Dec 10

The survey is back: Why is a questionnaire an excellent tool for remote UX research?

Users’ voice is undeniably important. Whenever you create a coffee machine, car cockpit or mobile app, you do it for someone. To deliver a solution that fits user needs, designers have to listen to them, feel them, and observe their behavior. However, it’s not always possible. Let’s take SoftwarePlant, for example. Our company is located in Warsaw, but most of the clients using our BigPicture app are not from Poland.

We’ve created an online space, called BigPicture LAB, to let users talk about the app and give us feedback regardless of where they work and live. For us, it’s the way to test solutions and explore new ideas with the end-users. For the involved participants, it’s an opportunity to see new features in advance and to submit their proposals, so it’s a mutual benefit. There are several dozen people who cooperate with us and take part in our surveys. Yeah, they do fill out the questionnaires. How we (and they) do it?

Choose the tool

There is quite a broad choice of tools to do UX Research using forms. Probably the most popular and easy to use is Google Forms, with its ready to use templates. It gives flexibility in terms of survey creation, answer options, and many more. The vast possibilities in the settings are also worth noting.

If your company uses MS Suite, you can choose MS Forms. It offers ready to use templates with distinct questions and ready-made sets of answers. A broad choice of colorful themes is a significant advantage. MS Forms have flexible sending options like e-mail, link, facebook, or even iframe.

Probably more professional is SurveyMonkey dedicated specifically to create surveys. It allows creating lists of recipients to whom you can send e-mails in subsequent surveys. With this tool personalizing the appearance of the questionnaire is super easy and you can also customize shareable URL links. 

All of them prepare statistics for you.

Create a recognizable template

Having decided which tool fits your needs best, it’s time to prepare the e-mail template. Use the product or company logo to make it identifiable. The consistency of all touchpoints makes your brand professional and trustworthy. Besides, your recipients feel safe and learn the pattern. To design unforgettable e-mails, inspire yourself using Really Good E-mails library.

BigPicture Lab e-mail template

What can you test or measure?

We are in a comfortable situation that our product runs over the years. During this time, the flow hasn’t changed, so users know how to use the app. When we want to add a new feature, we usually duplicate patterns, and we use internal design systems so that we can focus on substantive or less apparent aspects of new functionality. If the goal is to check the user flow, reconsider using surveys.

Have you ever wondered if the users will back up your idea? Developers’ work takes a lot of time, one wrong move, one wrong decision can cost a company a lot of money. What if the users do not accept the change? UX Designer’s job is a huge responsibility – checking and testing ideas with the users before the implementation to (among other things) reduce the costs. A good practice is to show some mockups to the end-users. Ok, but what’s then?

A/B tests performed with the help of a survey are our last discovery. When using this method, it’s easy to compare two ideas of the same feature. Ask users to say why they chose a particular option openly. It’s not achievable when part of users test the “A” version and another part test “B” version. Comparison enables new insights that appear when two options are visible at once. 

Being fans of data-driven design, we like to make decisions based on numbers and facts. Surveys help us gather quantitative and qualitative data. The former includes the ratings of usability aspects, like readability. Submit the existing mockups to the users and ask them to assess attractiveness or understandability (or whatever you need) of the feature on the scale from 1 to 5. Next, ask them specific questions like “What would you improve?” to explain their rate. You’ll be surprised by the fantastic insights from your users!

Statistics’ example from one of our surveys

Sometimes, before even sketching, we ask users exploring questions to discover their behaviors, habits, and points of view. Their responses will shape the project direction. The world of Project Portfolio Management is a broad one, and management practices may differ, for example, because of industry or organizational culture. It’s good to learn as many cases as possible to tailor a product for each user. 

Sending questionnaires

In the last step, place the survey link in your e-mail. To send one e-mail with the same content, but to multiple recipients, it is worth using a tool that automates this process. The first one is GMass (plugin Gmail), which takes a list of recipients from excel and personalizes the content, e.g., by inserting their names. Another one is called Mailchimp, with more possibilities like a list of recipients, statistics, e-mail templates, and much more. Whichever tool you prefer, remember to send e-mails to each participant individually, so that each of them feels unique and does not see who else is taking part in the study.

Pros and cons of the surveys

Nothing is perfect, and it also applies to the method that we are proposing to you. Researching through the forms prevents observing users’ behavior and forces the researcher to trust what people say. It also limits the scope of things to be tested. On the other hand, preparing surveys is less time-consuming, and they might be used on each stage of the project or whenever you need quick feedback. 

About The Author

Marta Mazurkiewicz - UX Designer & UX Researcher at SoftwarePlant