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Using qualitative & quantitative data

I was thinking tonight about user research in projects, and how I use what I collect.

In the main, I try to get user research from as many sources as possible (interviews, surveys, card sorts, usage stats, emails etc). But I only need a small amount from each source. In doing qualitative analysis, patterns repeat themselves quickly, which means I really only need a small number of responses to inform my design decisions.

But inevitably I collect much more than I need. And the reason I do so is not because I need it to learn, but to defend design decisions. With a bigger bulk of data, I can produce some statistics, as rubbery as I know they are (I was once a statistician), to provide credibility and to support decisions in an easy way.

Based on research for my card sorting book, that’s what many of you are doing as well – trying to get a bulk of responses to convince others that you have made the right decisions. Much more so than just informing yourselves, combining it with other research and making the creative leap.

I don’t know there is an easy way out of this situation. I very occasionally flash my bio if I know this will influence people, but I always feel grubby doing it. I feel that I shouldn’t need to support my decisions with rubbery statistics, but managers don’t have time to understand the detail – statistics are the easy way out that they will believe and let me go about creating good work.

2 Responses to “Using qualitative & quantitative data”

  1. maish Says:

    Try partipatory techniques. I’ve found it useful to use these collaborative techniques especially with the client’s team to make them understand how to make meaning with the data. Empowering them to make meaning gives them the power to “see” what you see.

  2. Donna Maurer Says:

    Oh, I love participatory work and do a lot of it (I’m mentoring, so work directly with my clients). But there’s always someone up the food chain to convince ;)