Survey Says: Treading Carefully with Surveys and UX

Jan 7

Surveys have been an indispensable research tool since the dawn of time – literally! The first known census was conducted sometime around 3800 BCE in Babylon, and as you know, the census is still around today, even though the questions have changed a bit – from “What’s your household livestock count?” to “What’s your household income?”


What Are Surveys Good For?

Surveys are key when you need a large and not super specialized sample size. They work best when you’re interested in gauging attitudes, not behaviors. People tend to have a hard time answering questions about their behaviors; they often either overstate or understate how they do something. It’s better to stick strictly to questions about how they feel about something – an easy question to answer. Like “What would you label this group?” or “How valuable would it be to you to integrate these two systems?”


What About Surveys and UX?

Surveys absolutely play a pivotal role in user experience research – but you have to be careful not to rely too heavily on them. UX is interested in what people actually do rather than what they say they do, so surveys need to be dispensed, weighted, and analyzed strategically in your research. A good reason to conduct UX surveys is to serve as quantitative supplements to your qualitative research – particularly if your client isn’t completely sold on the qualitative side of the coin. Another solid survey use is for grouping and labeling content – also known as a card sort. Card sorts are quick and easy, and offer you rich insight into the audience’s mental models for how information should be grouped and what it should be called.

Regardless of your survey experience or survey usage, proceed with caution when conducting surveys for user experience.


Survey Tools 

Instead of offering a cursory list of the top ten or fifteen tools in the industry, we’re going a little deeper with the two main players: SurveyMonkey and SurveyGizmo.

SurveyMonkey is one of the most ubiquitous survey tools around, mostly due to its longevity. What makes SurveyMonkey so useful is that serves as a basic survey-gathering tool. The survey-creation process is simple, there’s an affordable price tag for a basic account, and you don’t need a pro account to get access to their reporting tools. SurveyMonkey is great when our office needs to deploy a basic survey to a mass audience.

SurveyGizmo is somewhat more complex than SurveyMonkey, both in terms of the question types you can create and the reporting that you receive. It’s no surprise that SurveyGizmo also comes at nearly triple the price of SurveyMonkey.  However, if you’re interested in crafting a more complex survey that will require more in-depth reporting and analysis, then SurveyGizmo is the way to go. Additionally, even with a basic account, the results you get are laid out in a more stylized and easily digestible fashion.

The other main difference in the systems is the visual design. The templates SurveyGizmo offers far exceed those of SurveyMonkey. While you can personalize and build a visual theme in SurveyMonkey, the SurveyGizmo skins are easily applied and much slicker than SurveyMonkey. There have been occasions when the type of user we’re trying to reach would respond better to a survey that is in line with the visual design of SurveyGizmo, which has been enough of a motivation t o use the more expensive product. However, if it’s a quick and dirty survey you’re after, the Monkey is your man.



Posted by: David Richard
No Comment
  1. Grant

    Nov 11, 2014 - 09:57 PM

    What tools could you recommend for asking questions like, “how would you label this group?” I’m looking for a tool to use for surveying users to learn how they would label groups/subject of information so that we can decide the best keywords to use on our websites navigation.

    1. David Richard

      Nov 11, 2014 - 07:10 PM

      You might try a tool like OptimalSort for this type of exercise.

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