Quantitative Research

Your constantly-updated definition of Quantitative Research and collection of topical content and literature
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What is Quantitative Research?

Quantitative research is the methodology which researchers use to test theories about people’s attitudes and behaviors based on numerical and statistical evidence. Researchers sample a large number of users (e.g., through surveys) to indirectly obtain measurable, bias-free data about users in relevant situations.

“Quantification clarifies issues which qualitative analysis leaves fuzzy. It is more readily contestable and likely to be contested. It sharpens scholarly discussion, sparks off rival hypotheses, and contributes to the dynamics of the research process.”

— Angus Maddison, Notable scholar of quantitative macro-economic history

See how quantitative research helps reveal cold, hard facts about users which you can interpret and use to improve your designs.

Use Quantitative Research to Find Mathematical Facts about Users

Quantitative research is a subset of user experience (ֱ) research. Unlike its softer, more individual-oriented “counterpart”, qualitative research, quantitative research means you collect statistical/numerical data to draw generalized conclusions about users attitudes and behaviors. Compare and contrast quantitative with qualitative research, below:

Quantitative Research

Qualitative Research

You Aim to Determine

The “what”, “where” & “when” of the users’ needs & problems – to help keep your project’s focus on track during development

The “why” – to get behind how users approach their problems in their world

Methods

Highly structured (e.g., surveys) – to gather data about what users do & find patterns in large user groups

Loosely structured (e.g., contextual inquiries) – to learn why users behave how they do & explore their opinions

Number of Representative Users

Ideally 30+

Often around 5

Level of Contact with Users

Less direct & more remote (e.g., analytics)

More direct & less remote (e.g., usability testing to examine users’ stress levels when they use your design)

Statistically

Reliable – if you have enough test users

Less reliable, with need for great care with handling non-numerical data (e.g., opinions), as your own opinions might influence findings

Quantitative research is often best done from early on in projects since it helps teams to optimally direct product development and avoid costly design mistakes later. As you typically get user data from a distance—i.e., without close physical contact with users—also applying qualitative research will help you investigate why users think and feel the ways they do. Indeed, in an iterative design process quantitative research helps you test the assumptions you and your design team develop from your qualitative research. Regardless of the method you use, with proper care you can gather objective and unbiased data – information which you can complement with qualitative approaches to build a fuller understanding of your target users. From there, you can work towards firmer conclusions and drive your design process towards a more realistic picture of how target users will ultimately receive your product.

Author / ֱ portalrize.com Copyright holder: Teo Yu Siang and the Interaction Design Foundation. ֱ portalrize.com Copyright terms and license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Quantitative analysis helps you test your assumptions and establish clearer views of your users in their various contexts.

Quantitative Research Methods You Can Use to Guide Optimal Designs

There are many quantitative research methods, and they help uncover different types of information on users. Some methods, such as A/B testing, are typically done on finished products, while others such as surveys could be done throughout a project’s design process. Here are some of the most helpful methods:

  • A/B testing – You test two or more versions of your design on users to find the most effective. Each variation differs by just one feature and may or may not affect how users respond. A/B testing is especially valuable for testing assumptions you’ve drawn from qualitative research. The only potential concerns here are scale—in that you’ll typically need to conduct it on thousands of users—and arguably more complexity in terms of considering the statistical significance involved.
  • Analytics With tools such as Google Analytics, you measure metrics (e.g., page views, click-through rates) to build a picture (e.g., “How many users take how long to complete a task?”).
  • Desirability Studies You measure an aspect of your product (e.g., aesthetic appeal) by typically showing it to participants and asking them to select from a menu of descriptive words. Their responses can reveal powerful insights (e.g., 78% associate the product/brand with “fashionable”).
  • Surveys and Questionnaires – When you ask for many users’ opinions, you will gain massive amounts of information. Keep in mind that you’ll have data about what users say they do, as opposed to insights into what they do. You can get more reliable results if you incentivize your participants well and use the right format.
  • Tree Testing You remove the user interface so users must navigate the site and complete tasks using links alone. This helps you see if an issue is related to the user interface or information architecture.

Another powerful benefit of conducting quantitative research is that you can keep your stakeholders’ support with hard facts and statistics about your design’s performance—which can show what works well and what needs improvement—and prove a good return on investment. You can also produce reports to check statistics against different versions of your product and your competitors’ products.

Most quantitative research methods are relatively cheap. Since no single research method can help you answer all your questions, it’s vital to judge which method suits your project at the time/stage. Remember, it’s best to spend appropriately on a combination of quantitative and qualitative research from early on in development. Design improvements can be costly, and so you can estimate the value of implementing changes when you get the statistics to suggest that these changes will improve usability. Overall, you want to gather measurements objectively, where your personality, presence and theories won’t create bias.

Learn More about Quantitative Research

Take our User Research course to see how to get the most from quantitative research: /courses/user-research-methods-and-best-practices

See how quantitative research methods fit into your design research landscape:

This insightful piece shows the value of pairing quantitative with qualitative research:

Find helpful tips on combining quantitative research methods in mixed methods research:

Literature on Quantitative Research

Here’s the entire ֱ literature on Quantitative Research by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about Quantitative Research

Take a deep dive into Quantitative Research with our course User Research – Methods and Best Practices .

How do you plan to design a product or service that your users will love, if you don't know what they want in the first place? As a user experience designer, you shouldn't leave it to chance to design something outstanding; you should make the effort to understand your users and build on that knowledge from the outset. User research is the way to do this, and it can therefore be thought of as the largest part of user experience design.

In fact, user research is often the first step of a ֱ design process—after all, you cannot begin to design a product or service without first understanding what your users want! As you gain the skills required, and learn about the best practices in user research, you’ll get first-hand knowledge of your users and be able to design the optimal product—one that’s truly relevant for your users and, subsequently, outperforms your competitors.

This course will give you insights into the most essential qualitative research methods around and will teach you how to put them into practice in your design work. You’ll also have the opportunity to embark on three practical projects where you can apply what you’ve learned to carry out user research in the real world. You’ll learn details about how to plan user research projects and fit them into your own work processes in a way that maximizes the impact your research can have on your designs. On top of that, you’ll gain practice with different methods that will help you analyze the results of your research and communicate your findings to your clients and stakeholders—workshops, user journeys and personas, just to name a few!

By the end of the course, you’ll have not only a Course Certificate but also three case studies to add to your portfolio. And remember, a portfolio with engaging case studies is invaluable if you are looking to break into a career in ֱ design or user research!

We believe you should learn from the best, so we’ve gathered a team of experts to help teach this course alongside our own course instructors. That means you’ll meet a new instructor in each of the lessons on research methods who is an expert in their field—we hope you enjoy what they have in store for you!

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