What do people really think of your web site ? Do they find easily what they are looking for ? What do they want you to add to site ? Is web site easy to use ?
Feedback form and guestbook do not give enough qualitative information to these questions.
Statistics give us information on quantity of visits more than on quality. Although we can estimate average length of visit, number of page views or most popular paths, we still don't know for sure what people think of site.
The best way to get an answer is to ask site's users in a direct, simple and convivial way. The online survey give us a precise estimation of site users opinion that no other tools can match.
However a few requirements must be met in order to get valid information:
The choice of questions is essential. List your priorities first. What do you want to get from survey ? Focus on your priorities. Do not ask questions that won't help to fulfill goals set.
The questions must relate to a significant part of audience. If site is about cars do not ask question about trucks unless you want to create a new “truck” section.
The questions need to be as precise as possible in order to get relevant answers and useful information.
Too many open questions will not allow to see significant trends of audience because answers will be too diverse. An open question is where users are free to give answer they want.
Too many closed questions will not allow you to know very precisely what people think of your site. A close question is where you give a choice of answers to.
A good qualitative survey is a balance between open and closed questions to meet your goals.
It is necessary to limit survey to one response per IP address. This way survey is clean and is not perverted by many answers from a same unique user. A good online survey software should have functionality to identify an IP address and to block it after a survey is filled.
Online software help you to build, manage and analyze a web survey.
Some run on same server as analyzed site's. Others work on a third party's server.
Some are free, some are limited by a number of surveys or questions, or answers.
In order to get best information as possible in most tailored way, best option is to install a software on your server and to customize survey to your own need.
I recommend CsPoller, a cgi-script, cheap, customizable, easy to use.
Other choices are SurveyMonkey and Zoomerang as third-party online survey software.
A good qualitative survey should have:
Less than 10 questions: people do not have time. They only have a few minutes spare to spend on survey.