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How to conduct user research by Joel Marsh

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Chapter 7. Surveys

Face-to-face interviews aren’t always an option, so sometimes you need to send questions out to people. But be careful, there are things a survey can do, and things it can’t.

What Is a Survey?

A survey is a set of questions that a user answers by filling out a form on paper or online, privately, and sometimes anonymously. It’s like a Buzzfeed quiz, but instead of finding out which Harry Potter character you are, you just give feedback.

Surveys are good because...

  • They allow users to participate privately and therefore be more honest.

  • Every user gets precisely the same questions, and you (the designer) can’t screw it up by asking the questions wrong.

  • It is easy and cheap to get thousands of people to answer a survey. If you do that in person then you also need portable toilets, food trucks, bands to perform... it’s a hassle.

  • Nobody has to feel disappointed, because a UX survey never says you are most like Malfoy.

Surveys are bad because...

  • You can’t ask follow-up questions, so it takes more careful preparation to create a survey.

  • It’s easy to accidentally influence the results by how you ask the question or the order you choose for the options.

  • People are lazy, so the longer you make the survey, the fewer people will complete it.

  • You can’t retake a survey to choose all the answers that make you Harry or Hermoine, even if you know—in your heart—that you’re not like Malfoy.

You should use surveys when...

You want to compare the answers of users to each other, or control the way ...

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