CharlieMC (charliemc) wrote,
CharlieMC
charliemc

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Online Surveys Generally SUCK.

As someone who has frequently been there to beta applications, I also try to be actively involved in answering various online surveys that are software and/or IT-related. I feel a responsibility to try and improve things whenever possible. After all, if we don't give them feedback, how can we expect them to try and make things better?

But here's the thing: My answers can only be as good as the actual Survey allows for in the first place.

Usually the people designing it have a specific goal in mind, and they neglect to make room for anything that falls outside the box. Every question asked should always allow for an Other answer, with space to explain -- because I promise you, I'll fall in the Other category most of the time! Plus the person writing the survey needs to 'dumb it down' -- meaning they need to EXPLAIN anything and everything repeatedly. They already KNOW what they're asking about, but we usually don't! So help us to understand what you're asking in the first place!

Always give me a place to EXPLAIN my answer. I won't always use it, but it's helpful when my answer falls outside YOUR norm, which will frequently be the case. If you're bothering to ask me, why not find out everything I have to say?

Today I tried to answer yet another survey that I had to quit partway through. When I got to the spot where I just couldn't reply honestly, I stopped and closed out the survey. I grumbled as I did so, annoyed by the waste of my time. I noted who had sent it to me, because I doubt I'll try to answer one from them again in the future. After all, I only have so much free time to give to this.

Yes, I've got information to share -- and I know a thing or two about software applications, so I suspect I'm exactly the person that they'd like to hear from. Too bad they don't know how to make it easy for me to share that information... This is a case where a face-to-face survey would clearly work better. That doesn't make these a reasonable option, granted, as one of the reasons we like online surveys is for the convenience of answering them whenever we want! But like the tests we were given in school that never seemed to have enough options to really display what we KNEW, online surveys fall generally fall short. And that says something about those who create the survey, now doesn't it?

Look, it's not easy to write a GOOD survey. I know, because I've written them myself. It's a lot like writing a good tutorial, which I always write. You've got to try and think as others think -- get outside that box. Look, I already know what I think. So if I really want to know what you're thinking (!!!), then I need to give you room (options) to tell me! I personally think it's a combination of things going on when you end up with a bad survey... First, not everyone is equipped to write these, no matter how much they think they are. And if you come into it with arrogance and superiority, you'll never do a good job. On the opposite side, if you're sloppy and lazy, you won't do a good job, either...

Anyway, there are days I ask myself why I keep trying to do these. I've got plenty to do, believe me, without throwing away free time this way! But I still feel a strong desire to try and help, whenever and wherever I can. And I guess most of us feel that way -- look at how hard it is to pass up a survey when someone asks! (Think about the Polls here at LiveJournal...)

I hope this doesn't sound too rant-like. Yes, I feel strongly about it, but not radical. I'm never going to stop trying to answer online surveys, because it just isn't in me. But my time is important to me, and I only hope those asking the questions get that in some small way.

Tags: 2010, december-2010, survey
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