research can only serve to help you. With this guide at your side, the next time you enter the user research process, you’ll be doing so one step ahead.

This article is originally published on May 20, 2021, and updated on Aug 12, 2021.

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