Using Dovetail for Thematic Analysis of Clutch Reviews

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Dovetail is a tool for customer research. We used it for a thematic analysis of our Clutch reviews to better understand the value proposition behind our rating.


Clutch has become very popular in the B2B markets because of its credible client reviews. At Clutch, clients have two options to submit a review. They can fill out an online form, or they can interview with a Clutch representative. The latter has a more significant weight in ratings, and it’s the only method to submit a review for projects over $25,000.

Since the number of reviews and their constant increase play an essential role in the Clutch ranking algorithm, companies try to get new reviews as often as possible. This drives Clutch’s growth but also makes the ratings somewhat overwhelming. When you check categories like web development, hundreds of companies rated 4.8 and above. They all blend into one giant pool of highly rated companies.

Even for the rated company, the rating becomes just a number after a while. Looking at our profile with a 4.9 rating from 32 reviews, we could hardly get some insight by reading individual reviews. By the time we were looking at the fifth review, we could not remember the points of the first four anymore.

We needed a method to help us process the reviews, which, as we mentioned, are user interviews. Enter thematic analysis.

What is thematic analysis?

Thematic analysis is a UX method that helps find patterns in qualitative data like user interviews.

You start by gathering the data in textual form and then tag relevant statements. Patterns or themes emerge based on the frequency of tags (often called codes).

You can do thematic analysis manually or by using one of the unique tools available: a traditional tool like NVivo or a modern SaaS alternative like Dovetail.

How to do thematic analysis in Dovetail

In this article, we look at how thematic analysis is done in Dovetail by going through each step.


You start with a project page where you define your goals, hypotheses, and plan.

Project page in Dovetail

Our goals for this project were:

  • Better understand Xfive’s value proposition
  • Update the Why us section on the website to reflect better what’s important to our clients
  • Write a blog post about thematic analysis (you are reading it)
  • Try out Dovetail as an app we can use for custom research on our client’s projects

We hypothesized that clients perceive us differently than we perceive ourselves. While client reviews may be slightly biased (for example, satisfied clients may be more likely to take the time to do a review than unsatisfied clients), we can still find a few interesting insights in them.


Next, we collected the data. In this case, we just copied our Clutch reviews as new data entries.

In a typical research project, you might have recorded video interviews. One of the significant features of Dovetail is that it transcribes the interviews for you.

Dovetail plans start with 5 hours of transcription per month.


When our data is ready, we can start creating tags (codes) and highlighting and tagging the content.

Highlight part of the text and select from existing or create a new tag.

This is a back-and-forth process – it’s best to create tag categories and use the same color for each category.

As you tag more and more content, you see themes emerging.


Highlight is a comprehensive list of all highlights you have made in the text.


Charts provide you with a visual representation of the themes in your thematic analysis.

Project management is our strongest suite, according to the Clutch reviews, as this treemap chart shows.


Finally, Insights allow you to process themes and draw conclusions from them.

Covers make the insights visually more appealing and shareable.

Each insight has a page where you can write your claims and support them by adding evidence from the users’ data.

Adding evidence to your insight is easy and makes them more credible.

You can publish and share your insights with anyone with a link, even with unlogged users. This is a convenient way to share insights with your stakeholders.

Insights from our Clutch Reviews

Thematic analysis of our Clutch reviews provided us with insights we wouldn’t be able to get otherwise, especially for any set of more than 5 or 10 reviews

Overall results

Based on the frequency of tags, we can say that our strongest suits are:

  • Project Management
  • Expertise
  • Communication

However, there is a catch: The questions asked in Clutch interviews can dictate tag frequency. If each interview asks about project management, every reviewer will talk about project management.

So, instead of focusing on the overall results too much, let’s look at some specific insights.

Transparency is mutual

We have known for a long time that transparency is our strong value proposition. We are transparent about the project’s current state, potential issues, etc. However, one thing we noticed in the reviews is the importance of transparency in both directions – not only from Xfive towards the client but also from the client towards Xfive. We can call that a transparency culture.

The more you can tell them upfront, the smoother your process will be. My advice is to treat them as a partner, tell them what you want to achieve, and give them as much context as you have about the work.

Be open to asking them for solutions to your problem because they may come up with something different than you suggested.

