6 Tips for User Experience Survey Success

January 30, 2017

Your user experience (UX) team needs accurate and useful data to succeed, and user surveys provide one of the most flexible, cost-effective, and valuable ways to collect the data you need. However, if you don’t design your surveys properly, you can’t achieve the quality feedback you need and end up wasting your time.

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 user experience.

Here are six key tactics to keep in mind as you create user experience surveys:

1. Stay Focused: Limit Your Topics

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’re likely to start providing less reliable and thought-out feedback.

To avoid this, choose one primary topics 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 user experience data, you’d better make sure you’re surveying your actual users. That’s where screening comes in. It’s 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’re studying.

Before you collect screening data, decide who your target customer or user is and what the objectives of the survey are. For example, if you’re 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. Or, you could be even more specific and only contact recent customers. It depends on what input you’d 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’re running a focus group to get user experience data, you have the opportunity to explain your questions. In a survey, that’s not possible. Therefore, you must make sure your survey questions are clear and unambiguous. Fuzzy 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 user experience data that’s 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 doesn’t 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 don’t 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 Ratings Scales

When you ask your users for user experience ratings regarding services or products, make sure the ratings scales you place before them 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’s often helpful to add a neutral option (“Neither frequently or infrequently”).

If your survey ratings aren’t balanced, you skew the data by giving yourself, for instance, a greater chance of getting positive feedback. If you’re truly interested in accurate user experience data, make sure you don’t put your thumb on the scale when designing your survey questions and ratings 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 large amount 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’re also your best bet when you’re 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’re 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 user experience surveys before administering them, you can confirm that the data and measurements you’re getting meet your objectives regarding overall user experience.

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 aren’t familiar with the survey questions or protocol. Look for questions that don’t 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’s working correctly. End your testing phase by running a small sample survey with a subset of your target user experience audience to see how they interact with the survey.

In Conclusion…

User experience 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 user experience surveys, keep in mind your goal of creating the best possible user experience for your customers, and you should get data that helps you design and market your products with the user in mind.

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