3 ways you can use online surveys in your UX research

5 min read Max Koh

Survey tools come in handy in a plethora of scenarios. Whether you want to complement your existing remote user testing, create surveys to find out more about your demographics, or even use them for a different purpose altogether, with a little imagination your options are almost endless.

Let’s put our thinking caps on and dive into some of the many ways online survey tools can fit in with your UX research.

Gather up opinions

In the moments between big initiatives to redesign, or to deeply understand the emotional triggers underlying motivation, you might find time to answer some of the simple questions that will keep other projects rolling. Or you might even end up giving yourself a head start on the next one.

Simple online survey tools are great for gathering opinions. The key is to find occasions where it’s actually the opinion you want, not the behavior. Just as an example, you might think you want feedback (opinions) on your design work. You don’t. You want to know how it makes people feel and react, and in an appropriate context, if possible. For instance, you might want to know the first thing they’d click to find what they’re looking for. You could also want to know what they think you’re selling by only looking at your homepage.

Let’s say you’re about to refine an existing website. Do you think it’d be helpful to understand the mindset of the people who are using your site? It sure would. It can help a lot to think about the fact that most people ordering a pizza are hungry. Think about yourself when you’re hungry. How’s your tolerance for anything unexpected when your stomach is grumbling?

How about using a simple survey to gather a few stories from people about the context in which they generally order a pizza using their phone? How many people are involved in making the decisions?

Context is useful for almost anything. Your users might be registering their car online. Do they do this at home? How do they usually get reminded to do this? Do they typically use a computer, phone, or tablet to do this? Can they remember the context for the last two times they did this, and how did it work out? Ask what they’re doing at the moment they complete the survey. Are they on the train as they read your emails?

Internal feedback

Online surveys don’t need to only be user-facing. In fact, you can get quite a lot of useful feedback from people within your team or organization too. We can all think of times when we’ve had a meeting and all walked out of it with different interpretations of what was just said. It can be useful to use a quick survey to gather motivations before that meeting. What are we planning to build, in your own words? Why is this important, or is there anything you think we need to do before this project officially kicks off? It’s worth knowing all of these things before the meeting begins.

You could ask in an email, but in most instances people will probably just think about it before the meeting, and close to none will actually reply! You might go as far as having people’s response to your little survey be their RSVP for attendance, with the meeting location only disclosed on completion. Build some excitement to get some responses.

You can also use online surveys to get feedback and brainstorm with your team members. Whether you want opinions on design ideas, processes, or new features, a survey form makes it easy to round up the opinions of those you work with.

Source specific data

Online survey tools can complement your existing research by sourcing specific information from your participants. For example, if you need to find out more about how your participants use social media, which sites they use, and on which devices, you can do it all through a simple survey questionnaire.

Additionally, if you need to identify usage patterns, device preferences or get information on what other products/websites your users are aware of/are using, a questionnaire is the ticket.

Create an online diary study

Whether it’s a product, app or website, finding out the long-term behavior and thoughts of your users is important. That’s where diary studies come in.

For those new to this concept, diary studies are a longitudinal research method, aimed at collecting insights about a participant’s needs and behaviors. Participants note down activities as they’re using a particular product, app, or website. They’re widely used in the anthropological field, but are quite common in UX research too.

In a UX setting, they can help researchers see usage patterns, habits, customer journeys and more. You can spot problems and opportunities, and see how your site is being used in an everyday setting.

One of the troubles with conducting diary studies is that participants need to remember to note down their activities. Using an online survey, you can create a questionnaire that’s automatically sent to your participants on a regular basis, prompting them to fill it in.

You can set specific activities for your participants to complete (for example, applying for a home loan online through a banking website), or something more general (for example, sharing hotel listings onto social media on an accommodation booking website). You can also ask your participants to note down their findings randomly, at specific intervals, or based on certain activities they’re doing.

Collecting data to further your UX research doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming. With a quick-to-setup online survey tool, you can easily get the data you need and start creating better experiences for all.

Further reading