There are two types of data you can collect on your website, qualitative data and quantitative data. Quantitative data includes numerical values and qualitative data includes observed or reported feedback. When these two data types are combined you can better understand how your site can be improved. Let’s go over how to collect qualitative and quantitative data on your blog.
Qualitative vs Quantitative — What’s the Difference?
Qualitative data is genuine feedback. It is more than just a number. It is an observed or reported experience. This type of data is often expensive, time consuming, and difficult to analyze. But, it can provide a deeper understanding and help you understand the why behind the numbers you’re analyzing.
Quantitative data is measured with numbers. It’s easy to analyze but can be difficult to understand underlying causes or why the numbers look how they look.
Why Use Both Qualitative and Quantitative Data?
When you use both qualitative and quantitative data you can create a clearer picture and sometimes solve mysteries.
Reviewing only quantitative data oftentimes raises more questions than it answers. When you combine it with qualitative data it can help you understand why you see the quantitative data you see.
The quantitative data can help you assess qualitative observations to understand where to focus your efforts. Sometimes qualitative data can uncover a problem, and then you can refer to quantitative data to determine how large of an issue it could be and if it seems many people experience the problem.
You can also do the reverse. If you find an issue with the metrics you’re reviewing in your quantitative data, you can get more information by running some qualitative tests in related areas.
Combining the two types of data is how you’ll be able to create clear data stories and uncover the complete picture.
How to Collect Qualitative and Quantitative Data
Okay, so now we understand the difference between qualitative and quantitative data, and we understand why we need both. Now, let’s go over some of the different sources you can use to actually gather the data on your website.
One way that you can get qualitative data is from interviews. Interview members in your community. If you have an email list or a facebook group you can reach out to your community and select a few people to interview.
Surveys are a popular way to get qualitative data. Specifically, open ended questions in surveys. These questions give people the ability to give specific and detailed feedback.
You can also collect survey responses from website visitors. This is a fun way to do it because you get feedback from people who you otherwise may never hear from. You can create a survey so it triggers when someone is about to leave the site and then ask them why they choose not to complete the purchase.
You can also add a survey to your website to ask just a real simple question to all visitors. You can ask how likely they are to recommend the site to a friend or what they hope to accomplish on the site.
The tool I like to use to add surveys directly to my website is Hotjar. It’s easy to set up and use and they offer a free account.
No matter what tool you use, when you collect open ended survey responses the tricky part will be analyzing the data. You will get the most value out of the data if you take the time to actually read every response. It can be difficult to identify trends when you have such a manual process.
When you’re reviewing your survey responses have a system in place to try and create quantitative data with the responses. Create categories of most common issues reported and tally your findings.
You can also use tools to create a word cloud with your responses. A word cloud is a visual representation of the most frequent words. The words that are repeated most often will be largest, and the words that are less common are tiny. The words are all put together in one image so at a glance you can see what really stands out.
Another way to get qualitative data is from user testing. User Testing is where you provide a specific task for a user to accomplish on your website. It can be something as simple as “Look at the homepage and tell me what this page is about” to as complicated as “You want to purchase a vacuum. Navigate to the vacuum you want and go through the process to purchase.”
When you perform a user test, you provide the task, then a user attempts to complete the task. What you receive is a video recording where you get to watch the entire process. Depending on the software you use for the test, you may even have audio where you can hear the user saying their thought process out loud as they navigate your site.
The goal here isn’t for the users to give you feedback on what you need to change. The goal here is to observe how real people actually use and understand your site. For each task you give a user, you’ll have an ideal route or answer in mind. But when you get the results, it becomes quickly apparent that people don’t always navigate our site as we’d expect. Witnessing how real people use the site is eye opening and can help you improve the user experience future site visitors receive.
There are several different sites you can use to administer user tests. Lately, I’ve been using UsabilityHub. UsabilityHub has a free account and if you have your own audience, you can recruit your own participants. If you use their panel of participants you have to buy credits. The required number of credits varies depending on the complexity of the tests. For simple tests, you end up paying $1-$2 per panelist. And as a general rule of thumb, you want at least 3-5 users for each test.
So, although this is not a free option, you can run a test for a small amount of money. If you have the budget, it’s a nice way to see if people understand how to use your website.
One more source that you can use to gather qualitative data are session recordings. You can record what people do on your website so you can analyze and learn from their behaviors. I like to use Hotjar to gather this data.
This is different from user tests because you haven’t given these people specific tasks to perform. And these are anonymous, you don’t have personal information about the user and you won’t get any direct responses from them. What you get is a video where you can see the mouse move as people navigate your website and observe where they click and when they leave.
These recordings can provide a lot of value, but reviewing them is time consuming. Your best bet is to filter the recordings so you prioritize watching the ones where people navigate to a specific page you’re looking to improve. This can help you understand what people are looking for on the page, what they already have seen or know before they landed on that page, and where they decided to leave the site.
Google Analytics is an amazing source for quantitative data. It gives you a tremendous amount of knowledge about your website. You can find out how many people visit, where they came from, what they looked at, and if they converted. And it is all free.
Google Analytics is one of those tools that’s easy to get started with but difficult to master. We have a guide you can follow to get Google Analytics set up. That is where you’ll want to start. Then, if you want to get the most value out of it you can set up goals and look into event tracking.
Another way to get quantitative data is by running tests. This can be a really fun way to answer questions. If you aren’t sure what version of a page will perform better, you can test it. You can create both versions, then send half of the traffic to one version and half to the other. Then, you’ll be able to see which version had more people successfully complete your goal.
A good tool for this is Google Optimize. It’s free and it uses the Google Analytics goals you already have configured.
There is a caveat, split tests don’t provide meaningful results if you don’t have very many conversions. If you have more than 500 goal completions monthly, then you’ll have no problem. But if you only have a couple of goal completions each week, your results won’t be statistically significant. That means, there won’t be enough cases to trust the data. To get meaningful results, you’ll need more data.
So, if your website doesn’t have many goal completions yet, that’s no big deal. You’ll get there. Just don’t spend your time setting up a split test.
Another quantitative data source are heatmaps. Heatmaps are a visualization of quantitative data.
A heatmap is a screenshot of a page on your website with colorful shapes overlaid on top. The colors indicate user behavior. Depending on the type of heatmap they can show a few different things. The most common heatmaps show mouse movement, mouse clicks, or scroll depth.
This is another report I like to get from Hotjar. It’s nice to be able to see where the focus is. Do people click on elements that aren’t clickable? Do people ever scroll down low enough to see the call-to-action to be able to convert?
Heatmaps make it easy to get an idea of where people look on your website so you can make sure the important elements are in areas your audience focuses on.
The bottom line is more data is better than less. If you’re trying to troubleshoot a problem on your website and improve the user experience you want to look at it from multiple angles.
If you use both qualitative and quantitative data sources you’ll have an easier time solving problems and creating the ideal user experience.
Have you used any qualitative or quantitative data sources that I didn’t mention above? If so, please share in the comments! What was the data source and would you recommend it?
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