Ask, Analyze, Action: Your Guide to UX Surveys
UX surveys are a low-resource, high-reward UX research method. Dive into our comprehensive guide for how to maximize the potential of a survey, with the perfect blend of techniques, questions, and strategy.
How to create and distribute a successful UX survey
UX surveys are a deceptively simple UX research method. From product discovery to gathering feedback on a new feature, they're a highly versatile research tool. But while anyone can send a survey, you need the right combination of techniques, tools, and questions to make your survey a success and maximize your insights.
As a UX designer, manager, or researcher, the right research method can be the difference between a goldmine of meaningful insights and a jumble of inconclusive, unusable data.
That’s why UX surveys should be one of the main instruments you reach for in your UX research toolbox. While you can't sit in your user’s head 100% of the time (believe us, we’ve tried), UX surveys are the next best thing to help you gather highly actionable feedback for the UX design process.
Read on to learn how to design and conduct UX surveys for game-changing user insights.
What is a UX survey?
A user experience (UX) survey is a research method for collecting qualitative and quantitative user feedback on a product, its design, and the overall user experience. As a UX researcher or designer, you’ll use UX surveys to uncover actionable customer insights for improved decision-making across your organization.
UX Surveys provide a structured approach to gathering data, allowing us to identify patterns, preferences, and pain points at scale.
Sakshi Bhardwaj, Lead UX Designer at Gemini Solutions
Haley Stracher, CEO and Design Director at Iris Design Collaborative, explains that user surveys are also far more targeted than other survey methods: “They’re given to people with direct experience with the product, so their feedback quickly pinpoints main areas needing attention."
When reading about user surveys, you’ll see a wide variation of language regarding this type of research method—so let’s clarify exactly what we’re talking about.
Survey vs. poll vs. questionnaire—what’s the difference?
Surveys, questionnaires, and polls may sound similar and be used interchangeably, but they differ from each other in terms of scope and purpose. Each one includes different research questions to collect a specific type of data.
- Surveys: Surveys are the most comprehensive of all three. They collect in-depth qualitative and quantitative data about user behavior, trends, pain points, and priorities to understand everything from usability to customer satisfaction. Surveys allow for various question types, including open-ended and multiple choice questions.
- Questionnaires: While surveys gather nuanced data with objective and subjective questions, questionnaires have a narrower scope and stick to a fixed structure. Researchers often create stand-alone questionnaires to learn more about a specific aspect of UX, like dashboard preferences.
- Polls: Polls are multiple-choice questions designed to get quick, real-time feedback. You can easily distribute them across multiple channels, such as in live website testing, to capture and analyze results instantly. While polls are convenient for small requirements, they aren't ideal for collecting data about complex projects.
In essence, surveys are best suited for conducting in-depth user research when you want to really get a pulse of your users. That being said, there are several different types of surveys to choose from depending on your goals.
Types of UX survey
UX surveys come in all shapes and sizes, each with its own approach and advantages for picking up nuanced qualitative and quantitative user data. Some of the most common types of UX surveys include:
- Longitudinal surveys: This survey type measures particular user preferences on one subject over a long period of time. Like diary research, longitudinal surveys are good for monitoring user preference changes and establishing constants through continuous data collection.
- Cross-sectional surveys: This survey allows you to uncover particular customer insights at a single point in time. Cross-sectional surveys are useful for establishing baseline data before releasing a new feature. You can then initiate another survey for comparison.
- Pulse surveys: While not ideal for in-depth analysis, pulse surveys keep you on top of user sentiments and general preferences. They’re usually a set of closed-ended questions posed at a regular cadence.
- In-app surveys: Use in-app surveys to collect quick feedback after a user interacts with your product. These micro surveys provide immediate contextual answers during various touchpoints when triggered.
- Transactional surveys: These surveys are tied to specific actions your user may complete, such as sign-ups, transactions, or closing a support ticket. Once a user completes a specified action, a survey will trigger.
When to use a UX research survey
Now that we’ve covered the types of UX survey, you might be wondering—when do I use them?
The short answer is whenever you lack clarity on your users’ wants, needs, thoughts, and pain points.
One of the most popular UX research methods, Haley says “UX surveys are widely used, as they’re a cost-effective and quick method for collecting specific feedback and getting deeper visibility into customer behavior.”
UX research is an ongoing process, and you’ll need valuable feedback to base your decisions on throughout the entire design and development process. Let’s look at the specific phases when a UX survey can help.
1. Early stages of product development
UX surveys can prove valuable right from the start of your product development process. Conducting surveys during product discovery means you can better understand your users’ pain points and create user personas as a basis for further research. The insights you gain from a UX survey also help you validate new design ideas and inform concept testing.
In short, surveys can help clear up any confusion on what your users want, helping you sidestep any costly mistakes during product development.
2. To validate prospective changes in the product
Introducing changes to your product can be a major dilemma for UX teams. To reach an informed, user-driven decision, you'll need data to support opinions on prospective changes.