PM is our strong suit

Project management is our strongest suit, as tags related to it were the most frequent. However, this is not something we emphasized adequately in our communication with potential clients.

On the rare occasion that a timely delivery isn’t possible, quick and proactive updates always help prevent the issue from escalating to the point of a project delay.

She explains every detail of the project from the beginning and is available for calls whenever we need her; in fact, she often suggests them herself.

Understanding helps to win projects

Some of our clients praise our ability to understand them immediately during the engagement process, which helps us win their projects.

The difference with Xfive is that they understood what was needed pretty much immediately.

Their ability to understand what I’m thinking is the biggest differentiator between them and a generic vendor.

Different time zones can be beneficial

Contrary to a common concern, time zone differences can work in a client’s favor – while we are offline, the client can review completed work or submit new work for us.

They had the added benefit of being in a different timezone and we could design during the day and they could do the front-end development overnight. This reduced our project timelines and increased our responsiveness.

This works not only because now two teams are working on the project 16 hours a day but also because different time zones place a natural barrier to the distractions of a hyperactive hive mind, a concept described by Cal Newport in his book A World Without Email.

Soft skills that our clients value most

The soft skills that our clients value most, according to tag frequency, are:

  • Friendliness
  • Willingness
  • Patience
  • Keeping promises

Interpersonally, they are also outstanding. The team camaraderie between our firms is higher than you might expect. They are sincere, high-integrity individuals, and we enjoy working with them.

Their team was always responsive and willing to go over any developments or issues. They were consistently engaged and always ready to help, which really stood out.

When they say they’re going to do something, they do it.

What do clients want

Based on the insights from the reviews, we could synthesize our findings in the following manifesto about clients’ needs:

  • Clients look for understanding and consulting (EXPERTISE)
    • expect a quick and accurate understanding of their requirements in the engagement process
  • Clients want to know what’s going on (COMMUNICATION)
    • don’t want to experience uncertainty about their project
    • require frequent and proactive communication
    • appreciate mutual transparency
  • Clients don’t want to be let down (RELIABILITY)
    • expect promises to be kept or exceeded
    • want the deadlines and estimates to be met (even in the agile era)
    • require good quality
  • Clients want to feel good while collaborating with us (ATTITUDE)
    • are looking for a friendly, polite, and willing partner

New Why us

Finally, we could start reworking the Why us section, which is used on our website and in other materials.

The previous Why us was:

  1. Expertise
    Xfive has over 15 years of experience, with hundreds of apps and websites built with a broad spectrum of technologies delivered to satisfied clients.
  2. Versatility
    No client is exactly the same. Our skills range allows us to recommend the right technologies for each client and deliver quality work on time.
  3. International
    Xfive is able to support clients in every time zone with representatives located in San Francisco, Krakow, and Melbourne.
  4. Flexibility
    We are Agile and love using Scrum and Kanban, which gives our clients full flexibility and transparency in their projects and requirements management. The ability to adapt and respond to changes is our primary goal.

There were some good points, but we wanted to redo them to reflect our findings from the thematic analysis. This is what the new Why us looks like:

  1. Expertise
    Not buzzwords, hype, and selling, but understanding, pragmatism, and consultation. That’s what expertise means to us, and that’s how we serve it to you.
  2. Processes
    Mutual transparency, proactive communication, and effective processes and tools – are the foundations of our project management and communication.
  3. Reliability
    We know you don’t want to be let down. Meeting deadlines and budgets is important to you, even in the agile era. We don’t overpromise and don’t underdeliver.
  4. Attitude
    Business is stressful enough. Why stress about how your vendor treats you? Everything is easier when you work with folks who are friendly, willing and patient.


Thematic analysis is a simple yet powerful method for analyzing data from qualitative user research. While you can do thematic analysis manually, Dovetail takes the process to the next level and makes it a quick and convenient experience. It’s one of the best SaaS products I’ve tried recently, straightforward and usable.

As we’ve just shown, thematic analysis can provide insights from various places. Clutch is successful because it is useful both for vendors and clients. Doing a thematic analysis of our Clutch reviews in Dovetail allowed us to extract an extra layer of value out of Clutch: We now understand our clients better, and we can use that understanding to improve our value proposition.

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