We are hoping to send out email surveys to some of our customers (w/a coupon reward) in the hopes of getting some task analysis-type feedback returned.

This is a large B2B website with tens of thousands of products. If I ask something like like "What are your most frequent tasks on xxx.com", unless I have MANY very specific multiple choice options to choose from, it seems like what I get back is going to be pretty uninformative (i.e., 'I'm here to place an order' which doesn't tell us much).

However, I've read that if you leave surveys with open textareas, you won't get a good return either.

What would a suggested approach for questions/format to try to learn more about what tasks the users are doing on our website?

Can I just ask the equivalent of "What are the the most frequent tasks you do on xxx.com?" with an open textarea and expect informative responses?

Any suggestions appreciated--

2 Answers 2


I don't think a free text field will work:

  • It takes a lot of effort by the user to formulate a meaningful, detailed response, and they are unlikely to put that effort into a survey just to get a coupon. You would probably get brief, very general answers like "I'm here to place an order" with this, too.
  • Even if they did put in useful answers, it would be hard to interpret and analyse the free text.

So, what should you do then? It depends on what you want to get out of the task analysis.

Presumably there was some reason for wanting to do this, such as understanding different paths users take through your site, or understanding different kinds of users. This should lead to some specific, reasonable questions. Here are some questions that would apply to even a large, complex site:

  • How often do you make purchases?
  • How do you pay?
  • What method do you use to find the products you want (search, enter product ID, browse categories, etc.)?
  • What category of item do you most often buy?

One possibility to consider would be asking the customers to go to your site and log in, or enter some identifying information, to take the survey. This would enable you to link the results to their order history, and you wouldn't have to ask anything about what products they buy, only a few task questions which can be joined to the rich set of data you already have.


Format of the survey should be emphasized on getting more information about attributes of the users, rather than just getting some opinions. Your questions should always be focused on getting the basic information like "how do they get their tasks accomplished?", "What are their pains and frustrations?". Surveys just asking opinions are of no-use, as users themselves are not clear on what they want.

The question format can be similar to what @dan1111 has answered. But to pretest your survey and see if the questions give you required information.

The last thing I will recommend is to keep your survey as simple as possible e.g. 3-4 Multiple Choice questions and 1 question that requires a textual input. Survey attendants may get carried by the brand you represent, but a long survey format will eventually flip them off.

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