Conducting a UX survey is a quick way to collect both qualitative and quantitative insights from a specific group of users about their experiences using a digital product or website.
UX surveys are typically used in the early stages of product development as they capture the key experiences during use and identify friction points to work towards optimisation in the design process. They can be completed remotely in the participant’s own time, or during a moderated session (almost like an interview).
UX surveys are particularly useful if you would like a large population to validate a decision about a website feature, or if data collection is required urgently. However, if you want to identify usability problems, discover how people behave, or gain an in-depth understanding of a pain point, then a UX survey alone is probably not the best methodology for your research objectives.
Why choose a UX survey?
Fortunately, since all participants will be responding to one defined set of questions in the same format, survey planning is a relatively fast process and results are gathered swiftly. They also provide structured and consistent data as participant responses are easy to compare, so trends and patterns are often clear to recognise.
Another advantage of UX surveys is that responses are less likely to be affected by the Hawthorne effect (given that they are completed remotely). Since participants would be filling out a survey in their own space and in their own time rather than being watched in real-time with the company of a moderator, their answers are less likely to conform to what they think they should be and might therefore produce more reliable feedback.
UX surveys are also a great supplement to other research methodologies such as user interviews, workshops and usability testing. This supplementation is also known as methodological triangulation. Each research method has different strengths and weaknesses. By using a few different methods, you are likely to eradicate any gaps in research and therefore strengthen the quality of the data. For example, user interviews could work well in combination with eye-tracking as the qualitative data would be supported by data about user interactions.
Survey responses typically obtain quantitative insights in the form of tick-boxes and scale questions that wonderfully complement and support qualitative data. As mentioned above, UX surveys are commonly employed in the early stages of research. That way, they lay down the crucial foundations that direct us towards what we can research in greater detail when it comes to conducting user interviews.
Things to consider
Before writing your first survey question, ask yourself why you are deciding to write a survey and what results you would like to achieve. These goals will form the basis of your survey questions. While goal-setting, it’s helpful to have the research brief out in front of you to refer to. What do you want to know about the user? What particular experiences are you interested in? What features and processes are most important to learn about? The more refined and focused your objectives are, the easier it will be to craft those first-class survey questions that produce clear, actionable insights.
To avoid participants being put off and leaving the survey early, motivate them with short and simple questions throughout to maintain momentum. Begin with one-line questions to gain general information about the participant, followed by some multiple choice questions.
If lengthier, more open-ended questions are an absolute must, aim to save those for towards the end. However, it’s also advisable to follow up some quantitative questions with open-ended questions to allow participants to elaborate on the reasoning behind their scale or tick-box. For instance, we might discover that a user rates the navigation of an app one out of five on a rating scale, but this piece of data is not actionable if it’s not contextualised. What aspect of the app is hard to navigate? Is there more than one aspect? What was the user trying to achieve?
Even if the participant doesn’t write paragraphs about what has gone wrong, even a little bit of direction would be helpful for future research. Most importantly, allowing participants to elaborate on their quantitative answers allows a user-centric perspective to drive the survey.
When writing survey questions, avoid leading questions such as ‘what’s easy to access on the homepage?’ as it assumes that the participant already finds something on the homepage easy to access. Instead, ask participants what they thought about the homepage in general to invite genuine responses which place the participant at the centre of the research.
After writing your survey questions, check for clarity. Avoiding UX jargon is the best way to ensure that all participants fully understand what’s being asked. For example, instead of asking users what their thoughts are on the ‘information architecture’ of the page, ask them what they think of the way the content is arranged.
Nikki Anderson recommends using language at the reading level of an eight-year-old to steer clear of confusion surrounding language. Similarly, keep your survey simple by reserving one topic or point per question. For instance, don’t ask your participants ‘What do you think about the navigation and layout of the page?’ as they might provide answers for one and not the other. Potentially, they could assume that they mean the same thing.
Dedicating one topic to each question might make the survey feel too long, but cramming multiple concepts into one question could reduce the quality of your data. Once you have finalised and polished your questions, a pivotal step to achieve clarity in a survey is to carefully consider the structure and order of the questions. Aim to keep questions under one topic together to give the survey a logical flow. If possible, allow the participants to revisit their previous answers in case they would like to read the questions again.
A successful UX survey will be clear, free from bias, and contain questions that directly address the research objectives. While UX surveys are a great way to quickly gather data, we recommend that they are used in triangulation with other research methodologies to establish a well-constructed research design that produces a rich understanding of users’ needs.
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