Between Sept and Dec 2020, we interviewed 100+ user researchers and product managers. There's a clear trend emerging about the future of user research.
Hint: it's called Mixed Methods Research 💬📊
The distinction between qualitative and quantitative research is becoming blurry as fast-growing tech companies prioritise researchers fluent in both qual and quant methods that can adapt to any research challenge.
The result is Mixed Methods Research; a type of user research that combines qual and quant methods into a single study. Companies like Spotify, Airbnb and Lyft are using Mixed Methods Research to combine rich user insights with actionable statistics for deeper research.
Qualitative data is descriptive, quantitative data is numerical. They were always separate domains. As tech companies matured, teams increasingly prioritised big data over qual insights.
But big data can only tell you what users do, not WHY.
Mixed Methods Research is becoming popular because it enables you to use qual and quant to address multiple research objectives in ONE research project — eg. understand the pains and motivations driving user behaviour AND how many users these insights represent.
But tools for Mixed Methods Research today are suuuper confusing and academic, so UX researchers mostly use DIY approaches like response grouping or converting interview insights into surveys.
Howeeeeeever, new tools are starting to change this...
Companies like Slack, Dropbox and Twilio pioneered the PLG formula → focusing on low-barrier adoption by addressing end user pains instead of exec's bottom lines. PLG is the defining software strategy of the 2020s.
Now that understanding end user pains is central to company strategy, user researchers are expected to do waaaaay more than just run interviews and surveys.
With this changing role of the researcher comes a new title — the Full-Stack Researcher.
🔭 Exploratory = Qual → Quant (Uncover unknowns then measure scale)
🔬 Explanatory = Quant → Qual (Understand the WHY behind data)
🔮 Dynamic = Quant + Quant (Discover hidden consensus and priorities)
At the end of the day, the priority of the user researcher is to understand user needs and evangalise these across the organisation.
In modern organisations teams speak different languages, therefore effective user researchers must do the same to guarantee their impact.
Mixed Methods Research has always been available, it has recently become accessible, and it has never been more important to master 💯
If you enjoyed this post and you're interested in the future of user research, subscribe to our newsletter The Full-Stack Researcher. We share our top reads on the future of user research every two weeks (value first, never spam).