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Designing an effective web-based analysis tool to analyse software needs

  • 03 January, 2008 13:16

<p>Wednesday, 2 January 2008</p>
<p>The brief was tough. Create an interactive web-based tool designed to assess and choose software for an audience that doesn’t respond well to survey-based tools.
That was the challenge Australian research software firm QSR International gave its web development company DTDigital, and the result – QSR’s ‘Help Me Choose’ tool – went live this week.
QSR International Marketing Director Karen Thomas said ‘Help Me Choose’ was developed from the ground up in consultation with several of the company’s government, commercial and academic clients, including Boston Children’s Hospital, University of Cambridge and Victoria University. It’s designed to help anyone involved in the analysis of rich text based information to choose the QSR software most applicable to their working style and project.
“It’s the first and only tool of its type operating in the global qualitative research software field,” she said.
“The brief meant we had to start from scratch and be creative in its design. A standard survey tool where users enter information or tick boxes to get an answer was never going to cut it.”
‘Help Me Choose’ is accessed via QSR’s website – – and allows users to select parameters that apply to their project and approach to analysis – things like project size, analysis process, timeframe, and outputs. The tool uses that information to choose the QSR software – XSight or NVivo - that’s most suited to the user’s individual working style or project, and provides an overview of software benefits tailored to their responses.
Ms Thomas said while creating an online survey tool is not a revelation in itself, the tough audience meant a unique approach had to be taken with the design of ‘Help Me Choose’.
“Qualitative researchers live and breathe words, pictures and video; not numbers and tick boxes. While on the one hand they told us they wanted advice and guidance on our software, they were also very clear that a survey style tool was a massive ‘turn off’ and wouldn’t be used,” she said.
“To bridge the gap, a ‘sliding scale’ was developed to reflect scenarios. Using their mouse, users navigate along a bar to select the statement they most identify with. Our user acceptance testing found the approach appealed to both users already familiar with research software, and those who have no or limited software exposure.”
Ms Thomas said the company’s user acceptance testing also found another use for the technology.
“We built ‘Help Me Choose’ to help our clients to quickly compare their needs and project wish list with our software products. But we also wanted it to provide additional value to the user,” she said.
“Our user acceptance testers quickly realised the tool’s results offered insights into their individual working styles. While some were just curious to see what they could learn about themselves, our academic clients
<p>have indicated that ‘Help Me Choose’ could be used as an aide in the classroom to teach research students how to assess their own project needs.”
QSR International Software Development Director Adam Long said ‘Help Me Choose’ applies best practice functional design principals and follows website accessibility guidelines. It was built using Microsoft ASP .Net 2.0, making it easy to extend and adapt as requirements evolve in the future.
QSR International is the largest qualitative research software developer in the world. ‘Help Me Choose’ can be accessed at: (
About QSR International
QSR International is based in Australia, with offices in North America and Europe. Its flagship products – XSight and NVivo – are both designed to help researchers and other people working with non-numerical data to compile, compare and make sense of their information quickly and easily. More than 350,000 users in 90 countries, from market research agencies, government bodies and universities, to tourism, urban affairs and human resources professionals, use QSR research software. QSR International is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and the company’s NVivo 7 software was used as a reference project at the Microsoft TechEd 2006 conference in the United States. QSR’s XSight software has also been selected as a finalist for the MRS/ASC Technology Effectiveness Awards in the UK (judged December 2007). This award recognizes technology that contributes to effectiveness in the delivery of research. Information:</p>
<p>QSR media contact: David Jarwood, phone: +61-3-5345-7047 / +61-413-288-403 or email:</p>

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