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How to design an effective user survey

6 min read
Create an effective user survey

User surveys are the most important way for your user research team to understand how your users experience your product. They’re an effective way to learn about what features people want and how users will react to changes.

There’s just one problem: Surveys can be a massive time sink, and they’re not always effective.

To succeed and learn how to design an effective user survey, you must have a logical strategy that outlines who you survey, when you do it, and why; and a plan that includes how many questions you ask for each outcome or feature, as well as how long it takes to complete every question. You need actionable insights from user research on how best to improve usability and adoption rates of features.

Survey should be clear

You can use effective users surveys for a multitude of scenarios like improving customer satisfaction, identifying areas that need improvement in your business, and to gauge customer loyalty. Whatever the purpose, the questions should be clear and concise, and the survey should be short in order to avoid fatigue by the respondents. It's also important to offer an incentive for completing the survey, such as a discount on future purchases.

For a good example on a effective product survey, have a look at PMFsurvey, a free tool that helps you run the Sean Ellis test and measure your company’s product/market fit. Use this survey template from PMF Survey to get started, recreating it in whatever survey platform you prefer, like Typeform. User survey Photo by Sora Shimazaki

Types of questions to use

Broadly speaking, there are two types of questions that you can ask in a survey: open question and closed question. In closed questions, respondents have a fixed number of possible responses to choose from.

Open-ended questions allow respondents to answer in their own words. They're useful for exploring opinions and feelings, but they can be hard to analyze because the answers are so varied. Closed-ended questions give respondents a limited set of choices to choose from.

They're easier to analyze because the responses are more standardized, but they might not give you the detailed information you're looking for. This is especially true for mobile users. In contrast, closed questions tend to have higher response rates. It’s also much easier to analyze closed questions statistically.

The best surveys include a mix of both open questions and closed-ended questions. That way, you can get the detailed information you need while still being able to analyze the results effectively.

The best way to get unbiased results is to ask the right questions. To get started, try using these survey questions as a guide:

  1. How do you evaluate your experience at our store? (e.g., Excellent, Good, Poor, Very Bad)
  2. How easy was it to find the items in our store? (e.g., Very Easy, Easy, Difficult)
  3. How satisfied were you with our prices? (eg. Very Satisfied, Satisfied, Dissatisfied)
  4. How satisfied were you with our service? (e.g., Very Satisfied, Satisfied, Dissatisfied)
  5. What were some of the things that kept you from shopping at our store more frequently?
  6. How did you hear about us? (e.g., Friend, TV, Poster, Newspaper)
  7. How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague? (e.g., Very Likely, Somewhat Likely, Not Very Likely, Not At All Likely)
  8. How would you describe your overall level of satisfaction with our store? (eg. Very Satisfied, Satisfied, Dissatisfied)

The timing of customer feedback for your business

The key to a successful user survey is collecting feedback in a transparent, timely manner. If you don’t collect this feedback, you can’t improve your product decisions or guide future iterations of products design.

Ideally, user surveys should be posted during the research phase of development so that they inform the design process from start to finish. This means that all stakeholders—including the customer service team, marketing team, and engineering team—are aware of what questions will be asked and when. Besides understanding more about how people use your product, user surveys can help get accurate information on your audience demographics so you can tailor your marketing efforts for more effectiveness.

The best customer survey incentives

It’s important to think about the incentives you offer to complete your survey. You should have a list of incentives that you can offer to motivate people to complete your survey, such as discounts, coupons, or early access to a product. You should also think about what type of data you want to learn from your survey respondents. If you want to learn who uses specific features on your website or app, it would be helpful if you offered participants a chance at winning an Amazon gift card or by using a service that let's your customer choose what kind of gift card they want.

If you’re looking for feedback on how customers use your product, then consider offering them a chance to win a free pizza lunch with their friends. User surveys are an effective way of understanding what users need from your product and how they interact with it. With user surveys, you get detailed feedback on different aspects of the design and functionality of your website or app.

User survey Photo by Celpax

A tangible survey output example

A good survey can help you understand qualitative aspects of how people are interacting with your product. For example, if you ask about a specific feature, you might find out that people love it so much they want the option to turn it off or on at will. This means you could create a lower-friction “mute” button without needing to implement many other changes. The insight into what users want and don’t want will inform future decisions around new features and revisions of existing ones.

How to create an effective survey

In summary, the survey questions should elicit the specific information you are looking for.

Secondly, the survey should be short - only 10 minutes. This will help ensure that respondents don’t get frustrated and give up before completing it.

Finally, it’s important to offer an incentive for taking the survey. This could be something like a discount on the product or a free sample. By offering an incentive, you’ll increase the chances that people will actually take the time to fill out the survey.