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Methods – Questionnaire

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What it is:

A list of questions that can be posted or emailed to people to capture their responses to a range of subjects or issues. Questionnaires are a relatively quick and low cost way to reach a large number of people, though response rates can be very low. This method can provide both qualitative and quantitative information enables the comparison of responses. Questionnaires should be as visually clear and inviting as possible. Generally, there are three types of questions: open – answers can be anecdotal or open-ended; structured – requiring fixed answers such as ‘yes’ or ‘no’; and semi-structured: containing both open and structured questions.

Input:

Expertise:

Time:

Staffing:

Costs:

Low | Medium | High

Low | Medium | High

Low | Medium | High

Low | Medium | High

Output:

User responses to a set of questions

Best suited to:

 

DISCOVER

Earlier stages of the design process

Asking preliminary questions to guide and support further investigation

Getting a broad overview on a topic where no other information is available

Helping to set early design directions

Canvassing opinion

Characteristics:

DESIGNING FOR | WITH | BY PEOPLE

Type of interaction:

LEARN | LOOK | ASK | TRY | IMAGINE

Goes well with:

Interviews, Probes, Web Forums, Day in the Life

What designers say

‘…Questionnaires are an excellent source of gathering research that can be difficult to obtain by other methods. General preferences and basic facts can be established early on…’ Mary Wagstaff

Examples

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Safe and Sensual

Designer Mary Wagstaff sent out 100 questionnaires at the start of a project on older people and bathing. Little information was present on individual preference for baths or showers so this approach helped to inform the research direction. The visual quality of the questionnaires ensured a 70 per cent return.

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Out of Order

In a project on public toilets, designers Gail Knight and Catherine Greene used questionnaires to talk to non-English speakers about toileting habits. Open-ended questions allowed people to be more discursive and the format ensured anonymity around a potentially sensitive subject.

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Background and further reading

Shedoff, N. (2003) Research Methods for Designing Effective Experiences in Design Research: Methods and Perspectives Ed. B. Laurel, MIT Press.

This chapter details how questionnaires were used in the design process to understand a variety of user perceptions in experience design.