User Testing

Quantitative vs qualitative user testing methods: all you need to know

Published May 24, 2023 ⚡ Updated on October 2, 2023 by Andrea
Quantitative vs qualitative user testing methods: all you need to know

When it comes to user testing, understanding the differences between quantitative and qualitative methods is crucial. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the key distinctions between these two approaches, what each method involves, and how you can use Userbrain to leverage both qualitative and quantitative user research for better insights and product improvements. Let’s find out what’s what.

What is quantitative user testing?

Quantitative user testing is a research method centered on collecting numerical data. It typically addresses questions such as “How many users completed a specific task?” or “What percentage of users clicked on a particular button?”. That’s why quantitative methods are best suited to measuring user behavior, identifying trends, and informing data-driven decision-making.

Popular quantitative user testing methods

  • Surveys: Gathering large amounts of data from users through responses to specific questions.
  • A/B testing: Comparing two or more versions of a design, feature, or interface element to determine which performs better based on user interaction data.
  • Web analytics: Analyzing user behavior data, including pageviews, bounce rates, and conversion rates, to uncover trends and identify potential areas of improvement.

Advantages of quantitative user testing

Objective data

When you use quantitative user testing methods, you’re gathering numerical data. Since data is objective, you should be able to gain an unbiased view of your product’s user experience. In theory, you can then leverage this data to make better-informed product decisions. But making UX decisions based on quantitative analysis alone can have disastrous consequences.

Larger sample size

Concerning objective data, another advantage of a quantitative study is that you can collect information from a larger user group compared to qualitative practices. With quantitative testing, t’s often a case of ‘the more data, the better.’ The perfect example is heatmaps, which require multiple data entries to provide relevant objective data. 

Discover trends easily

When analyzing the statistics and data points gathered through quantitative study, it becomes easier to spot interesting trends, connections, and patterns in user behavior. In turn, these patterns can inform important UX decisions. 

Differences between quantitative and qualitative user testing methods.

What is qualitative user testing

On the other hand, qualitative user testing focuses on collecting non-numerical data. It aims to answer questions like “Why did users struggle to complete a specific task?” or “What were users’ thoughts and feelings while using the product?”. This type of testing is used to gain a deeper understanding of user motivations, emotions, and experiences.

Popular qualitative user testing methods

  • Interviews: Engaging with users in one-to-one conversations to better understand their thoughts, feelings, and experiences while interacting with a product or service.
  • Observing users: Watching users as they interact with a product, noting their actions, reactions, and any difficulties they encounter.
  • Verbal feedback: Asking users to verbalize their thoughts while using a product, providing insights into their thought processes and decision-making.

Advantages of qualitative user testing 

In-depth insights: Qualitative methods provide a deeper understanding of user motivations, emotions, and experiences, revealing the “why” behind user behavior.

Usability issues: By observing users directly, qualitative testing can identify usability problems that may not be apparent from quantitative data alone.

User empathy: Gaining insights into users’ thoughts, feelings, and experiences can help build empathy and inform more user-centered design decisions.

Quantitative vs. qualitative testing: making the right choice

Selecting between quantitative and qualitative user testing depends on your goals and the questions you want to answer. If you’re looking to gather statistical data and measure user behavior, then quantitative testing might be the best choice for your product. On the other hand, if you’re seeking deeper insights into user motivations and experiences, then qualitative testing will likely be a better fit.

But like all good things in life, user testing is a buffet of sorts – you don’t have to choose one or the other. In fact, you can pile your plate high and enjoy as many courses as you like! In many cases, combining both approaches can offer the most comprehensive view of your users. By using quantitative methods to gather data and qualitative methods to gain deeper insights, you can make more informed decisions when trying to improve your product’s user experience. 

FAQs: qualitative or quantitative?

We’ve prepared a few frequently asked questions (FAQs) that you can ask yourself to figure out whether to prioritise qualitative or quantitative user testing.

How many test participants do I need?

For qualitative user tests, you’ll need at least 5 test participants, up to a maximum of 12 per round, according to Jacob Nielsen’s research. However, for quantitative studies, 12 testers are unlikely to produce any useful data – we recommend a minimum of 30 test participants for quantitative research. Therefore, if you’re on a budget, you will get a lot more bang for your buck by running a qualitative study.

For more information on the optimal number of testers, have a browse through our guide ? ‘How many user testing participants should I test with?

Is there a difference in price between qualitative & quantitative research?

Yes. It’s not always a huge difference, but you’ll generally find qualitative testing offers better value for money. For example, you can run a qualitative user test with Userbrain for just $39, whereas a modest quantitative study with Hotjar will set you back $99.

Trying to improve your UX on a tight budget? We’ve got you covered in this blog post ? ‘5 affordable ways to improve user experience on a limited budget.’

Userbrain Pricing

How quickly will I get results?

