To develop products in the right direction, we all need to research the experience of our users, discover their needs and unpack the insights. That’s how we build and design solutions, and the user plays a lead role in this fascinating movie. As product managers, designers, and researchers we have a large toolset to discover what our users want and how it corresponds with the business needs. We are like the screenwriters of the next hit blockbuster who are creating characters, writing their stories, and developing the parts that users play in our products. But how should we figure out what matters the most? This is where a thoughtful UX survey can come in handy. So let’s move through some steps that can help you get the most out of a survey.

Step 1. Make sure a survey is what you actually need.

The truth is not every research project needs a survey. A large number of respondents is often necessary for a hypothesis to be validated quantitatively. Are you sure that you need a survey? If so, for what purpose? Maybe a corridor test in the office would be enough? My experience shows that a survey may be a useful tool in these cases:

  • You need to validate your hypotheses on a huge population to make a decision about a particular solution, product feature or experiment.
  • You want to gather information about a large group of users (e.g. more than 10), so it’s faster and cheaper to set up a survey rather than conduct dozens of interviews.
  • You need to collect the data quickly.
  • You have the resources to analyze the results (divide the data into segments, consider the insights from the open-ended questions, etc.)

Step 2. Prepare a list of powerful questions.

Before doing this, you have to figure out which hypotheses you want to validate and make sure that your questions correspond to them. A simple rule of thumb is that every survey question should provide you with an answer to check a certain hypothesis. There are some other general rules for preparing the list of questions:

  • Try to avoid leading questions as they may give you deceptive answers.
  • Don’t overuse open-ended questions as they require more cognitive effort from the user. But often they can lead to more insightful answers, especially if you’re surveying engaged users.
  • Give users the “other” option where it’s appropriate — it will help to avoid gaps and provide you with more insightful results.
  • Use appropriate question types. Matrix, rating and group questions might be convenient sometimes, but be careful and don’t overuse them as they can be too demanding.
  • Try to limit the number of questions to 10–12 so that the overall response rate is higher.

I highly recommend the book “The Mom Test” by Rob Fitzpatrick where you can learn more about how to ask the right questions and other custdev practices. In my experience, engaged users usually actively respond to open-ended questions like these (feel free to use them in your surveys!):

  • What prevents you from working with information efficiently?
  • How do you store the information at the moment?
  • Please name at least one problem you consistently encounter when working with the project information.
  • If you have any feedback and suggestions about our product, please share it!

Step 3. Choose the right tool for you.

Typeform and Google Forms are the most popular ones. The former can make your survey look very fresh; the latter is quite old-fashioned. But nevertheless, Google Forms has a more compact look & feel of matrix questions, while in Typeform you have to use Group questions instead, which extends the list visually. Sometimes the compact view and visual consistency are more important than a fancy UI, and this may be a reason to choose Google forms. So why blubbing, let’s compare how the same survey looks in different tools!

Example of Notifications Survey in Typeform

Why Typeform?

Pros 😍

  • Cool UI/UX of surveys
  • Nice adaptivity and mobile version
  • Lots of templates and room for customization
  • Logical transitions between all questions
  • Simple and beautiful dashboard with results

Cons 😞

Example of Notifications survey in Google Forms

Why Google Forms?

Pros 😍

  • Habitual UX of surveys
  • Matrix questions (yeah!)
  • Logical flows and customization
  • Dashboard with results

Cons 😞

  • Logical transitions between section only
  • UI isn’t so smooth, not enough customization
  • Bad adaptivity on mobile devices (horizontal scroll appear, boo!)

Step 4. Create a survey.

As you’re familiar with the tools, you just need to fill the survey template using the question types you need. A simple structure may look like this:

1. Invite the respondents. Don’t forget to outline the main topic, the goal and the approximate time needed to complete your survey. Here’s a template that you can freely use to invite people:

Hey [Name],

Thanks for choosing [Product name]! We’re working on [the topic and goal of research]. It would be great if you could complete a quick survey — it will take you [average time] minutes. We will use your feedback to improve our product and make it more useful for you. Thanks for your help!

Cheers, [your name and role in a company]

Be creative to use a CTA subject to increase the open rate of your emails. Don’t be shy to use emojis and evocative titles to trigger the response. Here are some examples:

  • Let’s improve your experience in [Product name] together 🙌
  • [Product name] needs your help 🙏
  • [Product name] loves you and needs a little attention 💚

2. Start with the segmentation questions. If you need to segment the answers by user role, activity or other characteristics, include a couple of multiple choice questions.

3. The main questions. It depends on your research, but in general, don’t use too many questions — from 6 to 8 is usually enough. Try to make them logically connected and use transitions according to segmentation rules where it’s necessary. If your respondents are engaged enough, don’t be afraid to ask them the open-ended question about the product, and you’ll be surprised by the results 🙂

4. Room for feedback. Don’t forget to reserve the last question for the feedback, which can provide you with useful insights. It’s also a nice place to invite the users for an interview, asking them “Are you open to conducting a 30-minute follow-up interview?”

When your survey is ready, look through it one more time to make sure it’s not over-complicated and that all the essential questions are correct and correspond to the hypotheses, and then just launch a rocket 🚀

That’s it! If you ever launched a survey, you know that another huge part of your work begins when you get the responses. It’s most exciting: you can’t stop reading the answers and clustering them to figure out the insights.This topic is to be continued…

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