You, as a User Experience Designer, need accurate and useful data from your surveys to influence your design and create usable, flexible and cost-effective designs. However, if you do not design your surveys properly, you cannot achieve the quality feedback you will need and end up wasting your time and more importantly the time of your users.
Keeping the user at the center of every stage of survey design is vital if you want to gather reliable and useful data that you can then use to improve the User Experience of your systems.
Here are six tips that will help you create effective surveys to influence your design decisions positively and improve your system’s user experience.
1. Stay Focused
Limiting your topics is one way to limit the length of your surveys. Once a user gets bored or frustrated with a long survey, they are likely to start providing less reliable and thought-out feedback. To avoid this, choose a single topic per survey to help keep respondents focused. You can always run another survey on another topic to add to your data, and even reach out to the same respondents or an entirely new group.
2. Screen Your Respondents
If you want UX data, make sure you are surveying your actual users and this process is called screening. It is a valuable tool for making sure the survey data you collect is applicable to your needs. Even if you are not sending your surveys to your current customers, make sure that you provide enough detail on the features or experience you are studying. Before you collect screening data, decide who your target customer or user is and what the objectives of the survey area. For example, if you are selling cooking equipment, you may want to limit your survey to people who have bought kitchen gear online before or to people who cook a certain number of meals per week. Further, you could be even more specific and only contact recent customers. It depends on what input you would like to receive. You may decide you want to get data from several different groups of users. Screening questions are also valuable here, as they can help you differentiate the various groups when you crunch your data. Typical screening questions include data such as gender, age, economic status, employment status, marital status, and location. Make sure to add filtering questions that help you determine whether you want a given user’s survey data at all.
3. Keep Questions Simple and Easy to Understand
If you are running a focus group to get UX data, you have the opportunity to explain your questions. In a survey, that is not possible. Therefore, you must make sure your survey questions are clear and unambiguous. Unclear questions can result in incorrect answers that skew your data.
In particular, try to avoid questions that involve double negatives, which are often very confusing. Questions that have two parts or that contain two concepts are also likely to lead to mushy UX data that is hard to interpret. For example, if you ask “Do you use a blender or food processor when you cook?” with a simple “Yes” or “No” response, you have no way to know which users cook with a blender but not a food processor, and vice versa.
Maybe the distinction does not matter for your study. But if it does – or if it might – add questions to avoid squeezing two concepts into the same question.
Make sure to include “Don’t know” or “Not applicable (N/A)” options where appropriate. Sometimes users really do not have an answer, and if you force them to make a choice, you will end up with low quality or unusable data.
4. Use Consistent and Balanced Rating Scales
When you ask your users for UX ratings regarding services or products, make sure the ratings scales you place before your users are balanced. This means you provide an equal number of positive options and negative options to choose from. If your cooking equipment survey asks, for instance, how often your user uses a microwave, you might provide the answers “Never” and “Rarely” on the negative side and “Sometimes” and “Frequently” on the positive side. It is often helpful to add a neutral option (“Neither frequently or infrequently”).
If your survey ratings are not balanced, you skew the data by giving yourself, for instance, a greater chance of getting positive feedback. If you are truly interested in accurate UX data, make sure you do not put your thumb on the scale when designing your survey questions and rating scales.
5. Support Quantitative Data With Qualitative
While yes/no questions and rating scales are ideal when you want to analyze quantitative data from a lot of users, sometimes you need qualitative data that provides you with fine details of your users’ thoughts and opinions. Open-ended questions are especially valuable here, and they are also your best bet when you are drawing from a very small group of users.
Feel free to add open-ended, fill-in-the-blank to larger quantitative studies as well, but consider making them optional. If you are designing your survey for use on mobile devices, use more quantitative questions that involve clicking on a radio button or checkbox to increase the chances that your users finish the survey.
Qualitative question types are often more fatiguing for your survey takers, so keep respondent attention spans in mind.
6. Test Your Surveys
When you pretest your UX surveys before administering them, you can confirm that the data and measurements you are getting meet your objectives regarding overall UX.
Tweak and refine the questions by conducting short interviews. While you can do this with someone from your own company or organization, make sure you interview people who are not familiar with the survey questions or protocol. Look for questions that do not make sense to the interviewees, add any missing questions, and make sure the questions are eliciting the answers you need.
Run field tests as well on the mechanics of your survey to make sure it is working correctly. End your testing phase by running a small sample survey with a subset of your target UX audience to see how they interact with the survey.
UX research helps you uncover the preferences and insights of the users of your products and services. It helps you focus on your user rather than on your own preferences or preconceived ideas.
As you design your UX surveys, keep in mind your goal of creating the best possible UXfor your customers, and you should get data that helps you design and market your products with the user in mind.