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Data Visualization: 3 Ways to Make Your Qualitative Reports Pop

Posted By Maria Virobik, Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Updated: Monday, May 13, 2019

Data Visualization: 3 Ways to Make Your Qualitative Reports Pop

What Can Data Visualization Do for Us?   

Data visualization—the graphical representation of information and data—can be a powerful tool in qualitative reporting. While we certainly can’t completely escape text-centric pages in our qualitative reports, graphics add visual interest and help break up the monotony of pages (or slides) of text. Done well, graphics help support qualitative findings and enable us to communicate in more interesting ways beyond words on paper (or a screen). Effective data visualization can also help readers understand concepts more quickly and easily and make information more memorable.

 

All the Cool Kids Are Doing it   

Newspapers and other media outlets have jumped on board the data visualization bandwagon. Publications like The Washington Post, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times employ full-time data journalists to augment their reporting. These folks take an enormous trove of data on a particular topic—for instance, the earlier start of spring in some parts of the U.S. or the confirmed U.S. measles cases by county in 2019 —and expertly slice, dice and manipulate the information into interactive graphics that communicate big ideas in an accessible and elegant way.

 

Data Visualization and Qual: Not a Linear Journey

Visualizing quantitative data is relatively easy. Hard numbers and percentages naturally lend themselves to visual representation. Charts, graphs and their modern equivalent—infographics—are easy to create from quant data.

Qualitative data can be harder to visualize; transforming qual data into graphics isn't as straightforward or simple. A search for “infographics and qualitative data” reveals that some people even argue that qual data can’t be turned into infographics. Take heart, however. An equal number argue that it can and provide examples to back this assertion.

But it’s not a linear journey from qualitative data to data visualization. Many of us have heard from end clients who want hard numbers or percentages included in a final report to quantify how various concepts or ideas stacked up against each other. We can explain that “qual isn't quant” until the cows come home, but clients persist in making such requests.

Instead of giving in to these requests (or refusing them outright), there is another option. We can take this as the opportunity to develop data visualization approaches that give our clients the detail they want and expect without compromising the qualitative nature of the report. A few examples follow.

 

Word Clouds – an Oldie but Goodie

Word clouds are a common data visualization technique in qualitative reports. Using font size (and often color), they convey magnitude of various responses, thoughts or ideas. Larger words=more popular/frequent/common. This approach works well because it’s a way to provide granular detail without showing the actual numbers behind the information.

While word clouds aren't the answer for every situation, they are a great tool, and websites for creating them abound. The PollEverywhere blog lists nine favorite word cloud generators, including Wordle and Tagxedo. A Google search for “word cloud generator” will point you to others.

 

Customer Journey Maps: Timelines in Disguise

Customer journey maps are another way to employ data visualization in qualitative reports. These maps are essentially timelines; a quick Google search on this term turns up many great examples that can be easily adapted to fit your particular purpose.

Here’s one example: a timeline detailing milestones in the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps history from 2010 to 2014.

(Source: 21csc.org/2014/08/12/21csc-timeline/)

The example above is organized by year, but the general format can be adapted to visualize a customer journey. Year markers become phases in the purchase journey: research, comparison, selection, purchase. The linear format allows room above and below the line for details on the individual steps consumers undertake in each phase.

Venngage is one great resource for infographic templates and tools, including many for timelines (such as the one below). They offer a couple different subscription plans. But you can peruse the templates for free, and that might be all the inspiration you need to create your own.

Linear Timeline Infographic Template

Source: (venngage.com/templates/infographics/6-years-of-tradition-5620fc1f-3bf6-4ff4-a406-c7c68a9efd7c)

 

Bubble Graphs – Form and Function

Bubble graphs are another idea we can borrow from data journalism. During the 2012 London Olympics, The New York Times kept a running medal count by country and visualized the data in a simple table (below). The information is clear, but the table doesn't do a great job conveying the magnitude of differences among countries.

The Times formatted the same information into a bubble graph. This approach does a much better job conveying magnitude. You can easily identify the countries that led the medal counts. Readers could hover over any circle for more detailed information, including a country’s medal count by type (gold/silver/bronze). (Visit the link below the graphic and try it for yourself!)

 

(Source: www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/london2012/results)

 

The same idea—sans numbers, of course—could be employed in qualitative reporting. For example, we could use a bubble graph to report the characteristics that participants want in a dog.

 

Readers can immediately see which characteristics were most important and which were mentioned by fewer participants. By keeping numbers out of it, the graphic remains faithful to the spirit of qualitative research.

 

Sky’s the Limit 

These are just a few examples of how data visualization techniques can be employed to make qualitative reports more engaging and communicate findings and implications more effectively.

Here are several links to more examples; many additional resources can be found by searching data visualization:

What are your go-to data visualization techniques and tools? What works? What doesn't? If you have advice or a favorite resource to share, please leave a comment.

 

Author bio

Maria Virobik joined QRCA in 2018 but has worked in qualitative research since 1997. After early dalliances in the advertising world, she came to her senses and has been devoted to qualitative analysis and reporting ever since. Originally from Southern California, she and her husband sold their house last year and now live a nomadic lifestyle with their two marginally obedient dogs, Lucy and Ginger Snap.

