What type of research do you use?

Do you typically use qualitative or quantitative research in your design projects? Do you have a good reason why you prefer that method?

The reason I ask is because we typically use qualitative research at the consultancy I work for and have recently needed to explain why. The truth is that typically our budgets don’t allow for anything more than quick qualitative methods, but I’d like to know if there are better reasons that we can support our methods with.


Qualitative research is the way to find contradictions, workarounds, and unmet physical and emotional needs. Numbers can’t really do that stuff. I just got done doing 2 weeks work of research for a school project, and it was really awesome.

If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it? - Albert Einstein

I like to look at both but only if quantitive is immediately available, or I had the time to go watch a user and gather that data. Actually I am trying to procure some data from BMW but they are being wack (they published the data, just I want all of it).

I think ultimately the question could possibly be what qualitative research you are conducting. For instance, are you meeting end users face-to-face & capturing how they think, what are the current solutions that aren’t working for them & why… If your research aim to discover unmet latent needs. Are you looking opportunity areas that spark off innovation?

The issue with limited budget always exist. And I am pondering given such a tight budget is your client not looking for new innovative solutions but just pure aesthetics exercise? :slight_smile:

It mainly depend upon the project you are taking, Qualitative will aim on complete detailed description.It is highly recommended when project is on the early stage,while Quantitative will aim to classify features, count them, and construct statistical models and will explain what is observed by the research. It is useful at the latter phases of research projects. In this you can use tools, like questionnaires or equipment to collect numerical data.I think quantitative data is more efficient,because it is able to test hypotheses.

We use both, and your right, the quantitive tends to be much more costly in terms of time, resources, and money. Personally, I also find it less actionable. I find what is beneficial for me with qualitative research is the stuff you find that you were not even looking for. The way someone adapts something, or misuses it to fit their purpose, and unexpected consumer group… I just don’t find those kinds of insights in the quantitate stuff. I find the more guerilla style the trip (ie send me and a couple of other designers to x spots on the globe and let us immerse ourselves) the better the research is.

Holy resurrected thread Batman.

But since my previous link is invalid and I don’t recall the content…

Qualitative research is best for generating ideas, quantitative research is best for validating an idea.

For example, I want to design a device that lowers hospital-aquired pneumonia (HAP) rates. There is no doubt that qualitative research is hasten the process of idea generation, it is invaluable. After I continue the process to finalize a design, I will need to prove that my device actually does reduce HAP rates. If I use something other than quantitative research, I will be laughed out of the hospital. There will be no sales to cover the R&D expence.

Perfect explanation!

Forgive my ignorance, but why are quantitative methods typically more expensive/time consuming than qualitative studies? In my limited experience, the qualitative studies took more time to perform, and it took more time to make sense of our findings. Quant studies can often take the form of surveys, and there are countless programs to analyze numerical data quickly. I’m just curious why the general consensus is the opposite of what I’ve seen.

Quantitative methodologies require large numbers to be statistically significant. That typically trumps the amount of time even a “complicated” qualitative study needs. Time is money.

For example, I only need a few clinicians to determine good ergonomics of a medical device. I need hundreds of patients to determine the same device is effective and safe.

Simple research framework that merges qual and quant.

  1. Start with client’s basic market research geodems - tells you approximately where to look or at least what is selling and to whom. Create research hypotheses. Screen participants with this in mind to get the representative sample you’ll use for your qual work in the next step.
  2. Qualitative. Go in the field. Hit the key user segments. Spend time with enough users in each segment (10-30, depending on how complicated the problem is) to be confident you aren’t only looking at outliers, and that you stop hearing/seeing new things. Keep it open ended and keep your eyes/ears open for anything interesting.
  3. After you’ve sorted through the qual from 2, take the interpreted data back to a sample of people (this can include concepts/scenarios/attitudinals/etc) to prioritize and score it, evaluate max/min/diff/delights (maybe in a survey, or by phone, etc), and drill down to the critical detail now that you really understand the topics that are on the table.
  4. Create a user centered design spec, complete with workflows, personas, trends, etc, that merges everything you’ve seen in 1-3. Something like a QFD can be a good format for capturing data about needs.
  5. Make concepts, validate, repeat.

Quant drives qual drives quant drives qual drives quant drives…