Replacing Flipcharts with Tablets
The Challenge: Illegible Flip Charts, Lots of Them…
Several years ago, while working on a complex new product development project I realized, or should I say my client kindly reminded me, that I have terrible handwriting. It’s truly awful. On this occasion there was a spotlight on the issue because of high volume flip charting of responses, ranking various features, etc. Not only was it impossible to read, it was also an inefficient use of the limited time we had with respondents and left us with a mountain of used paper to dispose of. While it wasn’t easy to hear of my struggles with something as simple as written language, I genuinely appreciated the constructive feedback.
After acknowledging that my handwriting had apparently peaked in 2nd Grade, we set out for an alternative. I’ve told my kids, who both have legible handwriting, for years to “focus on the solution, not the problem”. With that in mind, I decided to take my own advice. Initially, we briefly considered having an ‘assistant’ in the room to scribe responses, but this too would present a handful of drawbacks (e.g. nuances to the notes, added variable to group dynamic). However, we landed on an alternative solution, using tablets to allow respondents to navigate an online survey during our next in-person focus groups. Thankfully, MarketVision has a talented programming team, our own survey platform and a great quantitative project management team to help us customize the questions and their output.
In a collaborative, and iterative, partnership with our clients we were able to streamline the set-up and execution of the surveys – while customizing the output to suit their needs and stay true to the nuanced qualitative heart of the research.
Along the way we discovered benefits well beyond avoiding the brain drain of deciphering my attempts at written language, such as:
- Once respondents find their rhythm, it is an extremely efficient way to collect responses
- Great tool for rankings, ratings and prioritization, particularly in group settings
- Output makes finding themes / trends in the data intuitive
- Clients can view responses in real-time
- A nice way to avoid group-think and/or dominant respondents
We also learned to keep an eye on a few things to ensure everything ran smoothly:
- Add in a screening question to make sure respondents are comfortable using tablets
- When possible, give yourself some extra set-up time to test survey logic, revise programming, etc.
- Balance your time in sessions between tablets and discussions to minimize fatigue
- Keep in mind you are only as fast as your slowest respondent
- Always have a backup plan: print a few paper surveys in case of tech issues
Tablet surveys can be integrated into a wide variety of qualitative projects, but this particular approach seems to shine most when you are looking at prioritizing a variety of attributes such as, new product development / optimization where numerous design elements and features are at play.
*If you want to rate, rank or prioritize a bunch of attributes – this is a tool to consider because of its benefits both during the research and in the analysis afterwards.
Other Custom Solutions with Tablets
While we most often use tablets as a tool in traditional qualitative projects, we’ve also been able to take a more qual/quant hybrid approach by building in quick in-person surveys that are completed either before or after the qualitative sessions. These facilitated surveys help boost the sample size when needed.
About the Author:
Frank Gutowski, VP Qualitative Research
Frank has been designing and executing qualitative research in a broad range of consumer categories for nearly twenty years. If you would like to learn more about how his awful handwriting can lead to custom research solutions based on your needs, don’t hesitate to reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org