Although we always stress the importance of doing actual user observations, there are times when we need to gather input from a higher number of participants than we can observe or interview. For this, an online (automatic) survey is the tool of choice.

In a nutshell


1 – 4 hours


– Project team


– Google Forms or other survey tool

Learning materials

UX Fundamentals (internal training)

Open-Ended vs. Closed-Ended Questions in User Research (article) – Nielsen Norman Group

Open vs. Closed Questions in User Research (video) – Nielsen Norman Group

28 Tips for Creating Great Qualitative Surveys (article) – Nielsen Norman Group

How to Create Effective User Surveys (article) – UX Planet


Define the goal. Find out what you need to know and why you need to know it. This is not trivial, and a lot of surveys lack a clear purpose.

Write a clear survey intro. The intro should clearly state the purpose of the survey, how the data will be used and for how long you intend to keep the data, e.g. until launch of project X.

Time how long it takes to complete the survey, so this agrees with what you say in the survey intro.

Decide how the survey will be sent out, e.g. via email to a list of participant candidates that you already have ready, via social media like Facebook or Twitter via a pop-up dialogue targeting some or all end-users in your product.

Plan the analysis carefully in advance before sending out the survey. This will keep your survey focused. You should not sit with a mound of data later and wonder how you should approach the analysis.

Include a few basic demographics or data that will come in handy when analyzing the data, e.g. name, company, role, age, experience.


Test your survey. Watch testers trying it out, see how long it takes and watch out for confusion. You will not be there when the participant tries to find out what you are really asking, so be careful to make everything understandable.

Make a test analysis to assess how how the survey worked after the dry run. Are you getting the results you intended? If not, iterate your questions and/or the way you gather the data.

Send it out! Send the instructions and the survey to your intended target group and await the results.


Analyze the data. Gather your team and look at the data together. Work to identify patterns and list 3-5 key takeaways.

Present and share the results with the rest of the team and internal stakeholders.

Put the data to good use. A good next step could be to create user stories and make sure that any need for updates or changes in the product or service gets prioritized and becomes part of the roadmap.


  • Only ask the questions you need to ask. A survey should take no longer than 2-3 minutes to complete. The time estimate should be clearly stated in the intro.
  • Ask internal stakeholders, support, sales etc. if they have any questions they would like to ask. This can help you see things from different perspectives!

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