Qualitative research methods examine why users behave the way they do in depth, and focus on the motivations and thought processes behind a user’s experience.
Compared to quantitative research, covered in the previous exercise, qualitative research generally provides richer data about a smaller number of participants. Quantitative research can help build empathy with users and provide illustrative anecdotes.
Some popular qualitative research methods include:
- Interviews: A researcher asks each participant a structured, unstructured, or semi-structured series of questions about a topic.
- Focus groups: A researcher guides a group of 3–10 participants through a series of questions about a topic, product, or design.
- Diary studies: Longitudinal qualitative data is collected from participants by asking them to complete entries in a diary which may include a series of prompts.
- Ethnography and field studies: These methods observe user behavior in a natural setting and often occur over time, offering more long-term or continuous insight into participant behavior.
- Contextual inquiry: Researchers conduct an interview in context as participants complete tasks.
Qualitative methods can be used at any stage of the design process, but may provide especially useful insights during the discovery and ideation stages, when teams are trying to get to know target users in-depth.
Think about answers to the following questions to check your understanding of qualitative research.
Which stage of the design process are qualitative research methods considered best for?
Which qualitative method involves asking participants to complete entries in a diary which may include a series of prompts?
Which qualitative method involves observing user behavior in the field over time?