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Polls, not surveys


Running complex, multi-question surveys and applying quantitative methods to the responses is a pseudoscientific waste of time, and you should never do it.

If you disagree, please skim this article and then book time on my calendar so we can argue 🙏

That said, single-question surveys (a.k.a. “polls”) are a great way to uncover unknown unknowns on your website, and you should absolutely use them.

Here’s my favorite poll question:

A Hotjar poll that says "what's missing from this page?"

… and here’s what’s great about it.

It’s quick

You’re not asking visitors to invest an afternoon in giving you feedback. There’s no need for a progress bar or an introductory screen that sets expectations or explains in detail how the responses will be used.

Because of this, you’ll get more responses - even from the type of people who “usually don’t fill these things out.”

It’s humble

The question assumes that the page can be improved, and confers expert status on the visitor.

One of the major weaknesses of surveys is that respondents tend to give the answers they think you want to hear; this framing precludes that.

Where to put it

This poll works best on high-exit pages. (In Google Analytics, Behavior > Site Content > Exit Pages.)

The question assumes the visitor has looked for what they need, and failed to find it. So it’s best to show it after a delay. Depending on the density of information on the page, anywhere from 15 to 45 seconds could make sense.

What to do with the responses

First of all, ignore the visitors who inevitably type “your mom” or other unhelpful answers. It does happen 😬

Screenshot of Hotjar survey responses including "your mom"

After a few weeks, read through the responses and ask a few simple questions:

This is a qualitative exercise. It broadens your perspective, deepens your visitor empathy, and can feed into your experiment ideas.

You’ll still need to measure or test any high risk changes, e.g. adding pricing where it was previously absent.

But if you come away with the poll knowing just one thing you wouldn’t have found out on your own, consider it a success.

© 2022 Brian David Hall