 

Tags:  Customer Experience  Customer Journey Maps  Data Visualization  QRCA Digest  Qualitative Research 

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Why Quallies Should Care about Marketing Technology (MarTech)

Posted By Lisa Horwich, Tuesday, April 30, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Why Quallies Should Care about Marketing Technology (MarTech)

2019 Marketing Technology Landscape (Martech 5000)

The “Rise of the Machines” and how We Got Here.

When I graduated from business school back in the late ‘90s I never dreamed I would become a total tech geek…in fact, I really thought I was going to be a high-powered consultant (think McKinsey, Bain, BCG). Instead, somehow, I found myself implementing large-scale computer systems (fears of Y2K!) and then became a product manager for a small software company. My journey to tech geekdom had begun without me knowing it.

Martech Landscape: 2011-2019

Fast forward to today. After spending much of my time working on quantitative and qualitative research for large tech companies, I can honestly say that I really love learning and studying technology.

With this in mind, about 2 years ago, a prediction from Gartner (the big technology industry research firm) caught my eye – their analyst Laura McLellan predicted that by 2017 CMOs will spend more on technology than CIOs. She was almost correct – it happened in 2016, a year ahead of schedule.

Think about it. Marketing departments are now spending more on information technology than the department that is responsible for a company’s technology infrastructure. Crazy, I know!

This has led to a proliferation of companies clamoring for a piece of this MarTech pie. From 2011 when 150 companies offered MarTech solutions, we are now in 2019 looking at over 7,000 companies competing in this space.

What is the aim of all these solutions? More importantly, what has changed with CMOs to prompt this massive investment in technology? It boils down to three main factors:

  1. Most CMOs now share P&L responsibility. Instead of just being a “cost center,” marketing is looked on as fundamental part of revenue generation.
  2. Marketing funds and designs the entire cross-functional customer experience (CX). If you think of CX holistically from generating awareness through post-sales feedback, it makes sense that marketing is in charge.
  3. Finally – and arguably most importantly – with the soaring costs involved in attracting, maintaining, and growing the customer base, marketing now has to justify the ROI of their activities.

CMOs are turning to data-driven solutions that help them deeply understand every phase of the customer journey – tracking and quantifying the ROI of all marketing activities along this journey. They are also investing heavily into solutions that personalize the customer’s experience with the hope of converting these interactions into greater sales opportunities.

 

Technology Solutions and Their Uses

As researchers, we need to know the types of technologies where our clients are spending significant portions of their overall budgets (~30%) so we can recognize where we fit as human insight professionals. We don’t have to be experts in tech, just conversant — so when we walk in the door and our clients say they are using a new “Artificial Intelligence email optimization tool,” we understand what that is and can talk about how our services complement and augment this tool.

I’ve put together a few charts and tables outlining some of the fundamental building blocks of these solutions. Most MarTech offerings are powered by technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Business Intelligence, and Real-Time Analytics. I find it useful to see the interaction of these technologies with a chart:

To understand definitions of these technologies and common uses, this table is a quick reference (CAUTION: Tech speak ahead):

 

Definition

Common Uses

Real-Time Analytics

Unified customer data platforms, predictive analytics, and contextual customer journey interactions.

Understand customer journey stages, increase customer loyalty & retention, increase customer lifetime value, quantify marketing ROI.

Business Intelligence

Applications, infrastructure, and tools that enable access to and analysis of information.

Improve and optimize decisions and performance, identify trends, improve efficiency, executive dashboards.

Artificial Intelligence

Any intelligent system that notably augments human decisions or independently come up with conclusions that appear to be well considered.

Optimize marketing/email campaigns, up-sell options, reduce churn, revive dormant customers, customer retention.

Machine Learning

Any system that learns from past data to make judgments about previously unseen new data.

Optimize ad campaigns and other metrics, predict churn.

 

Opportunities for Quallies

Many of the technologies outlined above have inherent limitations – which I like to think of as “opportunities” for qualitative researchers. Most of the limitations center around the data – quality (how good is your data) and quantity (do you have enough of the right type of data). In addition, the other major limitation is having enough marketing content – a major bottleneck in the quest for personalized customer engagement.

Limitations

Opportunities

Decisions are made solely on data – past and present.

Use the data as a launching point for deeper qualitative analysis.

Existing data is not predictive enough for decision-making.

Create and maintain communities focused on pinpointing predictive behavior.

Need exponentially more messaging content for personalization.

Assist in narrowing target messaging by identifying key characteristics valued by customers.

Insufficient data to train the machine/AI.

Provide personas and other descriptive metrics to help “train” algorithms.

Lack of “industry specific” attributes.

Create detailed feature lists to describe the unique features inherent to that industry.

  

While the ideas above are great tactical opportunities, strategically, our most important job as qualitative researchers to remind our clients how, in a world of automation, humanizing the experience of individual customers is key to authenticity.

 

 Lisa Horwich is the founder of Pallas Research Associates, a B2B-focused research and consulting firm located in Seattle, WA. She is a self-ascribed tech geek and loves talking to developers, IT decision-makers, and CIOs. She also co-chairs the QRCA B2B SIG.

