Stuart Robertson of Robertson Educational Resources and I spoke at the Boston UXPA 2018 conference on “Creating a virtual tapestry of your UX research with qualitative data analysis tools”. We were very surprised that over 200 people came to our talk, given the geekish nature of the topic. This turnout likely means that a lot of people in the user experience field recognize the need for this type of tool to help them manage, analyze and synthesize their research. QDAS has been widely used in academia, government, and large research houses for decades but people in our field don’t seem to be aware of it.
Stuart and I gave the audience an introduction to basic qualitative data analysis features such as coding, journaling and querying. With this tool you bring all your digital research results (e.g., video, audio, text transcripts, photos social media posts, secondary research, survey results) into a single file. Then you code the raw data by theme.
Codes are similar to tags, but more powerful. You arrange codes into different structures that you can query (hence the virtual tapestry theme of our talk). The coding process gives you the chance to dig into the data, re-experience your interactions with the participant so you can form a deeper understanding. You have the opportunity to scrutinize a user’s micro-interactions with each touch point. You are more succinct with findings and can support your ideas with direct reference to video clips, quotes, photographs, etc. You’ve also preserved your coding scheme and thought process electronically, which gives it permanence and makes it easier to reuse.
So, what’s not to love about qualitative data analysis tools? Well, while data analysis tools are powerful and beneficial for qualitative researchers, they take time to learn and implement. Usability and lack of awareness could be the biggest barriers to widespread adoption of QDAS tools within our industry.
Judging from the applause Stuart and I got during our talk, our audience understood the value of QDAS. I’ve been using NVIVO for about five years and it really helps me in my work. Little by little I am hearing from fellow researchers how their organization is starting to investigate this technology. Hopefully QDAS will become easier to use and more practical as its audience widens.
To learn more about this technology, check out Stuart and my presentation and supplementary material. I also wrote an article on how to use QDAS when building a customer journey map for the QRCA VIEWS Magazine.
My co-presenter is Stuart Robertson of Robertson Educational Services. Stuart trains teams and organizations in NVIVO.
Illustrations are by my son Max Aubrey who is a professional illustrator and animator.