Now more than ever, researchers are looking to online qualitative methods to address their research needs.
So we brought together our team of researchers with decades of experience in online qualitative to compare notes and boil down the best of their knowledge into a list of four crucial best practices.
As you look to maximize participant engagement and gain the best possible insights from digital qual, consider these tips.
Tip #1: Design Your Project to be Entertaining and Engaging
The best online qualitative leverages the enjoyment participants get out of telling their stories and sharing their truths. Your study design should always reflect this. So:
- De-formalize and make your language more conversational. This ensures your participants feel comfortable and know there really is a true human at the other end of the research.
- Fill your study with ‘Easter Egg’ questions. These fun tidbits can provide moments of levity and little emotional rewards to participants.
- If using an asynchronous approach, use a platform that lets you set up logic to give real-time acknowledgement to your participants. For example, if you ask a participant to rate their test drive experience from ‘Amazing’ to ‘Disappointing’ and they chose ‘Disappointing’, following up with ‘Oh no! What do you mean when you say ‘Disappointing’?’ makes participants feel like they’re engaging with someone who really wants to hear what they have to say, not a machine.
- If you include scales, remember that having your participants rate the moment they’ve just experienced on a scale of ‘Best time ever’ through ‘Major bummer’ is more fun and conducive to emotional disclosure than rating it on a scale of ‘1-7, with 7 being extremely satisfactory.’
Just about any project (whether it’s a video interview, bulletin board, smartphone qualitative or something else) can be designed to be engaging to interact with, and the insights you get back get better when your project is inclusive and fun.
Tip #2: Always Participate in an On-Device Test Before You Launch
Seriously. Always test your study on your device before going into the field.
Even our most experienced project designers, who have designed hundreds of digital and smartphone qualitative projects for our clients, will tell you they almost invariably learn something from doing an on-device test. Often it’s something that can make the participant experience of your project better and the project more successful. Not to mention that walking through your study on the same device your participants will use will instantly reveal if you’ve broken tip #1.
Plus, knowing what it feels like to be on the receiving end of your guide will definitely make you a better project designer.
Tip #3: Use Media Wisely to Allow Participants to Easily and Comfortably Express Themselves
One of the most exciting things about online qualitative is obviously the ability to submit beautiful ‘selfie’ videos in answer to your questions. And there’s no doubt that a great in-the-moment HD video can be an insightful showstopper in a presentation. But video isn’t the right capture medium in all situations. For example, if you’ve sent your hemorrhoid suffering participants into the drug store to check out the shelves and tell you about the product that’s most relevant to them and why, asking for an in-store selfie video will make them uncomfortable (or should we say ‘even more uncomfortable’).
But they can easily take a photo of the product that’s doing the best job of addressing their current needs, then hold their phone up to their ear (feigning a phone call) and make an audio recording telling you about the thought process that made the product stand out and be chosen. You’ll get far better insights for it, not to mention better compliance.
Tip #4: Choose the Tool that Best Matches your Project’s Needs
Always consider your objective when selecting your platform.
For example, if the most important element of your project is extensive, in-the-moment journaling that includes multiple instructions, logic, a photo and a video, go with a dedicated smartphone app. A well-designed smartphone qualitative app puts your participants as little as screen taps away from sharing their real life with you as it happens. And that makes a big difference to how much of their reality you see and can learn from.
On the other hand, if your project relies on group interaction, or requires activities that are well-suited for desktop as well as mobile, consider a community message board. These online discussion platforms are constantly adding powerful new features and functionality so it’s important to know what’s out there and what will deliver the findings you’re looking for. Another option? Think through your activities and consider a combination of tools to get the right mix of insights.
With the power of online qualitative, it’s easy to be with your desired audience at the moments that matter to your research. These four tips can help ensure you design a study that makes the most of the power that digital qual provides, so you can deliver the right insights, every time.