Dedoose Content Analysis: Rich Web Application Design
After trying out various Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software (CAQDAS) packages, such as NVivo, Atlas.ti, and MAXQDA, I stumbled across a fantastic, alternative SAAS solution called Dedoose. It is unique in that it stores your whole project, including all your data, in the cloud. It allows distributed teams to easily collaborate on qualitative and mixed methods research efforts, and everything can be done from a browser, regardless of whether you are using a Mac or PC. Dedoose is also extremely cost-effective. Therefore, this research application quickly became a tool that I used on a regular basis, both in my Media Psychology PhD program and in my qualitative user research at work.
As great as the application was, there were still some frustrating, clunky interactions that required far too many steps and made analysis quite time consuming. Unfortunately, these inefficient UI aspects were connected to the most common activities: excerpt coding and memoing.
Since I am a big fan of Dedoose, I decided to voluntarily offer my UX services to the company and propose an improved UI design for these primary processes. I figured that any UX improvements they make would also directly impact my own productivity, since I relied on the tool fairly often. The CEO of Dedoose was very excited by the wireframes and prototype that I provided. Therefore, he immediately directed his development team to implement my suggested, revamped design.
The Project Story
Inspiration Behind the Quick Code Widget
I came up with the idea for the “Quick Code” widget because I found the primary task of selecting excerpts and coding them to be quite inefficient and tedious. You had to first select an excerpt with the mouse, then you had to click the “Create Excerpt” button. After that, you had to scroll through all your codes, until you find the one you want to apply. Sometimes, the code you need is buried within the 2nd or 3rd level of your code hierarchy. Since coding excerpts is an activity that Dedoose users do constantly, more frequently than anything else in the application, I knew I had to come up with a smoother, more elegant interaction design that required little to no mouse use.
How the Quick Code Widget Works
With the Quick Code widget, you simply select (highlight) an excerpt of text, using the mouse or arrow and Shift keys. You then click the SPACE bar to bring the Quick Code widget up. The search field is immediately given focus, so you can start typing immediately. By using the real-time, type-ahead search, you can narrow down the list to the code that you need incredibly fast (regardless of what hierarchical level it resides in).
Rapidly Search and Add New Codes
After you narrow down the code list with the search field, you are able to use the arrow keys to traverse down the list and click ENTER to select the code. To apply additional codes, just repeat the same search and select steps. All of this can be done entirely with the keyboard. Of course, you can also use the mouse to select codes from the menu, if you so desire. Adding new codes that don’t yet exist in the code list also used to be very complicated and time consuming, requiring too many steps. Now, you simply type the new code that you want to add in the search field and click “SHIFT + ENTER.” Because this excerpt coding process is repeated many times over by users, the net amount of time and clicks they save becomes huge, thanks to the Quick Code widget.
Improving the Efficiency of the Memoing Process
Creating, linking, and managing memos is another primary activity in Dedoose that users must do all the time. Unfortunately, like the excerpt coding procedure, the memoing process requires too many unnecessary steps. Based on the same philosophy that I used with the Quick Code widget, my goal was to come up with an interaction that didn’t require the mouse and was efficient as possible. With my alternative, proposed design, you simply highlight an excerpt and click “M” to bring up the Link Memo widget. However, if electing to use a mouse, you can also right-click and select the Quick Code or Link Memo widget from a context menu. Once the Link Memo widget is brought up, you can immediately start typing a new memo. The subject line is already filled in for you with the first part of the excerpt you highlighted. This subject line can be modified if desired.
Link Existing Memos
You can also link existing memos that you created earlier to the excerpt. These existing memos can be searched with a type-ahead field, and you can attach as many memos as you like. The number of memos linked on any given line can be seen off to the right. To view or edit these linked memos, simply click on the memo icon.
Explore and Manage Existing Memos
To explore, organize, and manage all of your memos, you can select “Memos” from the top navigation. Unlike the old design, memos now pop ups in a modal, so that you don’t have to leave the media document that you are currently coding. Your memos can be viewed as tiles or as a list (i.e. spreadsheet view). Hovering over any memo allows you to quickly see all the objects that the memo is linked to, as well as the memo groups that the memo belongs to. You can easily filter down your memos and search for specific ones, using the dynamic, faceted search on the left sidebar. This allows you to only view memos linked to specific objects or memo groups. You can also narrow down the memos via date range and keyword.
Memo Groups, Exporting, Converting, and Linking
Memo groups are a new concept. Before, memos could only be organized in single folders. Now, they can simultaneously belong to multiple groups. This allows a lot more flexibility when organizing your memos. It is easy to add one or more memos to specific memo groups, as well as create new groups on the fly. There are a number of other actions that you can take on memos as well, such as exporting to Word/Excel, converting a memo to a media document so that I can be coded, and linking additional objects to memos. Memos can be linked to specific excerpts, codes, media documents, and descriptors.
Public Recognition and Praise
Lose the Mouse — Announcing the New Dedoose Quick Code Widget
I am just get started with dedoose and think this is a great feature that will make my work way easier.
Coding in Dedoose used to be a three step process at minimum—block text, click ‘Create Excerpt’, and then drag and drop codes into the ‘Selection Info’ box (or double click codes to apply). We heard from users that it was not as intuitive and streamlined as they wanted it to be. And, if they had a lot of codes, searching for the right code wasted precious time. Enter outstanding user, Daniel Loewus-Deitch. Daniel had a vision for what coding in Dedoose could be. We asked him to share his thoughts on the process as a user, never imagining that he would create a full mock up of exactly what he wanted. His ideas were amazing and we quickly put them into practice via this new widget.
This is really a great function!!!!
Daniel had shared with us his concept for a streamlined keyboard based excerpting and coding system as a Dedoose user. He generously dedicated some time to both design and functionality and followed by sending a stunning and articulate presentation of his vision. A few weeks later our tech team released the new feature for the benefit of all Dedoose users. Awesome vision, a pleasure to have worked this through with him, and we love the new feature. I can only imagine the great value he brings to the rest of his work. Thanks Daniel…