A UX survey helps you gather specific, actionable insights from the people using the product directly. Whether you’re contemplating something as big as a new feature, or as small as a minor color change—gathering user feedback helps ensure potential changes will be beneficial, rather than a costly mistake.
3. After a major product update or feature release
Launching a new product or feature is a big achievement. What's even better is analyzing user responses to the change and collecting input to affirm the change, monitor user sentiment, and improve functionality.
Post-release is an ideal time to run UX surveys to collect feedback on recent updates. What’s more, even a minor update can prompt users’ to share their perspectives and opinions on the product as a whole—where something may have gone unnoticed before, after a reshuffle or new update, users might look at the tool in a whole new light.
4. When metrics indicate a problem(s)
If you're seeing poor metrics, like high bounce rates, abandoned signups, and low feature adoption, leverage UX surveys to get to the root cause of these problems. Talk to your users to discover exactly why your product performance is taking a hit.
Haley emphasizes how surveys can help teams save time and effort here: "It's really important to verify the frustration among a group of at least 10-15 users and analyze the feedback before taking quick actions.”
It can be all-too-easy to jump into fire-fighting mode, but acting too quickly, without user data to back up any actions, is a recipe for unhappy users and further UX friction. Even a quick UX survey can help ascertain the main problem, and also help prioritize steps to be taken.
Haley advises: “To avoid it feeling like a fire drill for product teams whenever there’s a piece of user feedback, use UX surveys to make best use of your design and development resources to get the most important and relevant changes done first.”
5. When qualitative research resources are limited
User surveys are an excellent qualitative method, with versatility to collect broad user opinions, in-depth feedback on specific features, or a mix of both.
So if your team doesn’t have enough researchers or the bandwidth to collect in-depth qualitative data, you can use a detailed UX survey to collect similar insights without requiring the same time and effort.
Step-by-step: How to design and conduct a UX survey
Ready to build your next UX survey? Here are the six key steps you should take to create a flawless user experience survey.
1. Outline the scope and actionable goals for your survey
To conduct a useful UX survey, you’ll first need to outline its scope and goals in relation to your product and audience. Do you want insights on a new feature, or are you seeking in-depth knowledge of user website interaction? Perhaps you want to make your design more inclusive?
A clearly defined project scope tells you—and key stakeholders—exactly where the project fits in your UX research strategy, and outlines what a UX survey will achieve. It shows you the bigger picture and helps in collecting relevant data aligned with your objectives. Starting by defining goals also prevents the team from going overboard with their time and efforts—ensuring UX surveys remain beneficial in terms of effort vs. reward.
- Start with the end in mind
- Visualize the outcomes you want to achieve
- Prioritize these goals: rank them based on importance and impact
Once you have this list of outcomes, you can start thinking about the data you'll collect and what insights you expect to gain from this. Then, reverse-engineer your way from here to determine what type of survey questions to include.
You can also create hypotheses for your survey and write targeted questions. For example, if one of your priority goals is improving user onboarding, you can hypothesize product tours can simplify the onboarding experience and make it more engaging. Then, create questions relevant to this hypothesis, like 'What do you think about product tours in the onboarding flow?’.
2. Design your survey and write questions
With your project scope, hypothesis, and goals defined, you’re ready to start designing your UX survey and writing the bulk of your questions. We’ll be covering how to write perfect UX survey questions in the next chapter—skip ahead for more details on asking the right questions, the right way.
Depending on your goals, you can use a mix of closed and open-ended questions to help you gather subjective data on user preferences and motivations for deeper analytics.
Steer clear of any unnecessary jargon in your questions—users shouldn’t need to Google any terms to grasp what you’re asking them. Use clear and simple language to eliminate confusion.
Make sure you’re considering cognitive biases when writing your UX questions and watch out for leading questions that nudge participants towards a specific response, eliciting bias. Leading questions will give you inaccurate data and contaminate your potential well of usable insights.
A leading question might be: ‘What was the best part of our new generative AI feature?’, or ‘Why did you like the recent product update?’.
Pro tip 💡
Need a jumping-off point for your research questions? Not sure where to start, or short on time? The Maze Question Bank is our attempt at the internet’s best open-source question repository—and it’s entirely free, too.
3. Choose a survey tool
Now you’ve curated the ultimate survey questions, it’s time to choreograph your survey.
A good UX research tool offers the flexibility to add different types of questions, like short/long text fields, multiple-choice options, rating scales and more. You should be able to tailor the survey per your questions and apply conditional logic to show only relevant questions based on previous responses.
For example, if you ask them ‘What’s the most important feature to you?’, conditional logic fields enable you to follow up with specific questions relating to the feature they select.
Your tool of choice should also offer detailed analytics to study the results and gain quality insights quickly, then share them in actionable UX research reports.
