Truly data-driven product development calls for both. Each form of data has strengths and weaknesses in different circumstances. Cliff Gilley asserts that you must know the audience you are analyzing and, considering the vast amount of data that could be collected, avoid analysis paralysis.
When do you use quantitative vs. qualitative research?
To decide which kind of data to work with, Ron Yang suggests that you ask yourself, “would my problem best be solved by feelings or facts?“. Qualitative research helps you to find subjective themes in data collected from interviews and focus groups. Whereas quantitative data helps you find objective data through methods like A/B testing, surveys and analytic tools.
User research is the through-line of the product lifecycle
A through line is the theme that runs through a book from beginning to end. Jack Cole sees user research as the through-line of the product life cycle because you can use a qualitative approach to identify trends and patterns in your discussions with customers. Those trends help you to identify your customers’ needs and uncover opportunities for your product.
You could ask your customer how they would act in a certain situation, but there’s a good chance they’ll lie to you. You may be better off to shadow them and see how they actually behave. The Interaction Design Foundation described the shadowing technique and provided some tips on how to use it to identify problems and opportunities.
Rob Fitzpatrick coined the term “mom test” to describe a set of simple rules for having conversations with potential and current customers. The general idea is that you should talk to people about their lives rather than your product. Watch this video to see examples of a bad and a good customer discussion, complete with illustrative subtitles.
6 Reasons why product managers need qualitative research
It’s tempting to think that if you get really good at A/B testing you don’t need to do any qualitative research. Jens-Fabian Goetzmann suggests you should resist that temptation and gives 6 reasons “why you should run qualitative research in addition to (or sometimes even instead of) A/B tests.”
Have you forgotten about the people generating the numbers?
“When all you do is look at data, you run the risk of forgetting the people behind those numbers.” In this guide to qualitative research, Shanelle Mullin shows you how to use observation and inquiry to understand the why behind people’s behavior. She describes four techniques you can use to find out “who your audience is, why they’re not converting, and what to test next.”