An introduction to design surveying

Use design surveys to gather considered feedback about your designs

What are design surveys?

Use design surveys to get feedback about a design – whether it’s a website, app design, animation, prototype recording, video ad, or logo concept. Design surveys display your design and your questions at the same time, which gives your respondents an opportunity to inspect the design closely so you can check their understanding.

When you use design surveys, the image doesn’t go away like in a five second test – it’s visible until participants finish answering the questions. This allows participants to view a design without time pressure. It’s useful for a range of applications where recall or immediate impact of the image isn't the focus of your testing.

As with all our different methods, you can add multiple sections to your test to explore different variations or concepts. Design surveys can be combined with other test types, and it works perfectly with logic. Alternatively, test different design surveys with different respondents by using variation sets.

How to choose the right design survey method

Design surveys are an option for you to get considered feedback about a design. That feedback can be qualitative (short text and long text fields) or quantitative (likert scales, multiple choice, radios, or sorting questions). It’s best used when you’re looking to check for comprehension or if you’re looking to follow up on a more quantitative method.

Sometimes a test that yields behavioral data (like click maps and heat maps when you use a click test or navigation test) is more appropriate to use than a design survey – it simply depends on your research goal. Use design surveys to test messaging or design in an open-book way. This technique is useful for logo testing, product page comprehension studies, content testing – or anything where some thought and consideration of the design from participants would be worthwhile. 

Design Surveying
Design surveys are a great way to gather feedback from your target audience about your designs.

Testing comprehension

Design surveys are perfect for testing comprehension – that is, asking your respondents to answer questions about a design and checking whether they understand it. Good design combines good writing with clear organization of hierarchical content through the use of color, typography and layout.

Designers are often attempting to balance users’ limited attention spans and the business’ critical communication needs, but it’s not always something you nail first try. Sometimes a design may be too brief, and at other times too complex, resulting in confusion.

You can make your design crystal clear through testing comprehension. Whether it’s a pricing page, a product outline, instructions, a promotion or something else, prevent any confusion and refine your communication by testing it with Design surveys.

If you slot in a regular question section after a design question section, the image will disappear, and you can then test what a participant remembers about it. This allows a participant to reach a comfortable familiarity with an image before answering questions about it.

Example questions:

  • What do you think this page is for?
  • Is there anything you find confusing?
Design Surveying
Use design surveys to gather data about whether your participants understand your app or website. Above are design survey results in UsabilityHub showing whether participants understand what the business offers.

Testing user expectations

Design surveys can be a great way to understand what your users expect your design will do when they interact with it. Interaction design requires you to build in affordance – that is, your design elements suggest what they will do. For example, users expect that something styled like a link will be clickable, and something styled like a button will trigger something on the page to change. Your UI content also suggests certain actions may take place.

Design surveys allow you to show a design and ask what your respondent expects to happen if they do a certain action. By doing this, you can understand if your design’s affordance is working, or get feedback that helps your refine.

Example questions:

  • What do you expect to happen when you click the confirm button?
  • What do you think is clickable on this page?

Design surveys as follow-ups

A common use of design surveys is following a five second test. In this structure, you can show a respondent the design briefly and test their recall, which will give you insights about your information architecture, visual design and levels of trust. Then, you can show the same design, but this time in a Design survey section, allowing your respondent to consider it for longer.

You can ask the same questions as you did in you five second test, and see if they differ once your respondent has had more time to consider the design, which will yield insights about what you might want to change should you choose to iterate. The same thing can work with click tests, nav tests and preference tests – use design surveys to dig deeper into a design and pair it with your quant data to understand the why behind the what.

Example questions:

  • Now that you’ve had more time to consider the design, do you understand what the product is?
  • What stands out for you the most on this page?
Test results in UsabilityHub showing a follow-up question to a first click test
In UsabilityHub, you can use design surveys to ask your participants follow-up questions.

Testing video and audio

For video and audio files especially, it’s critical to test and refine your creative as your audience may only hear or see your work once (if it’s a broadcast advertisement, for example).

When testing with video or audio files, panel participants won’t be able to answer questions unless they’ve watched or listened the entire file at least once. The files won’t start playing automatically, participant will need to click “play” and complete watching or listening to the file before they can proceed to answering questions. After the first watch they will be able to skip forwards and backwards.

Example questions:

  • Who is the advertiser?
  • Do you understand the offer being presented?

A flexible method

Design surveys are particularly useful in the above scenarios, but you can use them to dig deeper into feedback in many more ways. In combination with the other methods and techniques in UsabilityHub like click tests, five second tests, preference tests, nav tests, variation sets and logic, design surveys are one of the most useful and flexible methods we offer, making them a critical part of your research toolkit.