If you’re in the market for a UX survey tool, try Maze: you get all these capabilities to collect user feedback through high-quality surveys, plus a wide variety of survey templates if you’re unsure where to start. Once the results are in, you’ll get automated reports visualizing all your data for meaningful analysis, helping you extract actionable insights.
Even better, with Maze AI you get a built-in research assistant to help write The Perfect Question, using AI to identify any confusing wording or sneaky biases that creep in, and suggest alternative phrasing. With the Open Question feature, you can opt for AI to analyze participant answers and provide smart, automated follow-up questions to gather even deeper, contextual insights.
4. Start recruiting participants
You’ll need to define your ideal participant before you can start recruiting participants for your survey. Armed with your UX user personas, you can create demographic segments and further categorize them based on user roles, jobs to be done, and survey use cases.
You can also leverage analytics to outline key characteristics, like 'spent a significant amount of time on this feature page’.
Here’s an example:
- Demographics: Male, aged 25-35, tech-savvy
- User role: Active user
- Jobs-to-be-done: Frequently uses search and filter features to find products or information
- Survey use case: Evaluate the effectiveness and user-friendliness of search and filter options
With your ideal participant profile set up, you’re ready to start recruiting participants. There’s a number of ways to get users’ eyes on your survey, from using In-Product Prompts to surface the survey on high-traffic pages, to reaching out directly via your customer success team or mailing lists.
If you’re looking for high-quality responses from unbiased participants, it’s helpful to go down the route of panel participants. For example, the Maze Panel allows you to pick and choose qualified research participants from a pool of vetted testers, filtered by your survey requirements.
If you want to recruit participants independently, Reach can streamline the hefty job of building a database of participants, and help manage all their details. Create user segments and set up automated workflows to easily communicate with these participants and stay on track with your survey results.
5. A/B test and roll out the survey
Before sharing your UX survey, remember to conduct A/B testing to choose the best version of your survey and questions. This can be useful in determining the ideal survey length, question formats, and breadth of topic.
You can test with a smaller audience initially, matching your ideal persona, before sharing the survey more widely.
Take overall feedback to understand if the survey was contextually clear to these users, and you can also time-box the survey to see how long it takes participants to complete it. This is important to prevent survey fatigue and get high-quality responses from start-finish. Ideally, a survey shouldn't take more than 10 minutes to complete.
After the design process, define your distribution channels to reach a bigger audience. Use a multi-channel distribution strategy and pick the best timing for sending surveys across different channels, like:
- In-app prompts
- Website pop-ups
- Email campaigns
- Employee networks
- Online communities
When sending requests to communities, personalize your invitations to encourage participation and survey completion. You can also consider offering an incentive to users, like a gift voucher or financial compensation.
6. Analyze the data and share findings
Finally, it’s time to move on to extracting those much-needed user insights.
When your participants have completed the survey, you can synthesize and analyze the data for actionable insights. For a larger sample size of 100+ respondents, qualitative analysis will uncover trends and user response patterns.
You’ll also want to analyze overall user sentiment, including positive, negative, or neutral feedback based on your open-ended UX survey responses.
Another effective method for analyzing user insights includes sorting responses based on user segments or question formats. You can quickly identify themes, draw inferences, and find UX design opportunities.
For a breakdown of how to analyze your UX survey, head to chapter three: Uncovering Key Insights: UX Survey Data Analysis.
Asking the right questions
Running a UX survey presents an effective opportunity to gather actionable insights—but only when done right. Effective UX surveys enable UX designers, researchers, and managers to get a pulse on what users think and feel about products, features, and designs. However, knowing the steps to conducting a UX survey is only one piece of the puzzle for gathering insights. What’s equally important is asking the right questions and making your survey accessible and easily-navigable.
Maze allows you to design and conduct successful UX surveys and gain actionable user feedback in hours, not days. With various survey templates, you forget about the survey UI and let your questions do the talking. As an AI-powered research tool, you can fine-tune your questions to get to the heart of your user's thoughts, pain points, and preferences, and let Maze do the heavy lifting.
In the next chapter of this guide, we’ll cover the different types of survey questions you have at your disposal, as well as how to write and ask UX survey questions that get unbiased, actionable responses.
Frequently asked questions about UX surveys
What are surveys in UX research?
What are surveys in UX research?
Surveys in UX research are tools to help collect user data on preferences, experiences, and behavior towards a particular product, idea, or feature. These surveys consist of a series of questions that users answer. UX teams then analyze the data to arrive at actionable responses.
What are the pros and cons of surveys in UX?
What are the pros and cons of surveys in UX?
Some of the pros of UX surveys include flexibility and allowing UX design teams to collect valuable insights more easily than with other UX research methods. Cons include potentially not receiving enough responses and lack of user engagement.
How often should you do a UX survey?
How often should you do a UX survey?
There’s no defined time period for how often you should design a UX survey. Conduct a UX survey whenever you need insight into user motivation, behavior, and experience.