July 19, 2019
How can organizations design user-centered and intuitive questionnaires, surveys, and forms?
Design Strategy
Website Design
App Design
Thought Leadership

As technology gets smarter, more refined, and data driven, we’ve seen a shift from products that allow users to explore, to products that understand what users’ needs are and retrieve the exact information or recommendation for them. Organizing content for users to locate (aka information architecture) becomes less and less relevant. Now organizations are asking: how can we design user-centered and intuitive questionnaires, surveys, and forms?


The Information Dilemma

When designing a product that needs to recommend or personalize a result for users, the first step is to think about how to collect information from each person. This becomes more complicated with a dense or sensitive subject area, which is the case of many of Exygy’s clients. For example, gathering information about a person’s mental health requires the disclosure of sensitive information that cannot be assumed or inferred from users’ behavior.

To collect user information for personalized recommendations, we rarely use traditional survey forms. Instead, we suggest designing a simple, guided flow that uses a humanistic and organic tone to direct users and make sure there’s no room for mistakes. Here’s 4 ways how:

1. Long Form, Short Retention

We often see organizations resort to a process that, let’s face it, makes most people cringe: a long survey form. We’ve had multiple clients come to us with frustrations around unsuccessful forms. They aren’t receiving responses that fulfill their requirements, or they’re seeing users drop off the form altogether before completion.

There are 2 common mistakes we see:

  • Surveys are too time-consuming. Many organizations want to know everything – even non-essential information – just for the purpose of collecting data. This results in long surveys with dozens of potential answers generates user fatigue and decision paralysis.
  • Surveys require too much cognitive load. Organizations fall into an educator role when creating the form. They explain what each question means and how to answer it, thus adding more visual and cognitive complexity.

The common thread between these mistakes are that the user’s perspective and limitations aren’t taken into consideration when designing long forms. Users often end up giving up or choosing the wrong path.

2. Swap Long Forms for Guided Flows

If our goal is to increase the quantity and quality of responses/collected data so that we can offer better recommendations, then we should design surveys experiences that are simple, intuitive, and easy for users to complete. In the most successful examples, we see a combination of step by step, guided flows that present only one or a few questions at a time.

Some of these guided flows have built in-survey logic branches, so that users are only presented questions that are relevant to their answers. For example, if a user responds that they don’t research health insurance online, then we shouldn’t ask them which online health comparison tools they use. This allows organizations to improve the quality of their data responses, while also improving the user experience by letting users bypass non-relevant questions.

They also don’t try to over-educate the user by adding hints and interactive elements that appear on mouse-over or click. These support elements can reduce informational clutter in your survey by providing help when further explanation is requested.

3. Use a Personal Voice and Tone

We also often see forms with clinical language that often comes across as robotic. Direct and emotionless questions are likely meant to be easy and simple, but for personal subjects like mental health or housing, they are received as dull or even insensitive.

When users disclose information about sensitive topics in their lives, they don’t want to feel as though they’re talking to a machine. Leveraging a more humanistic and organic voice and tone establishes trust and creates comfort, making it easier to navigate users through these complex subjects in a more supportive way.

4. Sprinkle Some Fun and Delight

The ideal experience should not only guide users step by step and support them with an emotional and humanized voice, but also spark some delight. Radio buttons, checkboxes and open fields can be redesigned to look and feel less like you’re interacting with a technical system, and more like you’re interacting with a game.

Depending on the sensitivity of the subject, it may not be appropriate for designs to be entirely playful and game-like, but it is possible to incorporate some elements to give our survey experience more lightness and instill positive emotions in our users. Icons, avatars, colors blocks and animations are all good ways to sprinkle some delight without making the experience too playful.

Our Favorite Flows

Here are a few examples of flows that tickle us pink. Full disclosure, our team designed the first one!

Find Health Insurance

In the example below, we designed a very simple flow for a client on the health insurance sector. The solution is a needs assessment tool, where a “concierge” guides users through some questions to understand their needs and recommend the best types of health insurance for them. We used very simple interactions, lots of icons, and an avatar to give the concierge some personality and humanize the flow a bit.

An introduction to a health insurance page, where Bond, a bot, introduces themselves and asks for the user to insert their zip code. This is an example of a guided flow.
A health insurance sign up page, where the user is asked what they need coverage for - their business or their personal life. An example of a guided flow.

Care Of

Another example that we really like is Care Of. The combination of a really beautiful and clean UI, with the heavy use of icons, the personal and informal tone of voice, and awesome animations make this experience so delightful that you don’t even mind going through so many steps to get your vitamin recommendation.

A screenshot of Care Of's vitamin survey. The questionnaire asks how familiar you are with taking vitamins in the past. An example of a guided flow.
Another screenshot of Care Of's vitamin questionnaire. They ask "what should we explore?" and there are many icons describing what vitamins can help with (Sleep, stress, etc). Another example of a guided flow.

TurboTax

TurboTax is another common example of a product that beautifully guides users through complex questions. While their experience is less playful (we are still doing taxes!), their interface consists of a supportive and informal tone of voice to communicate complex topics, reduce user friction, and make an experience that should be stressful more approachable and easy-to-navigate.

A screenshot of Turbo Tax's front page, where they ask users to give information about themselves to recommend a product. An example fo a guided flow.

Exygy Wants to Help!

We’d love to help more organizations steer away from complex and dense surveys, and get closer to guiding users through an experience that’s simple and fun – while also collecting data and making the right recommendations. If you have a product (or an idea of a product!) that would benefit from an intuitive user flow like the examples above, let us know! We want to hear about your ideas, and roll up our sleeves alongside you.

What’s a Rich Text element?

H1 example

H3 example

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Ana Bel Campos
UX Design Lead
Anna Gibbons
Growth Manager

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