Why We Do What We Do

Understanding Behavior Through Qualitative User Testing

Ever wonder why a certain application that offers a platform that connects drivers with riders, out maneuvers another similar service? The answer boils down to understanding customers. The most used ride-hailing company has a good idea as to who its customers are and WHY these customers need a lift. With this information they can create an optimal ride experience for their specific audience, delivering everything they could hope for and more in a ride experience. One of the secrets lies in behavior testing and analyzing feedback. Spoiler alert: this formula is not only applicable to ride-hailing companies - behavioral analytics and testing is smart business.

What is UBA?

With technology, we can easily track visits to a website, user flow, where the mouse hovers, how many times a visitor clicks on various points, how long a visitor is on a site, and so forth. The collection and analysis of this data is called: user behavior analytics (UBA). 

This behavioral data helps us know HOW users are interacting with a site or app. But it doesn’t tell us WHY a user clicked where he or she did or didn’t. Without some idea of the WHY or psychology behind the users’ visit, we’re still not able to market optimally or offer the best services possible. Gleaning a bit more about the WHY is trickier, but doable. Combining both the quantitative and qualitative elements gives us more information from which we can optimize a site or app. 

User Personas 

Before we go into different ways to qualitatively test a product or service, we should introduce the idea of user personas. User personas are archetypes of clients. They represent different segments of the population that are likely to engage with a product or service. They aren’t real people, but they could be composed of actual data that describes multiple individuals. Generally, personas add a human touch to data analysis and are used to understand patterns in data.  With user personas in mind, usability tests are conducted. Oftentimes usability test participants are sought out based on user personas. 

Qualitative User Testing

There are many different types of ways to research qualitatively. Let’s look at four methods here. 

Five-Second Test - Provides rapid data about how well a page communicates with visitors.

Eye tracking - Eye tracking discloses what part of a website or app draws a user’s attention the quickest and where its held longest. 

Moderated Usability Test - MUT is the richest source of qualitative data but is resource-intensive.

Unmoderated Usability Test - UUT is a good source of qualitative data and less resource-intensive.

The Five Second Test is a quick, easy way to see if a website communicates three important pieces of information. Who the company or service provider is; what they offer; and why a user should care. In this test, a user has literally 5 seconds on a site and must then answer the above three questions. 

Eye tracking technology discloses what part of a website, app, or retail space draws a user’s attention the quickest and where it’s held longest. Participants are equipped with special glasses or virtual reality headsets. Eye tracking software can analyze an individual’s response and attention level. This type of information allows brands to optimize their marketing efforts in a way that catches the eye of the broadest population. 

Moderated Usability Testing is probably the most prolific in information, however, it is also a large investment of time and money. In moderated usability testing, a test panel is assembled based on user personas or individuals who would be likely to use a product/website/app. The panel is moderated by one or more individuals. In this type of environment, questions are easy to ask and feedback tends to be richer and more pointed, giving insight as to WHY a user interacts with a service or product in the way he/she does. 

Unmoderated Usability Testing is a good source of information and data without the resource investment that moderated usability testing requires. There is no monitor to ask questions; the participants take the test themselves. Careful wording, task-based questions, and question placement can elicit more of the WHY information than one might think. Recording a session also allows researchers to look and learn more about why a participant reacts the way he/she does. Oftentimes before a product launch, and after incorporating moderated usability testing results, a company will opt to do an unmoderated usability testing session. 

As an example, let’s examine the concept of variant search terms. This is one incidence where a difference in lexicon can make or break a product. If a usability testing session shows participants can’t find accurate information about a service or product because the keyword for the product or service used on the site is different than the word the test audience initiative uses, this is obviously a problem. But it can easily be addressed after having conducted usability testing. 


Final Thoughts

Once we have a better idea as to why someone is visiting a site or using a product or service, we can better understand how to create an optimal user experience that meets their needs and creates sales. User testing provides solutions to pinpoint issues or potential problems quickly and to help drive conversions. 

Qualitative user testing is an ideal way to analyze human behavior and consumer habits. 


  • The combination of both the quantitative and qualitative data is the key to obtaining more information about users’ behavior from which to optimize a site or app.
  • Although user personas are not real people, they are profiles made up of actual data that describes multiple individuals. They add a human element to data analysis and are used to understand patterns in data.
  • Qualitative user testing can be performed in various ways and can include: Five-second Test, Eye Tracking, Moderated Usability Testing (MUT), and Unmoderated Usability Testing (UUT).


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