Editor’s note: Alexandra Woodcock is a content designer. This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on the EthOS website under the title “Overcoming Blind Spots in Traditional Research.” 

Companies that rely too heavily on traditional research methods like surveys, IDIs and focus groups expose themselves to a greater risk of having blind spots in their data. Traditional methods lack context, are prone to bias and are generally conducted too long from the area of interest for participants to accurately recall their experiences. This is why generative research methods like mobile ethnography and digital diary studies are growing in popularity. They provide organizations with a real-world understanding of the experiences and needs of their customers.

User research has become integral to the development process in recent years as companies strive to build better products and services. However, relying solely on traditional research methods like in-depth interviews (IDIs), focus groups and surveys can leave companies with blind spots that affect their ability to fully understand their users’ needs and behaviors. That’s why it’s important to incorporate remote research methods like diary studies, mobile ethnography and other generative research into a company’s user research practices. These methods provide deeper insights into user behaviors and thought processes, enabling companies to build better products and services that meet users’ needs.

Surveys, in-depth interviews (IDIs) and focus groups are commonly leveraged in user research, but they can have drawbacks when used alone. Here are some of the most significant shortcomings of relying too much on these methods:

They may only reveal what users say they do or think rather than their actual behavior. These methods may not uncover the reasons behind user behavior, limiting the depth of understanding for researchers.