In order to create great user experience there is an essential need to not only understand the functionality of the website interface but also the dynamic of the user. And it is this second element, the user, that gives rise for the qualitative researcher to come into their own with website usability studies. You might very well expect that a client would approach a quantitative researcher for this task but there is more to usability domain than meets the eye. Lets take a new view.
Understanding human behaviour and motivations have always been the territory of qualitative researchers, understanding how user interact with a web interface is no different. Experienced qualitative researchers can bring a wealth of skills to usability testing. Qualitative researchers bring with them a richness of information. They can draw out user beliefs and motivations which translate into the way they interact with a website. They can sort through reactions and responses and probe on a user’s state of mind. Experienced qualitative researchers have the ability to succinctly hypothesise potential reactions to web functionality gleaned by deep insight from personal and direct moderation. And then interrogate that behaviour efficiently in the immediate situation.
A qualitative review will always deliver a richness of understanding that will make a lasting impression. A recent study involving a health website demonstrated the need for designers to be fully aware of the potential anxiety parents might be feeling as they interact with the site. Emergency procedures and contact numbers were shown to be too hard to find and whilst they appeared on the home page users acknowledged they maybe distracted when engaging with the site. The information needed to be obvious and clearly differentiated with standard medical icons. These insights revealed themselves through discussing the context surrounding the usage. Keeping the parent users state of mind at the forefront of the designer agenda ensure they will create a site which is useful and therefore valuable.
There seems to be an impression that any consumer behaviour relating to the online environment typically falls into the territory of a quantitative researcher. Whether rightly or wrongly there seems to be demarcation line when technology comes into play. But here I would encourage qualitative researchers to break into the usability area as their skills would be invaluable. Perhaps qualitative researcher are traditionally more comfortable interacting simply with people and being technology free but it’s time to break out of that thinking and consider the opportunities that their skills can be applied in the online environment.
If you’re ready to take up the challenge and want to learn how to be a great usability practitioner why not join us at Objective Digital on 14th April, 2010. We are running a Usability Course to help get you up and running with confidence. Everything you need to know to get started!