Skip to: Main Content / Navigation

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Add This

What qualitative and UX researchers can learn from each other



Article ID:
20140326-3
Published:
March 2014
Author:
Cory Lebson

Article Abstract

This article focuses on how user experience research is unique in the marketing research space and why qualitative researchers must understand the differences to succeed in usability testing.

Editor's note: Cory Lebson is principal at Lebsontech LLC User Experience Consulting, Silver Spring, Md. He can be reached at cory@lebsontech.com. This article appeared in the March 24, 2014, edition of Quirk's e-newsletter.

While both marketing research and user experience (UX) research certainly add commercial value, marketing research is focused on getting the right product sold with the right branding and messaging, while UX is about making sure that the Web, mobile resource or electronic device released to the public can be used appropriately.

The official definition of usability (ISO 9241-11) is "the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use." While usability does seek to understand the target audience, the reason for that understanding is to make sure that they can use the product appropriately and will be satisfied.

 

When I teach UX professionals how to conduct usability testing, I frame the conversation around the knowledge that they already have about the field of UX. Though UX professionals may be more expert at the creative aspects of UX, they don't necessarily have a strong understanding of what exactly it means to do qualitative research. However, when I teach qualitative marketing researchers how to conduct usability testing, the starting point is different. These researchers may be very skilled at qualitative techniques but they are sometimes not as well versed in UX and the nuances of usability and user interface best practices. Therefore, I start with what it means for a product to have good usability.

 

Assess the quality 

 

Qualitative researchers should know what to look for during usability testing. While it's fine and sometimes useful to note offhand comments that participants may make about a brand or that have implications for marketing the product, the core goal of usability testing is to assess the quality of the user experience.  

 

This means that when researchers are drafting a test plan, they should review the interface first and determine what points of potential confusion may exist within the larger context of the current state of UX best practices. They can annotate the test plan with probing questions as appropriate but must determine, to whatever extent possible, which probing questions are likely to present information about the interface to the user that will provide context for future tasks. The researchers need to keep a careful eye on the participants' actual usage of the interface as a primary activity instead of focusing on what the participant said. The researcher needs to be ready to add supplemental probes about behaviors more than spoken comments.

 

Task of a logger

The task of a logger accustomed to other forms of qualitative marketing research may be a bit different as well during usability testing. The logger in a usability test will often have a simultaneously-recorded screen that mirrors a Web or mobile interface that a participant is using. The logger would generally not be transcribing the session. Instead, the logger notes observations about participant performance and interaction with the interface and identifies points where the participant performs a wrong or unexpected action, as well as whether the participant completed each task with or without difficulty and in some cases, how long each task took.  

 

The logger may also note what the participant says around their performance but this is secondary to what the participant actually does. In addition, the logger may make notes on performance directly into the recording and the team can use these notes later to pick out performance highlights to inform the development team on what needs to be corrected.

 

Within the context

The issues and recommendations that are uncovered during usability testing need to be within the UX context. Specifically, issues should be framed to explain what in the interface is faulty or doesn't meet general UX best practices. Recommendations should be focused on bringing the interface toward these best practices. An understanding of what current best practices are is a critical base for reporting findings and suggesting recommendations.

 

A more technical context

While marketing research may go to key stakeholders and be used to adjust marketing or branding efforts, usability testing reports will go to stakeholders to have the design or development team make changes to the interface. A usability testing report, therefore, will often be framed within a more technical context, which at a minimum requires a basic understanding of the current technology standards and inherent capabilities of the technologies being used.

 

Navigate both

There are certainly many qualitative researchers who navigate both marketing research and usability testing successfully. The strong caveat in doing so, however, is that qualitative researchers need to spend the necessary time to become fully versed in what UX is all about - what it means to research and report in light of usability best practices and the technical reporting approach necessary to communicate with the design and development team.

Comment on this article

comments powered by Disqus

Related Glossary Terms

Search for more...

Related Events

RIVA COURSE 501: FACILITATION - PRACTICAL TOOLS, TIPS AND TECHNIQUES
August 11-13, 2014
RIVA Training Institute will hold a course, themed 'Facilitation - Practical Tools, Tips, and Techniques,' on August 11-13 in Rockville, Md.
BURKE DESIGNING EFFECTIVE QUESTIONNAIRES: A STEP BY STEP WORKSHOP
August 12-14, 2014
Burke Institute will hold a workshop focused on designing effective questionnaires on August 12-14 in Las Vegas.

View more Related Events...

Related Articles

There are 2329 articles in our archive related to this topic. Below are 5 selected at random and available to all users of the site.

Qualitatively Speaking: The prescription for effective physician interviews
Physicians are difficult to reach and in high demand as research participants. But by using well-trained interviewers and making the research process interactive, the author argues that companies can conduct successful studies that satisfy both the respondent and the organization sponsoring the research.
A focus group experiment tests remote moderating by telephone and video
The online market research community is flourishing. This article discusses the growth of online research, highlighting the importance of privacy and the challenge of security.
Qualitatively Speaking: How to put qualitative respondents at ease
While the qualitative process is commonplace for the moderator and observers, for many respondents, it’s an unfamiliar and potentially unsettling experience. Using the acronym WALK, the author explains how to calm their nerves and get them into the discussion flow.
A guide to using PowerPoint to present research findings
To avoid the dreaded death-by-PowerPoint, presenters of research findings can follow these several helpful tips and guidelines.
How StorageTek built its B2B satisfaction and loyalty research program
Using the experiences of data management firm StorageTek, the authors outline 10 best practices for creating and maintaining a satisfaction and loyalty research program.

See more articles on this topic

Related Suppliers: Research Companies from the SourceBook

Click on a category below to see firms that specialize in the following areas of research and/or industries

Specialties

Industries

Conduct a detailed search of the entire Researcher SourceBook directory

Related Discussion Topics

Online Focus Group sessions
10/28/2013 by Sally Hooper
Market research report
08/20/2013 by Aarkstore Store
Market research report
08/20/2013 by Aarkstore Store
flow charts
08/06/2013 by Bill Kattner
Dragon Naturally Speaking
07/22/2013 by David J. Mangen

View More