The Why, How, and What of Onsite UX/UI User Surveys

Onsite user surveys are a cost-efficient way to gather not only quantitative but also qualitative information useful for business decisions.  There are two basic types of onsite surveys: website-related (UX/UI surveys) and offering-related (about the actual product or service promoted through your website). In this post, I will concentrate on the first type of questionnaires and give some guidance on how successfully set up, run and evaluate them.


As with other projects, we always start with a Why – question. Without formulating a clear purpose, you will not be able to derive much useful information from the survey. Do not start with a general question such as “Do users find the website easy to use?”- but concentrate on particular UI components (e.g. top navigation, product finder or product descriptions). You may also run a survey to gather more insight into the data from analytics, e.g. high bounce rate on a particular page or repeated shopping cart abandonment by users. Another possibility is to follow up on a particular user journey (registration, form submission).

When & Where

When and Where to place the user survey will depend on its purpose. Say, if you are testing a new color scheme of the site you could place a survey on most pages, but if you are interested why users do not manage to submit forms, you will display a questionnaire only on Submission Failed page.

Besides placing the survey on relevant pages, you may additionally target a random sample of users, i.e. 10% of visitors, or show the questionnaire after a certain time on site/to returning users. Sometimes it is also possible to display a survey on an event, such as a button click or multiple mouse-overs a page element. If the software you use allows gathering user data, consider targeting certain user groups (e.g. users coming from a particular device or from a certain country).

When displaying the survey, decide how long the delay should be. If a user first needs to read the contents of the page, the delay may be up to a minute. In any case, loading the questionnaire simultaneously with the page may confuse users, so several seconds delay will still be appropriate (it will also exclude users who are in the “explore mode”, i.e. just clicking through the pages).


Speaking about How the survey will be set up, it can be a pop-up, a slide-out panel or a Feedback button (during user journey or placed in the header of the page). In any case, you will need to include a recognizable Close button to avoid irritating users who do not wish to participate. You may, however, display the survey again at a later point/during the next visit or allow the visitor to choose, by implementing a Maybe Later button.


When deciding What to include in the survey, consider the number and the type of questions you want to ask.  Generally true: the shorter the survey – the higher the submission rate. If you want to ask questions on different areas of the website, break them into two or three smaller surveys and display upon user interaction.

As for the type of questions asked, open fields and ratings will probably give you the most insights into how users perceive your site. If possible, avoid asking many yes/no or very broad questions, such as: “What do you think of our new site?”

Users may also be reluctant to provide personal details, so reduce personal questions to a minimum. In other words, every question should fulfill the purpose of the survey or be removed.


Once the user survey is live, continue monitoring and adjusting it, whilst carefully recording all changes made in the process. Some adjustments can be: broaden the display rules if too few visitors view the forms, reformulate a question that seems to cause misunderstanding, exclude some user group from targeting.


Last but not least: results processing. You may report daily, weekly or monthly, depending on the traffic volume and stakeholder requirements. The reports you produce should have the same format in order to compare results over time. Questions with open fields are the most useful, but also the most time-consuming to evaluate. You can group responses into categories and later re-formulate the question as a multiple-choice, still leaving one variant as open field.

With UX/UI surveys, you are likely to get some irrelevant responses, such as comments about the product or customer service queries. Make sure to have a process to deal with such responses in place.

As a short conclusion, here are some do’s and don’t’s of onsite UX/UI surveys.

The Why, How, and What of Onsite UX/UI User Surveys

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How to write for the online reader

How to write online
A laptop (Source: Unsplash)

In this article I would like to talk about how people usually read online and how it will affect your writing.

  • People seldom read for pleasure on the Internet. Most of the time they look for particular information or research on a subject.

Use headlines to give a precise idea about the content you offer. Do not write headlines in obscure style, hoping that the reader will be intrigued by it. Most of the time, if users see no direct relevance to their search in the headline, they hit the “back” button.

  • People tend to scan rather than read, which means that they read less attentively. They also sometimes skip sections of text.

Use subheading as signposts to help your readers find better orientation in your content. Structure your text clearly: include one idea per paragraph and start your paragraph with this key idea. Use bulleted or numbered lists, where appropriate. Make sure to adjust the anchor text of your links: “learn more about our program” instead of “click here”.  Use images that support the main idea of your text and do not forget about captions, as well as <alt> and <title> tags.

  • Users generally prefer informal, easy-to-read texts

Write in shorter sentences and paragraphs. Use active voice instead of passive constructions. Apply personal pronouns instead of naming yourself or the user (“we” instead of “our company”, “you” instead of “the reader”).

  • Readers respect authoritative sources and look for supportive data

Do not hesitate to quote other sites in your content, as long as they have authority and credibility. Also, avoid exaggerated language and try to convince readers based on facts about your products or services. Include any important details or technical data, but place them in separate sections on your website, not on the main page. If you link to documents for download, mention the format and the size of the file.

  • Users expect up-to-date content

Set up “an expiry date” for every piece of content you produce, either in your CMS system  or in your editorial calendar. Some articles will have longer “life” than others (food recipes vs live-ticker of a football match).  Make sure to review and update the articles regularly. Also, periodically curate and improve the existing content, especially on pages with higher bounce rates. 

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Two Types of Online Users: Simplifying the Segmentation

Below I will describe a simple approach to customer segmentation online, based largely on behavioral characteristics.

There are numerous approaches to customer segmentation, some of which include a lot of hard and soft factors and fracture the customer base down to “a segment of one”. However, this micro-marketing is hard to apply in practice: modern online marketing is largely data-driven and the problem is rather to generalize and structure the massive amounts of user data and to incorporate it in simple procedures that you can actually manage and apply.

