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How many times have you visited a site for the very first time only to be presented with an annoying pop-up that asks you to complete a survey about the site you have only just visited!

a screenshot of the gap adventures website with a feedback popup overlaying the content

Figure 1: Screen shot of a pop-up survey on the Gap Adventures website

The Gap Adventures website ( provides adventure travel and in figure 1 you can see that a pop-up survey overlays half of the screen.  Whilst asking for feedback is a great idea and will certainly help (when applied well) to build a better user experience, it can also undermine experience.

I totally appreciate the value of customer research and insight and how crucial it is in the design of a great user experience.  However, I didn't want this article to focus on this particular aspect of customer experience design.  If you want to learn more about voice of the customer research (VOC) you can read an interesting article by Brian Clifton entitled ‘when voice of customer surveys can damage your brand’.

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A pop-up survey on arrival at a website is the equivalent of being asked as soon as you walk into a shop for the first time to rate their level of service (before even looking around).  How can you reasonably answer such a survey?  You will have no experience of the site's service and therefore any answer you provide is questionable.

It also brings into question concerns about the quality of the data collected.  Will it be useful?  Will it simply be gibberish or people merely criticizing? Some people may argue criticism would be a logical outcome of such a process and therefore could easily mislead the design process.  Either way we are being asked a very difficult question which may appear simple and even polite, but is essentially annoying and interrupting our visit.  It does not leave a lasting impression of quality and may mark a site as ‘one of those’ that copies the trend which in this case is annoying and not very helpful.  Why create a strategy to annoy customers?

Create a good user experience

The user experience of a website in many ways is a totally unique experience.  This makes it hard to define user experience because it can represent different things to different people.  However, a good user experience will mark itself out from the rest of the crowd by trying to intelligently support behaviour.  If the goal of a retail site is to support the buying process why ask a customer to rate your website before they have even had chance to buy!  After all, what do you want them to think and feel about your website?

Research may be misleading

Research is a powerful tool that can be used to understand customer expectations and hopefully design a better experience.  Yet in the wrong hands it may actually cause harm and undermine an organisation that is trying to  demonstrate openness and that they are ‘listening’. A good user experience design embraces the often subtle yet real differences that exist for people when they visit a website.  Just because people are complicated does not mean websites should be complicated.  The skill of a good user experience designer is translating complexity into simplicity (which is easier said than done)!

Understand the user's goals

Here’s a much more effective listening strategy: Ask your customers when they are leaving (hopefully after they have successfully competed their goal/s) to complete a survey.  At least you are asking them upon exit and not arrival.  They will have more knowledge about your website and your business and any data collected will be more useful.  They may even have something positive to say! Mr Nomensa 08/02/10

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