Tags:  marketing research  marketing technology  QRCA Digest  qualitative research  research methodologies 

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Design Thinking – Beyond the Breakers

Posted By Liza Carroll, Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Design Thinking – Beyond the Breakers

Design Thinking

Depending upon the source, Design Thinking (DT) is key to innovation in everything from consumer goods to complex social systems, or it’s an overhyped workshop package. Having first been introduced to the concept at QRCA’s 2019 annual conference, and with the idea that others reading this blog might also be new to Design Thinking, I wanted to share more about it. Design Thinking is meant to place those who seek to engage in innovation – often diverse stakeholders – into an uncomfortable space. It should move people past their own biases so they can understand customers’ real needs, and design solutions that work.

The five steps of the process are most often introduced graphically on brightly colored hexagons: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test. Activities in the first two steps live in the problem space, and the last three are in the solutions space.  People who understand the ego-threatening implications of these steps point out that practitioners must be willing to manage controlled chaos in seeking the path to making something great.

design thinking

Design Thinking is demanding.  Yet, it is often sold as a quick fix and its core essential stages skimmed. This is why it is disparaged by some designers and others close to it. Consultancies and companies seeking commercial success without committing to authenticity may champion superficial workshops. Some using the process try to make Design Thinking overly linear, misunderstanding the untamed nature of the creativity that lives within its DNA.  

The first step – Empathize – has the most relevance to qualitative researchers — but can also be the most often snorkeled-over by those who don’t have the training or the gear to dive deep. “Empathy is hard!” notes Annette Smith in Is Design Thinking a Silver Bullet for Consumer Research. She explains what we all know better than most: “The ability to empathize without imposing your own cultural values and preconceived notions on a consumer is just not easy to do.” Add cultural difference to the equation, and empathizing is, of course, exponentially more difficult.

Jon Kolko addresses criticism of DT in his article, The Divisiveness of Design Thinking.  He asserts that the real work required during the Empathy step might conceivably be exchanged for 2-hour ‘subject matter expert’ interviews; but in taking such an approach, you may only gain a scratch-the-surface understanding of the business needs at hand. Kolko also examines breakdowns that happen in the other Design Thinking steps. In summary, anyone planning to take on the enormous job of leading others through the process would have to have the ability and experience to guide people toward dramatically reframing a problem by asking more interesting questions and to facilitate rich, meaningful collaboration. I recommend reading Kolko’s article to gain a much deeper introduction to the topic than provided in most introductory articles that stick to defining the steps.

design thinking

Circling back and thinking about Design Thinking’s qualitative heart, it’s interesting that just this month there was a post in the Qual Power Blog by Patricia Sunderland titled When Ethnography Becomes a Joke. In her post, she explains the difference between valuable and degraded ethnographic fieldwork, the methodology that is, as it happens, key to Design Thinking’s Step One – Empathy. Sofia Costa Alves, in her presentation Discover and Deploy Design Thinking described the careful ethnographic work that underpinned the Design Thinking activities she led with participants who were holders of diverse roles in a corporation during her facilitation experience in South America.

Being introduced to Design Thinking, what it can yield when done courageously, and also the ways in which it can be used when thinking “out of the box”, has been a wonderful learning experience. If you would like a list of resources I found valuable for gaining some understanding of Design Thinking, feel free to let me know in the comments or email me at lcarroll@rdteam.com.

Liza CarrollLiza Carroll is Consumer Insights Manager at RDTeam, Inc.

Tags:  design thinking  QRCA Digest  qualitative research  Research Methodologies 

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When Ethnography Becomes a Joke

Posted By Patricia Sunderland, Tuesday, April 2, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, April 2, 2019
When Ethnography Becomes a Joke

Joke Ethnography

It may or may not be news for readers of this blog — but for at least some clients, ethnography has turned into a joke.

For a number of years, we have witnessed a diminishing appetite for ethnographic work among commercial clients. Competition and challenges from new methodologies are understandable and to be expected. Yet an undercurrent of “we do not want to do ethnography because we tried it and we did not get anything out of it” has been unsettling. More troubling, a few months ago a client put it more bluntly: “No. Ethnography no way. It’s a joke around here when you mention it.”

Ugh. How could the methodology that I learned as an anthropologist and built my career around in the world of qualitative research have become a joke? And even more importantly, what must we do to retrieve ethnography from that dustbin of bad jokes?

Rejuvenate the Basics

Without simply sounding a conservative cry, one thing we must do is go back and ensure that we always deliver on the basics of solid ethnographic work. Ethnographic work seems to have been undergoing a process of lightening in which observation alone, a person alone, or even the word alone will suffice.

Observation and Conversation

Ethnographic fieldwork– as imagined and pioneered by founders such as Bronislaw Malinowski – was never simply about observation. The observational component was coupled with participation, as in participant observation, as well as linked with conversation, interviews, and quite simply put, talk. Observation without any window into what is going on in a person’s mind and heart while they are doing whatever they are doing is anemic at best. Frequently it is also off-base. A key to comprehension in ethnography, as in much qualitative work, is understanding a person’s point of view.

In January 2019, Rachael Lawes provided an outstanding webinar, “Honing Your Ethnographic Eye”. Drawing from discourse analysis, one of the key points of her presentation was the importance of attending to defensively designed statements in speech, for instance, when a person frames what they are saying as “simply stating a fact.” A pre-emptive defense such as this may indicate that the person may feel insecure about the point they are making and/or they may feel that others are likely to argue with what they are saying. Obviously, it is important that we listen – carefully – and not only observe.