The turnaround time for qualitative and quantitative user testing can vary significantly. In general, qualitative testing methods may take longer because they often involve individual interviews, focus groups, or observations, which require more detailed analysis. Quantitative research, on the other hand, can often deliver quicker results as it relies on statistical data that can be quickly processed and interpreted. However, that’s not always the case.

What kind of data am I looking for?

The type of data you’re seeking can significantly influence whether you choose qualitative or quantitative testing. If you’re interested in gaining deep insights into user behavior, feelings, or motivations, then qualitative research is your best bet. However, if you’re looking to gather statistical data on user behavior to make objective decisions, quantitative testing will serve you better.

Is my product in the early or late stage of development?

The development stage of your product can impact the type of user testing you’ll want to conduct. In the early stages, qualitative research can be invaluable in understanding user needs and reactions, helping shape the direction of your product. Later in the development cycle, quantitative testing can help to validate initial findings and refine the product by identifying usability issues across a larger audience.

Will I need to involve a professional researcher?

Both qualitative and quantitative testing methods require some level of expertise for planning, executing, and analyzing results. However, qualitative research often requires more in-depth skill and experience, as it involves interpreting complex and subjective data. For such intense studies, there’s also the option of moderated user tests. Quantitative research, while still needing a knowledgeable individual, can be more straightforward due to its more statistical and objective nature.

Can I combine qualitative and quantitative methods?

Absolutely! Combining qualitative and quantitative user testing methods, often referred to as ‘mixed methods’, can provide a holistic view of your users’ behavior and preferences. This approach can capture the depth and nuance of qualitative data while also leveraging the breadth and objectivity of quantitative data.

In fact, here’s an easy way to do just that…

How to combine quantitative and qualitative methods

To truly understand your users, it’s often best to combine quantitative and qualitative user testing methods. This approach allows you to leverage the strengths of both methods and gain a more holistic view of user behavior, motivations, and experiences. One way to achieve this is by using Userbrain’s presentation-ready user test reports.

Presentation-ready user test Reports

If you’re not familiar with what we do here at Userbrain, we primarily offer a qualitative user testing tool. However, in December 2022, we introduced a new feature called Reports, which combines qualitative insights with quantitative data points. Not only do Reports make user test analysis quicker, but they can be shared with your team and stakeholders easily. 

Userbrain presentation-ready Reports

Reports provide key quantitative metrics to understand your users, such as: time on task, task completion rate, and average time on task.

Here’s how Userbrain’s Reports can help you combine quantitative and qualitative testing methods:

  • Discover pain points: New metrics in Reports make it easier to spot major issues with your product by incorporating quantitative data, such as task completion rates and time on task.
  • Plan your attack: Review the big-picture overview of your user testing results, including both quantitative and qualitative data, before diving into the user test videos to analyze the finer details.
  • Share findings easily: Reports make it simple to share your insights with the right people at the right time, ensuring that both quantitative and qualitative findings are considered during decision-making processes.

Userbrains Reports help you identify areas where your product or service may fail to meet users’ needs. In essence, Reports allow you to focus your energy on improving the right parts of your product by removing the guesswork.

How to combine quantitative and qualitative user testing in 3 steps

Here is a simple 3-step method you can use to combine quantitative and qualitative user testing techniques effectively:

  1. Start with quantitative data: Gather quantitative data to identify trends and patterns in user behavior, which can help you pinpoint areas that require further investigation.
  2. Follow up with qualitative research: Use qualitative methods, such as interviews or think-aloud protocols, to explore the “why” behind the trends you’ve identified in the quantitative data. This will provide you with valuable context and insights into user motivations and experiences.
  3. Iterate and validate: Use the insights gained from both quantitative and qualitative research to make data-driven design decisions. Then, iterate on your product and test again, using a combination of methods to validate your improvements.

Final thoughts: quantitative and qualitative methods

Well… we sincerely hope you’re now one step closer to finding the right solutions for testing your product. Understanding what distinguishes quantitative from qualitative user testing methods and the benefits and limitations each path offers is essential for making informed decisions about your product. Ultimately, you’re going to get the best results by leveraging both approaches; for example, and then using Userbrain to run remote unmoderated user tests with your target users. Only then can you gain a comprehensive understanding of your users and make data-driven, insight-driven UX improvements that lead to a better user experience for your product.

If you’re ready to take your qualitative analysis to the next level, you’ll be delighted to learn that Userbrain offers a generous free trial. With an elegantly simple UI, Userbrain provides easy, fast, and affordable user testing for businesses of all sizes. Additionally, with the addition of quantitative metrics in Reports, Userbrain also provides a powerful solution for gathering the quantitative insights you need to improve your product. Start your free trial today and discover the value of a holistic approach to user testing. 

Next steps

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Need a hand finding the best solution for your product? ? Schedule a call with one of our user test experts.

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