The value of qualitative research - Mitrefinch


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The value of qualitative research

Published: October 18, 2018

Mitrefinch User Researcher Tanya shares why she thinks User Research is so important.

There’s no doubt that analytics can provide a real insight as to ‘what’ your users are doing on your website, for example where they my be dropping off or leaving the site. What quantitative research can’t give you is the opportunity to see the users undertaking these tasks, understanding how they approach the tasks, why they approach them in this way, what their impressions are of the website or app and anything else that they may find frustrating along the way….

Until I worked for user experience consultancy I’d never observed a usability session. I had no idea what it involved or the value and insight it can provide.

It can be easy to get caught up solely with what the business needs are when it comes to designing your product, and you may think you know what your users want, and make assumptions as to what you think these are, but you can never truly design for a user without including them in the design process. You can’t guess or assume how they’ll use a product, nor can you assume how they’ll attempt to perform a particular task. At the end of the day we’re all different and therefore sometimes we’ll approach things differently.

It may sound ‘fluffy’ but there’s huge value by watching users attempt a task using your product (whatever that may be). By asking users to undertake a series of tasks using the product and simply observing what and how they do it, can be hugely insightful. I’ve worked with some big named companies one of which wanted to test their mobile app. Testing uncovered that users weren’t able to successfully navigate from the top level navigation to the secondary level navigation, it was only through asking users to perform a series of tasks that this issue was highlighted.

I also worked with an investment funding platform, as part of the app sign up process, users were asked to select the type of ‘investor’ they identified more with (novice, to high value — everyday investor for example). To view the different types of investors you had to swipe left — however users weren’t aware that they needed to do this, they weren’t aware that there were different types of investor personas to swipe through. Once again it was only by getting users to go through this sign up process and watch them attempt the task that I was unable to discover this issue.

Off the back of any issues highlighted during usability testing, recommendations can then be made. For the investment app testing I conducted a recommendation was made to provide more visual cues for the user, so left and right arrows were included, the investor persona types didn’t take up the full screen of the mobile — so you could instantly see other content was available on screen. Wording was changed in the on-boarding process to make it clearer to users what steps they’d need to take in order to fully sign-up and use the app.

Usability testing can also be useful to gauge users initial impressions of the product, what do they think it is, what do they think of how the information is presented and do they understand it the content provided.

These are just a couple of examples of how user testing can provide feedback that analytics alone just can’t. Usability testing can and should be conducted really early on in the design process, designs don’t have to be pixel perfect, paper prototypes, or low fidelity wire-frames are fine — it’s more about testing the concept of how the product would work rather than the aesthetics.

By conducting user testing early on in the design process you can ensure that your intended users can use the product, discover any possible issues with the design and iterate and retest if necessary. Ultimately this will save on development time and costs. It’s better to take this approach early on rather than build and release a product that’s had no insight or feedback from your representative users.

If you’d like to take part in user testing with Mitrefinch, get in touch with Tanya today.


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