Persons and Contexts

Also, while it is an ethnographic basic to understand a person’s point of view, the assumption is not that a person stands alone. When we do our ethnographic work, one of the strengths we can bring to the qualitative research table is to situate a person’s viewpoints and behaviors within a macro-societal as well as meso-social context. This can mean that rather than just studying the person, our unit of ethnographic analysis can and should be the household, the friendship group, the workplace, the family, and/or any social grouping that makes sense for the question and issue at hand.

Injecting Serious Analytic Soul

Beyond being sure to include both conversation and context as part of our ethnographic research, injecting serious analytic soul into the work is also definitely on order. One factor that seems to have fueled the jokes about ethnographic work is the handoff of ethnographic work to junior and client DIY teams. Unfortunately, what can and often does go missing in this handoff is the analytic component.

In much current commercial ethnography, it is almost as if the importance of the analysis has been forgotten. There is a tendency to take ethnographic work as if it is a case of “what you see is what you get.” But, of course, what one sees is filtered by the mind. And while ethnographers must strive for an open mind in order to grasp the point of view of others, they also bring every bit of experience, theory, and knowledge to their encounters and their own mental processing of the data.

For instance, a number of years ago, colleague Rita Denny and I worked on a new product study centered around home organization. The company’s goal was to develop new home storage products. As I observed and talked with people about how they organized items in their homes, it became obvious that spatial orientation (e.g., up versus down; vertical vs. horizontal) was providing critical cues. Items that were “up” were considered more organized than those that were “down.” Items that were vertical were considered ready to use; horizontal or flat signaled “in use.” Items that got stacked were packed. The photos below help illustrate the point.

vertical hanging
Vertical hanging on the door – an organized way to keep items that were ready to be taken out of the home.
vertical hanging
Vertical files keep papers ready as a resource and what must be done next is kept in front.
vertical hanging
A briefcase kept up off the floor seen as neater and more organized than if on the floor. Also kept in vertical orientation.

laying flat

laying flat
Lying flat is a signal of “in use” as with a book lying flat on a surface next to the bed (vs. vertical on a shelf, which is “ready for use”). But flat also often leads to “stacked,” which then quickly leads to “packed.”

 

This spatial insight would not have been as possible without the benefit dof having once read Lakoff and Johnson’s Metaphors We Live By. Lakoff and Johnson examined the way linguistic metaphors organize the way we think about and experience the world. Good moods, for example, tend to be described as “up” and bad moods in terms of “down.” And for the purposes of this example, think about the phrases “picking up” and “cleaning up.”

We need to be ready to bring our analytic minds to the table as we perform ethnography. This is the real value of doing ethnography in business. When we make analysis central to the task, we are able to deliver serious and often breakthrough results. Inductive analytic insight provides ethnography its serious point of differentiation versus other methodologies. Analysis with attention to language and the larger social world (not only observation and the individual) has the power to move ethnography far beyond the realm of jokes.

Patricia Sunderland, PhDPatricia Sunderland, PhD

Patricia Sunderland, PhD, is founder of Cultural Research and Analysis, Inc.. A specialist in the ethnographic, cultural and semiotic analysis of consumer worlds, Patti is also co-author and co-editor of two award-winning books in anthropology and commerce: Doing Anthropology in Consumer Research and the Handbook of Anthropology in Business. She splits her time between New York City and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


Tags:  Ethnography  QRCA Digest  Qualitative Research  Research Methodologies 

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Theater Games in Research and Ideation

Posted By Laurie Tema-Lyn, Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Step Back to Move Forward: Developing Customer Journey Maps

 Laurie tema Lyn

Bring the POWER of Theater Games to Your Next Session!

Let me start off by saying I am not an actor, although I’ve had some theater training. I earn my living as a researcher, consultant and innovation catalyst, and I’ve been doing that for decades.
I like to bring PLAY into my work as I see the results are well worth it in terms of ramping up the energy of a flagging team, developing empathy, encouraging candid, uncensored conversations and triggering or evaluating new ideas.

Using theater games builds on fundamentals that all face-to-face researchers/facilitators should have in their arsenal. They include:

  • The ability to build rapport and have fun;
  • Creating a “safe place” so people feel comfortable expressing themselves;
  • Being able to read your group through attentive listening and observation;
  • Being willing to take a risk, knowing that there are no failures — risks lead to opportunities.

Here are tips and techniques to add to your repertoire:

