Synonyms (this is a bit of a stretch but…): interviews, focus groups, usability testing
From a definition standpoint, qualitative research is a scientific method of observation that gathers non-numerical data and that focuses on ‘why’ someone does something as opposed to ‘what’ someone does.
Why do we care about qualitative research?
In the process of website design and development, we care about qualitative research for a few reasons. First, unlike performance and quantitative data, qualitative research allows us to answer strategic questions that we have. Second, qualitative research helps us mitigate assumptions that we make throughout the process. Through qualitative research efforts such as a usability study, we can evaluate how well visitors can navigate a site, find information, and accomplish key tasks.
How do we get started with qualitative research?
One thing that I want to stress is that it is always a good time to do qualitative research. It is often assumed that qualitative research needs to be done at the beginning of a project, but you can execute qualitative research at any point in a project lifecycle and post-launch. To get started with qualitative research, you want to develop a good research question or hypothesis. Your research question should be specific, manageable and should explore why people exhibit specific behaviors on your site. From there, you need to determine the appropriate research methods to gather information, determine sample size, collect data, etc.
Stay thirsty, friends!