Part of the challenge of building a mobile app is creating a product that’s both useful and beloved by your users. So how do you discover what your customers want? You’ll start with research, of course. From gathering usage statistics to asking for user feedback, data collection will help you make smarter and better-informed decisions. But information comes in many forms. What kind of data should you be going for? Let’s find out.
Before we get down to choosing what type of feedback you’re going to gather, let’s talk about the definitions for qualitative and quantitative data. Most of us will have some vague recollection that quantitative data is about numbers and qualitative data is about descriptions. But let’s dig deeper.
What are the differences between qualitative and quantitative data?
Quantitative information is what most of us think of when we hear the word “data.” Numbers, percentages, and charts might come to mind. And that’s pretty accurate. Quantitative data is all about capturing the numerical, quantifiable aspects of the item you’re researching. This type of raw and objective data is easy to record, categorize, and represent visually.
Typically, people (your stakeholders in particular) gravitate towards quantitative data because of how clear and objective it seems. The fact that it’s easy to visualize in charts and graphs is another reason it’s so powerful—we humans are visual creatures, after all. But without context, quantitative data can be prone to misinterpretation, which is why it isn’t always as objective as it appears.
Qualitative feedback reaches into the whys and hows behind the numbers in your mobile app. This type of information is expressed with language, not numbers. It’s descriptive and in the case of user feedback, primarily subjective. Qualitative responses could include comments, anecdotes, suggestions, or complaints; emotionally-driven responses that will deliver the context you need to make informed decisions.
Here’s a quick cheat sheet with key points for each type of data:
|Quantitative User Research||Qualitative User Research|
|Expressed numerically||Described with language|
|Measurements||Emotions + Thoughts|
|What happened||Why it happened|
Why do I need qualitative feedback for my mobile app?
Qualitative data is sometimes described as being “fuzzy” data due to how subjective it can get. Yes, it’s often emotionally-driven and difficult to quantify. Is it a daunting task for numbers-oriented people? Sometimes!
There’s a modern proverb that goes like this: “The plural of anecdote is not data.”
You’ve probably heard that one before. But next time you do, remember this: frequency matters. If you hear similar comments from numerous users, you’re going to infer that there is a trend. And sometimes, all it takes is one particularly helpful comment to unlock hidden potential in your app.
Qualitative and quantitative data are better together. They’re like peanut butter and jelly. And when you combine both types of user feedback, you’re going to make a really insightful sandwich. Understanding the “whys” behind user interaction with your product will go a long way towards influencing the “hows” of your next steps. Sean Ellis, the father of growth hacking, found that collecting qualitative feedback upped his conversions in one experiment by 300%.
Picture this: Imagine you’ve just released a new feature for your app. Your developers have really poured their hearts into this one; it’s revolutionary. But weeks pass after the update and you see that the adoption rate for this feature is lower than expected (that’s quantitative data!). Based on that data alone, you might assume that this new aspect of your product flopped big time. So do you ditch the feature? Modify it? Was it all a big mistake? What now?
Before acting, you release a survey asking users what they think of your cool new feature, and discover that an alarming number of people say they had no idea it was released, let alone how to use it. You’ve just collected qualitative information that will shape your roadmap.
Rather than making any big changes to your app, you choose to give your users a clear notification about the feature, along with a helpful walkthrough. What happens next? Adoption increases, the users are enjoying it, and perhaps it’ll even become a key part of your business.
You might not have made the right choice if you had stopped with just numbers, but by adding context and human input to the situation, you were able to make an informed, intelligent decision about your product.
What kinds of qualitative research methods can I use for my mobile app?