  • Start with an easy game; I call this one Word Salad. It’s a new twist on the tried-and-true technique of Mind Mapping by adding a pulse — a finger snap — as you capture each participant’s words on a flip chart pad. Breathe and repeat each word or phrase that you are given as you chart. It can be a bit hypnotic. Participants stop self-censoring and by pausing a moment as you repeat the words they listen, reflect and connect. A variation is to use a Nerf ball and throw it to participants to respond. Less time for “thinking,” just gut level responses.
  • Experiment with Improvs to illuminate brand perceptions, product or service use, or to inform creative strategy or positioning. It’s good to do a bit of pre-planning to identify some people, places, things or situations that you might want to see “acted out” in your work session. Position the exercise as an experiment.Ask for volunteers and give basic improv guidelines including the use of “Yes, And…” to accept or build on their partner’s offers. Remind participants that you are not looking to them to be funny or clever, just authentic to the character or situations. After you conduct a couple of improvs, it’s important to review what all have learned.
  • Theater of Exaggeration. Try this out to spice up a concept review. You might begin in your typical fashion and then encourage participants to push the boundaries. What are the Most Outrageous Plusses or Benefits to this concept? Conversely, what are the Most Outrageous Negatives to this idea? You just might end up with some new ideas or identify problems that participants had been too polite to suggest earlier.
  • Mouthfeel: Try this out to help evaluate a name and positioning. This is an improv where participants stand up and have a conversation using a new name or positioning. I recently ran a naming session with a colleague for a social services agency. We had six names in the top tier and were trying to evaluate which were the best. One of the name candidates looked great on paper, but when I asked for two volunteers to improv it (one in the role of a crisis hotline operator, the other a client calling for help) we realized it was a bear… too cumbersome to speak when used in context. We nixed that one from the list.
  • Spontaneity based on solid preparation. These games work when you mentally prepare yourselfas facilitator, prepare your respondent team by providing clear guidelines of what you are asking them to do, and prepare your client team in advance so that they won’t be shocked or worried if you include a theater game to your discussion guide or agenda.

These are just a small sampling of theater games and activities you might bring to your next gig. I encourage you to try them out and make up your own, and feel free to get in contact with me.

Links to more articles on this topic:

 

Laurie Tema LynLaurie Tema-Lyn
Practical Imagination Enterprises
laurie@practical-imagination.com

Tags:  QRCA Digest  Qualitative  Research Methodologies  Theater Games 

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The Beautiful Human Contradiction

Posted By Kendall Nash, Tuesday, March 5, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Untitled Document

Practical and thoughtful, but a walking contradiction. She made it clear that every decision she made had a purpose, and every item she bought met well-defined criteria. As she described her grocery store trips, she recalled the price associated with each and every item. In order to even make it into her cart, the items on her shopping list had to fall within an acceptable and narrow margin. And yet, her eyes lit up and you could see her lost in her memories as she described the unique metal bracelet on her wrist that she had bought on a whim for 250 euro during a trip to Barcelona. She smiled again and told me about how it was made.

Scratching Our Heads
That moment when the consumer tells you something totally incongruent with the story you’ve crafted in your mind of who they are and how they live…

Those comments that seem to contradict each other within a span of minutes…

We formulate clear pictures in our own minds of who a person is and what matters to them, only for them to turn around and tell us something that leaves us scratching our heads.

In my early years as a Qualitative Researcher, I’d find myself frustrated. Seeking patterns and convergence of themes, I was always challenged when things didn’t line up. Sure, I understood things would vary from person to person, but I was caught off guard and perplexed by the number of things that didn’t add up within the perspective of one individual.

Bracelet

Humans Are Messy
Of course, it didn’t take me long to realize what many before me had contemplated – that humans are, in fact, messy. We don’t follow a logical path down the road. There’s not always a reason – or at least not a consistent, or “good”, one. We don’t always make linear decisions. Sometimes we struggle with opposing internal forces that shape our mindsets and behaviors.

But then something beautiful happened.

When I looked more closely at those incongruencies within a single person, there were valuable opportunities for my client to step in and meet the consumer in the midst of the messiness. We identified opportunities for innovative products and delivery, discovered more meaningful ways to connect with those not yet using their brand, and found unique ways to give someone a great customer experience worth talking about. It was actually in those messy places we were finding our most disruptive learning – you know, the insights that make your team say “whoa, yes.” It’s exhilarating to experience those moments when you are onto something that you know will significantly and positively impact your business.

Quote 1

Unveiling the Mess with Qualitative Research

As a fan of both quantitative and qualitative research, I respect the ways both serve in delivering the information we need to make good decisions. Yes, enough people will tell you that quantitative tells you the what and qualitative tells you the why, but it’s so much more for me. Quantitative offers us sound decisions, confidence in direction before we set sail, and a big, delicious slice of the world. The beauty of qualitative is our ability to get in the nooks and crannies. To discover the mess and bring things into the light that just might unlock something truly magical for the brand. The rapport we build with consumers allows us a richer glimpse into what matters to them, so we can become brands that matter to them.

Quote 2

Embrace the Mess
Knowing that the messiness of the human heart and mind can be where the greatest potential lies for brands, we can see those moments through an entirely different lens. The next time in research you find yourself with a consumer who doesn’t seem to fit into a perfectly shaped box in your mind, celebrate! When things don’t add up exactly the way you expect them to, celebrate! You are probably onto something really good. And we go after good things.

What about you? Where have you found gold in the messiness of incongruent, inconsistent, yet beautiful human beings?

Kendall Nash Kendall Nash is a Vice President at Burke, Inc. in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is an instructor for the Burke Institute and a past president of QRCA. Kendall’s curiosity drives her closer to consumers and their experiences. Her thrills come from uncovering what people truly want and need, and translating that so brands can win.

