I'm drafting a user research plan for the next year on a higher ed site, and am interested in including a short online survey in addition to a few other, in-person user testing methods. Our site receives a lot of traffic from different groups (prospective students, parents, current students, faculty/staff), but only the last two groups have email to broadcast that this survey exists.

I suppose my question is really simple. Since many of these visitors are anonymous, what would be a good way to communicate to them that we'd love to hear their opinion of the site, without resorting to a pop-up? Just a link marked "survey" and hoping people see it?

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Internal surveys will generally receive a 30-40% response rate or more on average, compared to an average 10-15% response rate for external surveys. Source

So naturally what you are trying to do is to get as close to that as possible or maybe even beat it.

Heres some ways I like to do it.

  • Offer some sort of reward. In grad school small coffee gift cards went a long way to getting people to volunteer their time.

  • Offer a physical prize or an entry into one prize drawing if you can (make sure to email out or post who won so people know you are honest).

  • Can you possibly give them some sort of perk or special privilege for your site?
  • Maybe you can put them on an exclusive list for them to hear about something before other users
  • Are there any perks you might be able to offer them

  • If you cant give them anything maybe appeal to their willingness to help out

  • Ie help foo.edu improve its course catalog with this Brief survey

  • Make it brief or keep it as painless as possible to encourage them to do it.

  • In your case if your trying to target two different groups you could have a drop down with different cuts of the survey and say (we only ask the most targeted questions to keep it as short as possible)

  • sticking with the short theme maybe put the average time users spent on it to lower the barrier of entry (and willingness to do it)

  • People are busy offer them a chance to do it later Want to help out but dont have the time? -- give us your email for us to email it at a later date

  • Give them multiple ways to sign up at the later date (text message email twitter etc)

  • Tell them it will be anonymous thus to eliminate any other barriers

  • Publish the results online

  • Fans of the open source movement or shared data may be willing to help out if the data will be for all to consume

  • Show them links to past survey results that are annonimzied so they trust you.

In short the three most important factors are gaining their trust, grabbing their interest, and not loosing that interest.

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