User Research, Qualitative Research, and Products that Suprise and Delight


As a company whose priority is creating user-focused products, that surprise, delight, and benefit end-users, user research is a huge part of the process here at Speck. It is one of the first activities on every project we undertake. Also, it is one of the most important. Our industrial designers use it to inspire and inform their design decisions; our industrial engineers use it to validate solutions. User research data can be grouped into two categories: qualitative and quantitative. Both types of research methodologies are used in the user research phase. Both are essential in creating a useable product. However, qualitative research plays better when our team is focusing on the human-centered portion of a design because it unearths user needs and behavior patterns.  

Why Quantitative User Research is Essential

To be clear, quantitative research and data are present in every product development project we undertake. There is really no way around it because a healthy and project-specific balance results in superior functioning products that offer exceptional user experiences.  The types of questions around quantitative user research provide fundamental data like:

  • How many?
  • How often?
  • How much?

Also, it is easily represented in numbers and, for this reason, extremely measurable. Qualitative user research data, on the other hand, is collectible but not necessarily measurable in the traditional sense. This type of research is a driving force for the functionality and practicality of every design that comes out of Speck Studios.

Why Qualitative User Research Matters in HCD

Unlike the more black and white quantitative It is about the quality of a user’s experience and seeks to understand their motivations. focuses on the quality or meaning of an end user's experience. Qualitative UX research is a deep dive into understanding an individual user as they relate to the product and at a 30,000ft view how this relates to the human experience. It considers things like:

  • Opinions
  • Comments
  • Behaviors
  • Feelings
  • Motivations

 Common question used are Why did they do that? Or, how did it make them feel? These types of questions are geared toward uncovering deep user needs and how those motivate their actions--two major factors in impactful design. This is why our user research involves a lot of qualitative research and proven UX research methods around it. 

Speck Design Qualitative UX research methods

Qualitative research analyzes the individual user experience and therefore the research methods are often conversation and sentiment-based. Over the years we have used scores of qualitative user research methods because each project we do requires a unique approach and mix of research methodologies.  Below are our most common. Our research team uses them because they have proven incredibly useful in flushing out the “human” part of design”.

Speck Design’s qualitative research methodologies include:

  • Interviews: A researcher meets one-on-one with study participants to discuss issues and topics around a product.
  • Moderated usability testing:  In usability testing, participants are given activities to complete, and the moderator keeps track of their performance. Since moderators observe the users' interactions with a product, they can explore points of interest throughout the process.
  • Ethnographic field studies: Participants in the study meet with researchers in their own natural environment/ an environment where the product would be used). During this time, they observe how users interact with a product and then ask questions accordingly.
  • Diary studies: Users of the test are given a mechanism to document and describe elements of their lives connected with a product. The diary may be on paper or online. Usually, the recording of activities by test subjects is over a long period of time.
  • Focus groups: Focus groups are gatherings of three to ten individuals who come together in one location to discuss a specific issue, topic, or solution. Sometimes this involves a set of topics. A researcher leads these meetings, presents the topics to discuss, and guides the conversation.
  • Participatory design: Test participants use a pen and paper or a prototyping tool to make their ideal experience using a pen and paper or a prototyping tool. Analysis of the design that test subjects created makes it easier for UX researchers to understand what matters to potential users and why.
  • Card sorting: Card sorting is when test participants organize content items into groups. Researchers provide pre-existing categories and invite test subjects to categorize the material into those groupings, or participants can designate their own.

 Why Qualitative User Research is a Such a Huge Part of What We Do

You can probably see why as a top product design firm, whose mission is “designing experiences” qualitative research is a critical element of our DNA here at Speck Design. It allows us to ensures every product we are a part of is designed for excellence and, of course, market success. The defintions and approaches above are just an overview of what we offer.  In reality every product we touch is comprehensive and we take a  personalized approach to the research design and implementation to each. To better get an idea of how we envision the user research portion or any other development stage  of a product you are developing, reach out to us--we’d love to learn more. 

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