Below I will describe a simple approach to customer segmentation online, based largely on behavioral characteristics. All users can be subdivided into two groups. There is empirical data by Yandex proving the existence of these two user types, as well as some surveys  such as the one by Novomind  introducing the subdivision of online users/buyers into two main types.

Let us see how the theory can be applied to understanding the user behavior and conversion on a website.

Segment 1: “Experimenters”

Type 1 users, “experimenters”  or “synthetical” type are driven by emotions rather than reason.

  • They tend to “skim” through the page or read it “diagonally” paying attention to the parts that stand out or create a structural break in the page.
  • They are more likely to click on a CTA that is three-dimensional, large or made in contrasting colors.
  • They seldom read the text attentively and are not moved by detailed explanations.
  • If offered a choice of products, they make their decisions rather quickly without much scrolling and clicking, though having a lot of choice is important for them.
  • They tend to break off if prompted to type in extra data, or if forced to do extra clicks.
  • They leave the page rather quickly if they do not find what they want immediately.
  • They are often on the lookout for new, innovative or exclusive products.
  • They are prone to do spontaneous purchases if offered a good deal on the spot.
  • They seldom make repeat purchases and have less customer loyalty to an online shop.
  • These users are slightly more likely to be male or younger users.

Segment 2: “Readers”

Type 2 users, “readers” or “analytical” type tend to be more consistent and methodical when navigating a page.

  • They normally navigate the page “top to bottom” thus paying attention to less “visible” elements
  • They make less spontaneous clicks.
  • They react to CTA’s that match the background design of the page, as this makes them more “trustworthy”.
  • They tend to look thoroughly through the website and need time to make a final purchase decision.
  • They get irritated if the website lacks a clear structure or if there is too little information about the products or services.
  • They often  break off the buying process if feeling insecure about their personal data or feel pressed for decision (“limited offer, buy now!”).
  • If satisfied with service and products, they are likely to return and even become permanent customers.
  • These users are slightly more likely to be female or older users.

Implications of the Segmentation

Having in mind these two customer types helps to explain why the same conversion optimization measures yield completely different if not contradictory results when implemented on different websites (as their customer base may predominately have users of type 1 or type 2).

While the first user type require interactivity, large print and colors to attract their attention and reacts negatively to the informational overload, the second type, on the contrary, require clear and detailed information and dismiss anything that seems suspicious to them or resembles advertising.

If one is not quite sure what type of users a website has or if there seems to be a good mixture of both, balancing off the interests of both groups (e.g. additional information is easy to find, but can as well be skipped through) or even designing several types of interfaces for different landing pages may serve as a solution.

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A Different Approach to Conversion Funnel

Conversion optimization often starts beyond the funnel. In the following, I will explain how external factors may influence the conversion funnel.

In one of my previous posts, I shared some techniques applicable to conversion optimization on a website. However, conversion optimization often starts beyond the funnel. In the following, I will explain how external factors may influence the conversion funnel.

Set and regularly review your KPIs. Apart from absolute values, do apply ratios, such as the ratio of site visitors to the ratio of buyers/ newsletter subscribers, etc. Even if the absolute numbers seem to be growing, but the ratios are shifting, it is time to take a closer look at what might be happening inside your conversion funnel or even above it.

If a parameter is changing, evaluate the change from the time aspect (gradual vs. rapid changes).

A rapid change is likely to be caused by changes you made on your website, whether willingly or accidentally. As an example, conversion rates may change due to the change in design of a website, product range or the site navigation, but also due a technical problem or a faulty code. Try to exclude the possibility that your statistics are not gathered or displayed incorrectly, whereas nothing actually has happened to your website in reality.

Another reason for rapid changes or rather fluctuations are short-term effects such as a holiday vs a regular day, unexpected weather conditions or a promotional activity by yourself or one of your partners.

However, if the parameter has been changing gradually over a longer period of time, the reason is much more likely to be external. Seasonality is a major factor for cyclical effects, although natural business growth (growing or shrinking market) or the state of competition (market segmentation or consolidation) are likely to have long-term effects that are irreversible.

In this case, it is important to evaluate how the change is affecting your business and what steps can be taken to optimize your website to adapt to the changing conditions.

Another less obvious reason for changes in your KPIs, especially conversion rates is the structure of your marketing leads. It is important to understand that the way how leads travel through the funnel reflects the way these leads are or where they come from.

Imagine your website has not changed in any way for the past few months. However, you can observe that the click rates on certain products you display on the website have changed. If you exclude the possibility of a major environmental change (such as shifting demand for these products or appearance of a strong competitor), the only suitable explanation is that the actual user behavior has changed.

So if you had a recent campaign that was targeted at a new customer segment, you shouldn’t be surprised that these leads convert differently than the leads you have had before. It may even be that though the source of the leads has not changed, the structure of the leads visiting the source has been shifting. E.g. if you use a social network with predominately younger audience for generating the leads, but the network manager now wants to re-position it to suit older users, the leads you get may find your products/services irrelevant.

Unfortunately, the possibility of such external effects as a major shift in the leads structure is often missed out when interpreting the performance data, since it normally requires the change of the whole mindset and getting away from pulling the same conversion levers inside the familiar environment of your website. Moreover, measuring and evaluating the leads that have not actually converted is often difficult due to the missing or insecure data on these leads.

The information above can be summarized in the form of an extended conversion funnel, that demonstrates external influence on the actual conversion rates or other KPIs on your website.

extended conversion funnel


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