When gathering user feedback, there are generally two kinds of research that you can focus on: qualitative and quantitative research. These are both important to developing a holistic understanding of a user’s experience but are usually conducted in different ways. In this article, we’ll outline how online whiteboards can help facilitate both qualitative and quantitative user research and will briefly discuss the difference between the two.
Online whiteboard overview
Online whiteboards are tools that enable multiple people to gather on a shared visual space and collaborate in real-time. We’ve previously discussed their efficacy in creating an MVP, enabling design thinking, and increasing usability, but they also are very helpful to conducting research.
One of the reasons online whiteboards are so helpful for conducting research is they provide a collaborative environment that can gather multiple people on the same platform and enable them to provide feedback on the same set of information. This can happen as part of a group session, but can also occur asynchronously to gather data over a long period of time.
Qualitative research vs quantitative research
Qualitative and quantitative research are both integral parts to developing the full story behind any research question, but they provide very different things to this overall goal.
Quantitative research is the process of gathering quantifiable data through statistical and procedural techniques. The results of these techniques will usually be displayed with a numerical answer, which is used to guide the direction of the product going forward.
For example, you could conduct a quantitative analysis of your website visitors to gauge how many of them are clicking the signup link. Depending on the data you receive, you will know if you need to change your online signup strategy to push more people to interact with your content.
Qualitative research, on the other hand, is an expression of feelings about a certain topic. Rather than conducting research based on numbers, it attempts to gather in-depth insight in order to establish the feeling around a certain topic. The main product of qualitative research is words, conversations, and feedback, rather than a “yes or no” checkbox.
For example, a qualitative analysis might look like asking potential users what their favorite design style is based on three given options. They’re both directed to certain sections to provide comparative feedback, can give open-ended opinions, and will have their thoughts recorded by a moderator. This information will then be processed and considered when deciding on the final design.
Both qualitative and quantitative research are important because they focus on gaining different types of knowledge. It’s difficult to compare them because they’re, for lack of a better term, apples and oranges. That being said, they’re both important to the overall feedback generated, so below we will outline some brief advantages of each strategy.
Qualitative research advantages
- Prioritizes creative freedom: When doing qualitative feedback, the priority is on the attitudes and feelings of the user. This means their feedback will be much more creative, rather than a simple “yes or no”.
- Incorporates nuanced responses: Similar to providing creative feedback, there are many answers users may give besides the listed options. Understanding the nuance behind their decision can reveal hidden motivations or points that would be invisible without qualitative analysis.
- Increases flexibility: Increasing the flexibility of your research is really helpful, especially when having users analyze a design, for example. They can point out a ton of problems that you hadn’t even considered, which wouldn’t be possible unless you have a flexible qualitative conversation.
Quantitative research advantages
- Access a large pool of results: Quantitative research is easy to conduct and allows you to reach a large pool of people in a short amount of time. Quick questions and answers mean you gather a ton of data with minimal effort.
- Collect data-driven responses: The responses to quantitative research will be organized, standardized, and driven by user-created data. This creates a really simple method of data collection that can easily produce results.
- Eliminate bias: Gathering such numerical results means there is little room for creative freedom with quantitative analysis. While this limits the variety of responses, it provides straightforward feedback that eliminates the possibility of bias.
How online whiteboards facilitate both
While these research methods are very distinct and unique, they are both important in their own right. Conducting one without the other may feel one-sided, but depending on your personal needs, only one of them may be applicable.
Using an online whiteboard is one of the best ways to gather in-depth qualitative feedback while also providing an innovative way of generating collaborative quantitative feedback as well.
When conducting qualitative analysis, online whiteboards allow users to directly compare ideas to one another on the same board. This not only provides a real-time visual comparison, but it allows them to provide written feedback on the specific items that they find noteworthy.
This adds a layer of freedom to qualitative research that is difficult to replicate and enables the user to open their mind as to what they’re analyzing.
Quantitative collaboration is less likely to happen on an online whiteboard but can still achieve successful results due to the asynchronous collaboration abilities. You can share a board with all of your survey participants and allow them to participate in their own time, which will result in a board full of data at the end of the survey period. This data can then be exported out of your board and into a file that can distribute it properly.
This gives people a hands-on experience with their quantitative analysis and can provide dynamic visual cues to guide their responses. This way, both quantitative and qualitative research can be conducted effectively on an online whiteboard.
If you’re looking for solutions and aren’t quite sure how to conduct your research, using an online whiteboard might just be the solution for you. By blending collaborative and creative research methods, online whiteboards provide a flexible space to accommodate any solution you need.