Twitter: @kendallnash
LinkedIn

Tags:  QRCA Digest  qualitative  qualitative research 

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Two Ways to Quantify User Experience

Posted By Lauren Isaacson, Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Updated: Friday, February 15, 2019

Quantify User Experience

A friend of mine is a designer who has worked with various divisions of the government of Canada. She told me about working with one particular department. She would show them potential design improvements to existing websites based on qualitative usability tests and they would invariably come back with the question, "How do you know it's better?"

Indeed, how does one know for sure a new website is better than the existing version? As researchers, we know the answer — benchmarking data. However, what's the best way to benchmark the usability of a system? Two methods are commonly used by UX researchers:

  • System Usability Scale (SUS)
  • Single Ease Question (SEQ)

System Usability Scale (SUS)

SUS is the most widely used and documented of the two options, with references in over 1,300 articles and publications. It's also free and applicable to pretty much any piece of technology. SUS consists of 10 questions, all using the same 5-point scale.

1 Strongly Agree/2 Agree/3 Neutral/4 Disagree/5 Strongly Disagree

  1. I think that I would use this system frequently.
  2. I found the system unnecessarily complex.
  3. I thought the system was easy to use.
  4. I think that I would need the support of a technical person to be able to use this system.
  5. I found the various functions in this systemwide well integrated.
  6. I thought there was too much inconsistency in this system.
  7. I would imagine that most people would learn to use this system very quickly.
  8. I found the system very cumbersome to use.
  9. I felt very confident using the system.
  10. I needed to learn a lot of things before I could get going with this system.

The numbering of the questions is essential for calculating the overall score. For odd-numbered questions, subtract 1 from each response and subtract the responses from each even-numbered question from 5. This should leave you with a final score between 0 and 40. This score is then multiplied by 2.5 to increase the range of the score to 0 to 100. This final number is a score and should not be confused with a percentage.

Lucky for us, the good folks at Measuring U have analyzed the responses from 5,000 users evaluating 500 websites and have come up with a grading system to help interpret the scores:

  • ~85+ = A
  • ~75 - 84 = B
  • ~65 - 74 = C, 68 is the average score
  • ~55 - 67 = D
  • ~45 or under = F

If you would like a more official and accurate grading system, you can buy Measuring U's guide and calculator package.

Single Ease Question (SEQ)

The other method is SEQ. Single Ease Question is less commonly utilized and has no documented standard wording, but it has the advantage of being much shorter than SUS. I am always in favor of making surveys shorter. SEQ consists of one question rated on a 7-point scale covering ease of completing a technology-enabled task. Like SUS, it is also free and applicable to almost any piece of technology.

  • Overall, how difficult or easy did you find this task?
    • Very easy
    • Easy
    • Somewhat easy
    • Neutral
    • Somewhat difficult
    • Difficult
    • Very difficult

Because there is no documented standard wording of the SEQ, you can tailor the question to cover the metric your stakeholders are most concerned about — confidence, speed, usefulness, etc. The SEQ also pairs very well with unmoderated usability tests often used by researchers who need quick feedback on interfaces.

Measuring U found the average scores across multiple websites to be about 5 (Somewhat easy), but this system is less documented than SUS. Therefore, use it to compare the before and after of a redesign, but not against other sites as you can do with SUS. If you're looking for more than just benchmarking data, you can also add two open-ended questions to the SEQ without risking excessive length.

  • What would make this website/form/app/system better?

Alternatively,

  • What is something you would fix on this website/form/app/system?

These voluntary open-ends give respondents the opportunity to offer their suggestions about what is wrong with the system and how they might make it better. It provides the potential to understand the “why” behind the data.

In the end, by using either of these UX survey question sets before a system redesign is launched and after, you will be able to tell your stakeholders if a redesign is indeed an improvement over the old, and how much better it is.

Sources:

Lauren Isaccson

Lauren Isaacson is a UX and market research consultant living in Vancouver, British Columbia. Over her career she has consulted for various agencies and companies, such as Nissan/Infiniti, Microsoft, Blink UX, TELUS Digital, Applause, Mozilla, and more. You can reach her through her website, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Tags:  data  QRCA Digest  qualitative research  user experience 

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Be a Consultant, Not an Order-Taker

Posted By Jay Zaltzman, Tuesday, February 5, 2019
Updated: Monday, February 4, 2019

Blog QualPowerI know it’s tempting, when a client — whether it be a company or an internal client — says they want four focus groups in Chicago, to answer “coming right up!” But it’s important to remember that, as qualitative researchers, our job isn’t only to conduct discussions or interviews, but rather to design research that will be most effective in answering our clients’ research questions.

We need to remind those clients about the value we can bring to the table. Remember, they may be considering “John in Marketing — he’s good with people, let’s have him ask the questions in the focus group.” But “John in Marketing” doesn’t necessarily know about designing research methodology. And he doesn’t realize that there’s more to a discussion guide than just “asking the questions.”

So, when clients ask if I can do four focus groups in Chicago, I say I can; but then I ask them to give me the background to the project. What are their objectives? How will the results be used? Do they have a budget? Why were they thinking of four focus groups in Chicago, specifically?

In my proposal, I’ll provide a cost for the four focus groups they requested, but based on what I learned, I might also suggest some alternatives. Let’s say it turns out they wanted the four groups in Chicago because that’s local, and they don’t have the budget for executives to travel to view groups. I might suggest two mini-groups in Chicago and four online mini-groups via webcam. Or depending on the topic, perhaps to two groups in Chicago and some online journaling nationwide. And of course, I’ll explain the reasoning behind those suggestions. Even if the clients say “thanks, but we’ll stick with the four groups in Chicago,” they will be impressed by the thinking... and you’ll be more likely to be hired than the competitor who had not included those kinds of options!

