An example of a pop-up surveyIt’s hard to take my UXD head off when looking through a site for the first time, trying to experience the site as a true user. But there are some elements that lack insight, user understanding and are ham-fisted into the user journey, so much so they are too irksome to ignore.

I am referring to the pop-up request for comments, feedback and the worst example, the survey. This is often a contrived form of data collection, but the survey the most interruptive, and this is my gripe. Superficial sets of questions written to gather demographic segmentation rather than actual behavioural insight. To paraphrase Hannibal Lecture “Do you think you can dissect ME with this blunt, little tool?”

There’s nothing wrong with trying to understand the user and their experience, in fact that’s exactly what should be done, but it’s fundamentally wrong to affect the user experience while trying to understand the experience! The act of understanding should not interfere with the subject, the observation will become part of the activity being observed, it makes for false results.

At very specific scenarios there is a place for the pop-up request, but poorly time or place this and it’s exponentially worse. When a user visits a site there are two top level motivations, I call them Inbound Finder and Inbound Driven. The Finder is bias towards browsing and more open to suggested content, but this has to be relevant to the content of interest. The Inbound Driven is the task orientated user with clear goals and expectations, interrupt this user at your peril, whether it’s bad navigation, hidden content, missing key information will all devalue the user experience the Inbound Driven, so forcing unwanted content on this user will ensure a poor response.

There are so many ways to observe and understand the user, their behaviour, actions and experience. How that user found the site, travelled though and ultimately left the site, without once interrupting that journey. To gain insight, true insight, and for it to be of any value needs an uninterrupted experience where the observer stays separated.

An observer wanting to learn and fully comprehend the animal in the natural environment does not poke the sleeping lion to check it’s asleep!

There will be instances where there is still a wish to get instant and direct feedback from the user, and I did say there can be a place for this. But it has to be understood leveraging such feedback often comes from a specific type of user, those wanting to voice a complaint or the type of user who likes giving feedback, so you have to accept it’s a blinkered segmentation of the wider user perspective. But if you consider the timing and location of any request, especially the pop-up variety, consider where a clear user journey has come to an end, post-purchase, completed payments, goal content pages, and the pop-up only activates once the user has completed an action or dwelt for such time on a page to absorb the content, considering the amount of content, then and only can a pop-up be considered.

The bottom line is to gain insight as a non-interruptive observer, this way you can learn from all users, at all times and gain understanding of the animal in their natural habitat.