To learn more about users, how they use an application or website, and what they think about it, TecEd conducts user surveys such as usability surveys and market-research surveys. The surveys are typically conducted online, either by intercepting users as they visit a website or by inviting targeted users, often through a research panel. Most surveys present both closed-ended (multiple-choice) questions and open-ended questions. A usability survey may also include a task-based component, in which users answer questions about activities they have just performed. For example, a “true intent” survey intercepts visitors to a website and invites them to take the survey. Users who agree answer a few questions about themselves and the reason for their visit before using the site to complete their own tasks. When they’re done, they answer final questions about their experience as they used the site. “True intent” surveys capture users’ impressions of site usability.
Learning More From a User Survey
A survey aggregates users’ input and provides quantitative data on what users do and their opinions. We learn less about why users do what they do or the reasons for their opinions, because we cannot probe on vague responses. However, the survey can include an option for direct follow-up with a limited number of respondents, enabling us to drill down and clarify responses.
Another valuable option is statistical analysis of the survey results, which allows us to assess the reliability of the data. Suppose two groups respond differently to the survey questions. The differences could be significant, or not. To make informed business decisions, we must know how much confidence to put in those differences. Small sample size and variability within groups are reasons to question apparent differences, and statistical analysis provides the information necessary to interpret these results.
Complementing Other Research Methods
A usability or market-research survey is often part of a multi-phase user research process. A survey can explore and illuminate issues for further study, or it can validate the existence and severity of usability issues that have emerged through prior, in-depth research.