UX Mini-lesson: Surveys

A picture of a folding ruler, which I'm using as a metaphor for surveys as a measurement tool

Surveys are probably the most used but least useful research tool. It is ever so tempting to say, “lets run a quick survey” when you find yourself wondering about your customers. Surveys result in “hard numbers” to look at, and modern web-based survey tools have made surveys cheap to produce. But as anyone who has ever tried running a “quick survey” can attest, they rarely, if ever, provide the insight you are looking for.

In the words of Erika Hall, survey’s are “too easy”. They are too easy to create, too easy to disseminate, and too easy to tally. This inherent ease of creating surveys masks their biggest flaw as a research method: It is far far too easy to create biased, useless survey questions. And when you run a survey littered with biased, useless questions, you either (1) realize that your results are not reliable and start all over again, or (2) proceed with the analysis and make decisions based on biased results. If you aren’t careful, a survey can be a complete waste of time, or worse, can lead you in the wrong direction entirely.

However, that being said, I have found surveys to be useful in exactly two situations:

  1. When I need to gather demographic data that I can’t obtain otherwise
  2. When I work for a client who will send an email blast with a survey link, but otherwise wont help me recruit research participants.

If you ever find that launching a survey is the only way to move the research forward, keep these tips in mind.

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Self-study research

notebook, pen, and baby picture. With text "Self-study research" over top.

Throughout the Spring, I had been posting a blog entry about once a week. I had a writing schedule that worked well for me. Then something happened that disrupted my routine – I had a baby. This is my second child, so I had a better idea of what I was getting into. But I was still surprised (or rather, reminded) how much an infant disrupts your entire life. I had high hopes of continuing to work on my start-up challenge over the summer, but baby #2 put the kibosh on that.

However, having a second child gave me even more ideas for potential startups. There is so much worry and work that goes into pregnancy, giving birth, and caring for an infant. And I think there is a lot of business potential in products and services that make parents’ lives easier.

So while I didn’t have time to write regular blog posts over the summer, I did have time to engage in a little self-study. Continue reading “Self-study research”

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UX Mini-lesson: Diary Studies

Picture of a notebook with the words, "UX Mini Lesson: How to conduct diary studies," written over top.

For today’s post I a present a “UX mini-lesson” on how to conduct diary studies. We will cover the value of longitudinal data sets, and strategies to maximize the quality and number of diary entries from your participants.

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