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The success of your redesign depends upon how thoroughly you understand your audience. Your results are only as good as your preliminary research. Before you begin, ask the experts – the end users. Getting the right input may be the most important part of the redesign process.
Know Your User(s)
Many organizations have several audiences. For example, colleges must appeal to students, faculty, current students and alumni. Each have different needs and wants. To properly address each user subset, you’ll likely need to create a different survey for each focus group.
There are two types of questions, fixed response and open ended. Each serves a purpose, however, you’ll want to lean heavier on structured questions. Respondents can be hopelessly vague when answering open ended questions.
Structured questions may include Yes/No, nominal or ordinal questions, just to name a few types. Choosing the right type of question will help determine how insightful the answers are. For example, instead of asking “Were you happy with the website navigation?” (yes/no question), you may wish to ask “How happy were you with the website navigation?”. Follow that with multiple choice options (very satisfied, somewhat satisfied, neutral, unsatisfied, or very unsatisfied). This can help you prioritize initiatives while in the planning phase of your redesign effort.
Regardless of type, make sure you’re specific. For example, instead of asking a question like “Do you take online classes often?” try something like “How many online classes did you take last semester?”
Construct questions that are simple and direct. If the question is a bit nebulous, then break it down into multiple questions rather than being vague.
What Questions Should You Ask?
The first step to understanding your user is to focus on their experience with your existing site. Find out what they like and dislike. That way, you’ll know what traits to carry over to the new design and what you’ll want to scrap. Asking a multiple choice question such as “What is the first method you use to find information on the website?” This way, you’ll know whether users prefer to use site search as opposed to the site’s navigation. This can go a long way toward determining what you emphasize with your redesign.
When you phrase your questions, focus on the user’s first impressions. Remember the 59 Second Rule*. Make sure you cover the most significant aspects of engagement such as design, content, imagery, navigation, and social media. Since demographic groups consume information in dramatically different ways, you’ll want to address device usage, too.
Using the prestigious (and imaginary) Beacon University as our subject, here are just a few examples of the types of questions you’ll want to ask:
- Assuming the Beacon University website were accessible on all devices, what device would you most likely visit the site with? (multiple choice)
- Rate your experience using certain areas of the website. (multiple choice)
- What are the three top reasons you visited the Beacon University website? (open-ended)
- Compared to other college or university websites, how would you rate the Beacon University site? (multiple choice)
Again, your questions will differ depending on the demographic you’re addressing. However, the questions above should provide some insight into the type of question one must ask and how to ask it.
Analyzing Survey Results
Look for patterns within your results. While common responses are important to note, the same can be said for outliers. Sometimes, surprises bring the greatest insights.
Here at Beacon, we typically provide a strategic document prepared from the survey results. Provided to designated stakeholders, a Beacon strategist meets with marketing staff or the organization’s website committee to discuss the results in depth and its implications on the planned website redesign.
Questions or Comments
As one of the nation’s premier Higher Ed. And retail redesign firms, Beacon has been providing colleges and online retailers with redesign consultation and services for almost 20 years. We invite questions or comments regarding all aspects of website redesign, not just the survey process. Feel free to contact me or call one of our team members at 1.855.467.5447 with questions or leave a comment below.