There are many ways you can reach out to your users, both in-app and externally. Gathering multiple sources of information, using multiple methods, ensures that you’re not accidentally missing out on part of your user base. First, let’s look at the types of feedback you can gather straight from the app using third-party software such as Instabug:
In-App Qualitative Feedback
- Verbatims: A verbatim is any type of freeform text feedback. This could include answers to open-ended questions from in-app surveys, particularly the follow-up question from Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys (“On a scale from 0-10, how likely are you to recommend this app to a friend? Why?/What could we do better?”). For the purest possible responses, avoid asking leading questions. Here’s a guide on how to ask effective survey questions.
- Feature requests: Instabug allows your users to propose new features and vote on those suggested by other users. If you have commenting allowed, you’ll also hear their opinions and reasoning. You’ll definitely score a few new ideas, but there’s more. This type of feedback is helpful to compare to your roadmap: how do your plans compare to how your customers use and perceive your product?
- Bug reports: If you’ve ever seen a bug report from Instabug, then you know how data-heavy they can be. The SDK grabs a ton of information: network request logs, user steps to reproduce the bug, and view hierarchy inspection. Your users can also attach screenshots, video recordings, voice notes, or written messages. Bug reports are not only a great way to cut down on the time you spend debugging—they’re also loaded with information about how your users interact with your app, not to mention their comments and concerns.
- User steps: I need more information about how much of this we actually get and if it’s useful enough to include as a feedback avenue. I imagine that this would be enormously helpful passively collected feedback.
- In-app chats: Your customer support team is one of your biggest assets when it comes to exploring the hearts and minds of your users. A two-way communication channel allows you to ask follow-up questions to interesting comments, dig a little deeper into user motivations and their perception of your product, and identify root causes of issues. Actively engaging with your user base is important not only from a customer satisfaction perspective but from a research perspective as well. Remember that your users may not always know what information you need but by guiding the conversation, you can unlock insights with details they didn’t realize were important.
External Qualitative Feedback
All of that chatting and reporting happens during the live and beta phases of your product. But does that mean that all your qualitative research should come from within the app? Definitely not — let’s look at some other avenues to consider when building a well-researched product.
- Focus groups: These are in-person meetings with selected customers to talk about your product and their needs. This method can be expensive, but if you start with a careful sampling of users and well-defined goals before each meeting, you’ll gain invaluable insights. At any time during your product lifecycle, you can use these meetings to ask about user needs, their perception of your app, your messaging and strategy, and where you can improve. Focus groups help you gather information you can’t get from individual responses alone: you’re more likely to hear from people who communicate face-to-face more effectively than typing, and they’ll also interact with each other and build on each other’s ideas during the conversation.
- Case studies: Dig into your users’ experiences through case studies, either of individuals or companies using your products. By interacting one-on-one with your users, you’ll learn their stories and gain insights into their relationship with your product since the very beginning.
- Expert opinions: There’s no reason not to get on a first-name basis with experts in your field. If you know someone with expertise relevant to your product, don’t settle for just visiting their blog for ideas. Schedule interviews with individual experts if you can, and ask them plenty of open-ended questions. You can do this at any time, but it’s especially relevant at the beginning of your product lifecycle.
- Emails: This one’s a given—you’re going to get plenty of email feedback from your users (though most prefer to use Instabug in-app!). Pay close attention to these responses and don’t forget to close the loop by responding, especially with follow-up questions. You can use tags to categorize and analyze email responses on a larger scale.
- Observational research: This might happen in a focus group, or you can have meetings specifically for UX research. Watch your users in their element and observe the way they interact with your product. What patterns do you notice? Does anything unexpected happen? You can get some of this data from Instabug from bug and crash reports when user steps are recorded. But it’s recommended to launch a few research sessions as well to capture what your users are doing without any malfunctions.
There are numerous methods for conducting qualitative research. But they all have one thing in common: they try to reach the hearts and minds of your users. So keep in mind that analyzing this data requires not only solid logic, but strong empathy skills as well.
- Best Practices to Gather User Feedback
- The Beginner’s Guide to In-App Surveys for User Feedback
- How to Segment and Target Users to Get Relevant User Feedback