Build a Stronger Product, Rooted in Mixed Methods

Megan Raden, Quantitative UX Researcher, and

Laura Lighty, Senior UX Researcher

Article Categories: #Strategy, #User Experience, #Research, #Product

Posted on

A mixed methods approach can provide your team with a much more robust picture of your users, letting you make decisions with fewer blind spots.

Blind spots happen to the best companies. Sometimes they pull forward too fast, necessitating some big u-turns in their roadmaps later. Or, they forget to monitor how their current products or services are performing, then need to pivot at the last moment. Blind spots can also exist in the way we learn through user experience research (UXR). You might rely too much on one method to give you all the answers and create your own blindspot that requires more time and more money later on. And those costly blindspots are why more and more companies are starting to incorporate mixed methods UXR into their development processes. Adopting a mixed methods approach early on can be pivotal in ensuring you build products efficiently and with clarity the first time around.

What is Mixed Methods UX Research?

Many research projects only use one method to answer questions — quantitative or qualitative. Quantitative research can reach a wider audience and is great at answering research questions related to “what” or “how many.” This type of data can come from surveys or behavioral data, like website or app engagement. Qualitative research focuses more on deeper insights, typically with a smaller subset of participants, and is great at answering research questions related to the “why.” This data typically comes from a more open-ended or observational format, like open-text questions or interviews.

Think of these two types of research as different lenses that allow you to understand your users from multiple viewpoints. Qualitative and quantitative methods are valuable on their own, but are much more powerful when combined. A mixed methods UXR approach provides your team with a more robust, clear-cut picture of your users that will enable you to create a more focused product strategy and reduce the chances of needing to make major pivots in the future.

Leveraging both quantitative and qualitative methods has unique benefits, compared to the “one method” route. Mixed methods allows you to —

  • Validate findings at scale: If you conduct interviews with a small sample, you'll gain in-depth findings about your users, but those may not be representative of that audience as a whole. However, if you follow up interviews with a larger-scale survey, you'll learn whether those findings truly represent your audience at large.

  • Access richer data: When you combine qualitative and quantitative methods, you get both breadth and depth to your findings. This provides you with a richer base of knowledge that you can continue to draw from as you refine and grow the offering.

  • Drive clear action the first time: If you rely solely on data analytics to identify what new features to build and how they should work, you could be missing important information on what’s truly driving user behavior. This can lead to unsuccessful product features. Instead, combining two methods up front – one to answer the “what” and another to answer the “why” – will save you time and money in the long run.

What Mixed Methods UXR Could Look Like for Your Team

Applying a mixed methods approach to your team’s process can look different depending on the stage of your product.

Let’s use an example, shall we? Imagine you’re an EdTech company looking to provide K-12 teachers in the United States with standards-aligned online resources. How would mixed methods UXR provide clarity along the way as your business evolves?

You’re looking to launch a new online platform for teachers —

And your team needs to understand how to differentiate your product in the market. First, you launch a quantitative survey to K-12 teachers in the United States to identify unmet needs. But surveys don’t give you much context into the “why.” So, armed with survey findings, you set up qualitative interviews with teachers so you can dive deeper into the types of resources that they need and why they struggle to find those resources today. You can now move into design and development with confidence, knowing that your platform will provide a unique offering that your audience needs.

You’re building an MVP —

And your team needs to identify which new features should be prioritized and which versions would perform best. You gather feedback on a few concepts through moderated observation sessions with teachers and school administrators and learn which features will bring in the most engagement. This helps you narrow down to two concepts. Later on, you launch larger-scaled usability testing between these two versions to assess which one best aligns with teachers’ needs and will drive the most signups. You now know what features are the highest priority, and can focus your time and resources on the features that will have the biggest return on investment. 

You launch a new quiz feature on your teaching platform —

And you need to know what’s working… and what’s not. So, you utilize both quantitative analytics and qualitative user feedback surveys to monitor how the new feature is performing. After analyzing analytics data, you notice that very few teachers are actually using the quiz feature. When you look through the survey feedback, you notice some comments from confused students struggling to understand how to complete quizzes. Now that you've identified the reason for the underutilization, you can make some small adjustments to ensure that you and your users are getting the most out of the new feature. 

You’ve hit a plateau in user adoption —

And need to evolve your existing product to spark new growth. You know you need to change something, but you don’t know where to start. First, you analyze behavioral data and discover that compared to your peers, you have a much lower rate of new visitors converting into users with accounts. You then conduct moderated observation sessions that focus on understanding how new visitors respond to content on the site. You learn that although your audience sees value in your offering, they want access to resources that they can try out before committing to creating an account. Now knowing a primary blocker for user adoption, you can make targeted adjustments that will help you increase user adoption and get you closer to your conversion rate goals. 

These examples demonstrate how an EdTech startup might leverage mixed methods UXR throughout the product lifecycle to make informed decisions—but you can apply this approach to any industry and at any stage of growth.

Here at Viget, we use mixed methods UXR as often as we can. We’ve used it to build MVPs, develop apps that enhance in-person experiences, and modernize products to boost customer acquisition. It gives our clients a clearer vision for what to do next and helps them create better, more stable user experiences the first time around.

If you’re curious about what mixed methods could do for your goals, we’d love to hear from you.

Megan Raden

Megan is a Quantitative UX Researcher working remotely from Mississippi. She specializes in helping others understand the what and the why of human-computer interaction.

More articles by Megan
Laura Lighty

Laura is a Senior UX Researcher fueled by tea and a passion for facilitating design, research, and storytelling that is more contextual, participatory and, most of all, human.

More articles by Laura

Related Articles