A survey gathers data from a representative group of people, usually to understand a larger population. Surveys with large numbers of contributors collect quantitative feedback, while  UserTesting tests collect qualitative feedback via video recording.

What are surveys used for?

When executed properly, surveys can be an efficient method to connect with customers or your target audience to gain a snapshot of their successes or struggles with a product or service.

What you can learn from a survey

Even written and multiple choice questions can benefit from video recording. Your participant’s mannerisms, tone, and comments that don’t make it into the survey will be captured, and are valuable insights for your study. 

Send test participants to the survey (hosted on a third-party tool, like Survey Monkey) as a “task.” Ask participants to think out loud as they complete the survey. Survey questions can also be asked during a usability study via a written or verbal” question within your test plan. Even with answers in written or multiple-choice form, videos of participants completing these tasks will provide reasoning for their choices which will give you additional context and insight to the quantitative data you gather from the survey.

Best practices for conducting surveys 

To get the most out of your survey, keep these tips in mind.

  1. Keep the focus on your customers: because surveys naturally provide lots of quantitative data, it’s easy to get wrapped up in digging for data and asking questions that benefit the organization more than the customer. Try to keep the customer in mind with every question, and try to shift the focus away from gathering data and more toward gathering insight.
  2. Treat surveys like a conversation: many organizations get in a habit of relying too heavily on standardized approaches to soliciting feedback, which can feel insincere and canned. Instead, try designing surveys more like a conversation—what would you ask your customers if they were sitting right in front of you? Chances are it won’t be a rating scale or multiple choice question (but those have their place, too) so try using surveys as another strategy for talking to your customers and  you’ll open up a more productive interaction that yields actionable insights.
  3. Keep it short and sweet: It’s tempting to launch a survey with a litany of questions you’d like to ask, but try to resist. People’s lives are more complicated and distracted than ever, so if you want to get genuine feedback, be sure to keep it short and to the point.

Surveys can be a pain or powerful—use them wisely

Despite their ubiquity, surveys probably aren’t going away anytime soon and that’s a good thing! They can give us valuable information while giving customers a voice and a direct line to the brands they interact with. Be mindful with the surveys you create and keep these tips in mind to get actionable data that can drive additional customer research and ultimately help create better experiences.