And don’t forget to offer to help the clients digest the research results. I try to always include the option of running a workshop with the stakeholders after the research is completed, to discuss the findings and how they might be utilized. It’s fulfilling to see the impact of the research, and it provides more value to your clients... and that’s the name of the game!

Jay zaltzman

By: Jay Zaltzman

Jay Zaltzman believes that qualitative researchers can offer true value to clients by combining empathy with creative methodology and analytical rigor.  Jay has been president of Bureau West Market Research/Voice of the Customer for the past twenty years.  He is an active member and past president of the QRCA. 

Website: http://bureauwest.com/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jayzaltzman/
Twitter: @zaltzman

Tags:  Focus Groups  QRCA Digest  Qualitative Research  Research Methodology 

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Minimize the Unpredictable: 3 Tips for Great Ethnos

Posted By Rob Volpe, Ignite 360, Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Updated: Friday, January 18, 2019
QRCA 2018 Conference Attendees

“Expect the unexpected” is what I recently said to a client who was about to embark on her first in-home ethnography visit. Out in the real world, away from controlled environs like a facility or online platform, almost anything can happen. That’s the beauty of ethnography. You get to see life as it’s really lived instead of having it explained to you. It’s also the challenge of ethnographies. Like life, an ethnographic project can be unpredictable. While that appeals to some personality types, it doesn’t sit well with everyone, especially clients who don’t do ethnos very often.

Here are 3 ethnographic tips to transform the unpredictable into a certainty:

  1. Pre Field Work Final Prep- QRCA Get to Know Your Participants Ahead of Time – If you think it’s daunting walking into a stranger’s home, try having a group of 4-5 strangers over to your house to “put you under the microscope.” To help respondents feel more at ease, make sure they are a great fit with your recruiting criteria. To help advance the conversation upon arrival, get to know the participants before you visit them.

    This orientation can be completed through “screendowns”—phone or video calls with potential respondents recruited by the field house but not yet booked.  That conversation allows you to verify and validate what was said in the recruit as well as their comfort engaging in conversation. Or you can engage participants in an online or video activity prior to fielding and use that to help select your final participants. Both approaches enable you to get to know the respondent and, just as importantly, they get to know you. When I walk into a respondent’s home and I’m able to mention the names of my colleagues who have talked to them, I always see a glimmer of recognition and the respondent starts to relax as they’ve already made a connection with us through these earlier interactions.

    While these steps add time and dollars to the budget, they help to lower the risk that a session will be a dud. In a focus group or online community with numerous respondents, you can get beyond a quiet respondent or one or two recruits that aren’t quite the right fit. In an ethno, each respondent is the “star” of their own show. If they aren’t spot on and comfortable, it will be a loooooong session that your clients have paid a lot of money to sit through. It’s time you won’t get back, but your clients might ask for their money back. 

  2. QRCA Clients in the Field Prep Your Clients on What to Expect – If clients are joining you in the field (and hopefully they are), help them understand what it’s going to be like. Remember, your clients don’t do ethnos as often as you do. It’s even more important when you have an extended client team joining you in the field.

    We put together pre-field briefing calls and documents explaining what to expect. It aligns everyone and answers the questions they have, big and small. Can they ask questions? What should they do during the session (see tip #3 below)? Can they use the bathroom in a respondent’s house? What should they wear? When will they eat? Can they use their phone?

    The briefing is also the best time to make sure everyone is aligned on the key questions, flow of the conversation, and other points you want to make. At our company we coach clients on the 5 Steps to Building and Applying Empathy. That little bit of coaching can make a big difference in how they engage and ultimately absorb what they experience.

    The risk of not doing this? A big, disorganized mess when you get into the session. Uncomfortable clients will make the respondent uncomfortable and will lead to an unproductive session.

  3. Put Your Clients to Work for You– Ethnographies are a juggling act. Yes, you are moderating, but you are also doing things like taking notes and pictures. If clients are with you, have them help you out. Give them notebooks and ask them to take notes on their observations and what they hear. Those come in handy during debriefs in the car right after the session. You can even incorporate them into your analysis.

    Need pictures from the session? Designate one of your client attendees as the official photographer. Give them direction on what pictures you need (a nice face pic of the respondent for sure). Think ahead about what other images you might need for your report. How might images from the in-home visit help advance the story you will tell? When we have clients take pictures, we try to set a minimum — maybe 30 — so they realize they should take a lot of pictures, not just one or two. You may end up with 18… but it’s a lot better than none.

    Engaging the clients empowers them; they’re immediately more invested and at ease, which helps them get more out of the session. And it reduces your own cognitive load so you can focus on what you are really there to do – moderate the best conversation possible!

It’s unrealistic to try to solve for every variable that could possibly come up on an in-home.  I was in the middle of an in-home during the East Coast earthquake in 2011. You can’t plan for that, but you can give your clients tips on what to do to keep themselves safe. The more you make an investment upfront, the better prepared you’ll be to fully engage and get the most out of each session as the moderator.

What tips do you have for a better ethno? What challenges do you have with ethnos that you’d like to resolve? Ask away!

Rob Volpe By: Rob Volpe

Rob Volpe is CEO and Chief Catalyst of Ignite 360, an insights and strategy firm. When he’s not traveling the globe in search of the answer to the question “why,” he’s at work on his first book, Everyday Americans, his journey to understanding empathy told through his adventures in ethnography.


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Tags:  ethnography  QRCA Digest  qualitative research 

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Applying the Design Thinking Process in Qualitative Research

Posted By Joe Sharlip, Tuesday, January 8, 2019
Updated: Thursday, January 10, 2019
Untitled Document applying design

Design Thinking (DT) is a methodology that provides a solution-based approach to solving problems. It’s extremely useful in tackling complex problems that are ill-defined or unknown. This is accomplished by understanding the human needs involved, re-framing the problem in human-centric ways, creating multiple ideas in brainstorming sessions, and adopting a hands-on approach in prototyping and testing.

The DT mindset is a natural fit with qualitative research. As Qualitative Researchers (QRs), we are experts at delivering customer experience-based insights. As a sister discipline, DT grapples with the conundrum of how to inspire design, stirring the pot enough to generate fresh new approaches. When QRs integrate DT processes into qualitative research, we reach whole new levels of insight generation.

As a way of educating researchers on DT methodology – and its correlation to qualitative research – it’s helpful to focus on the five-stage Design Thinking model proposed by the Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University.

Stage One: Empathize
In this phase  the DT process aims to gain an empathic understanding of the issue or problem at hand. Empathy is crucial to a human-centered design process, and empathy allows design thinkers to set aside their own assumptions about the world in order to gain insight into consumer-users and their needs.

Stage Two: Define
Now you can put together the information you have created and gathered during the empathize stage. You will analyze your observations and synthesize them in order to define the core problems or issues you and your team have identified to this point – stated in a problem statement that is human-centered in nature.

Stage Three: Ideation
Now designers are ready to start generating ideas. You’ve grown to understand your users and their needs, and you’ve analyzed and synthesized your information to end up with a human-centered problem statement. With this solid background, you can start to ‘think outside the box’ to identify new solutions to the problem statement you’ve created, and you can start to look for alternative ways of viewing the problem.

Stage Four: Prototype
We are now in position to produce a number of inexpensive, scaled down versions of the product or specific features found within the product, so we can investigate the problem solutions generated in the previous stage. Prototypes may be shared and tested within the team itself, in other departments, or on a small group of people outside the design team.

applying designStage Five: Testing
Designers or evaluators are now able to rigorously try out the complete product using the best solutions identified during the prototyping phase. This is the final stage of the five stage-model, but it is also an iterative process where the results generated during the testing phase are often used to redefine one or more problems and inform the understanding of the users, conditions of use, how people think, behave, and feel. In this phase, alterations and refinements can be made in order to rule out impractical problem solutions and deepen our understanding of the product and its users.


Essentially, qualitative research – as DT – is dedicated to a core principal referred to as ‘Stretching.’ Successful facilitation of stretching reaches deep beneath the surface with participants, encourages each of us to become an observer, and challenges the thinking of client-observers. There are a number of powerful benefits stretching can bring to qualitative research and the insights it can reveal:

  • Helping to support and foster creative potential within each person, honoring the leader and the learner in each individual.
  • Bringing disparate voices and teams together, trying out all perspectives and viewpoints.
  • Remaining curious and empathic about stories.
  • Embracing inspiration and ‘gut feelings’ as an equal partner to analytical thinking.
  • Opening doors to creatively imagining ideas, then pulling out all the stops in the search for new views, drawing on limitless possibilities.
  • Not being afraid to fail, and, with this in mind, constantly experimenting in courageous, resourceful, and optimistic ways.

As QR practitioners we must endeavor to be more thoughtful and deliberate about how we embrace the process of exploration. Insight and empathy are critical elements of both qualitative research and DT. The intention of both is to integrate visceral or empathic connections into the process of observing, exploring, coming up with new views, and then taking that next step into designing solutions. The goal is to trigger the imaginations of all involved.  To do this, we can introduce an additional step into the qualitative phases of research in which we engage respondents in the process of designing prototypes, product ideation, or even strategic development.” We can infuse DT tools all the way through our work. The process is iterative, flexible and focused on collaboration between designers and users  with an emphasis on bringing ideas to life based on how real users think, feel and behave. Now, doesn’t this thought capture the essence of what qualitative research is all about?

Sources:
QRCA Views Magazine: Spring 2016 - Toolbox - Villanueva & Koronet - Design Thinking Tools for Qualitative Researchers

Interactive Design Foundation – Article By Rikke Dam and Teo Siang
https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/5-stages-in-the-design-thinking-process


joe sharlip

Joe Sharlip, QRCA Brand Manager
Joe has served in corporate, agency and consulting roles as Director of Marketing and Research, Branding Strategist and Account Planning Director for companies like American Electric Power, Pan American, and Bates Worldwide. He was recognized with a Gold EFFIE, and holds a MBA in Marketing from the University of Connecticut.  You can reach Joe on LinkedIn.


Tags:  design thinking  QRCA Digest  qualitative research 

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