“There’s no way we are doing one of those again”, was our clients reaction to running a True Intent Survey as part of a website optimisation project. My heart sank as I tried to explain the value of understanding user’s key tasks when designing digital experiences. Turns out our client had previously had a poor experience with a True Intent Survey and not seen any value. So what is a True Intent Survey? Why are they worth running? And how do you gain maximum value from them?

A screenshot of a survey pop up in a browser

What is a True Intent Survey?

It is a survey run on a live website that intercepts visitors and asks a series of specific questions about their visit. It seeks to understand why people are visiting, the tasks that they have come to complete and then about their experience of the site. Feedback accuracy is enhanced by asking site visitors to complete their questions after they have finished their visit. A True Intent Survey can be coupled with other questions, but in general, it is best to keep it simple and quick for visitors to complete as this reduces drop-out and increases the response rate.

Specifically, survey participants are asked:

1. Their reason for visiting the site?

2. Weather they complete the reason for visiting?

3. Who are they? (basic demographic information such as age, gender, location)

4. Key metrics such as NPS to measure advocacy, Customer Satisfaction as well as measures of usability and trust.

Why run a True Intent Survey?

The survey allows us to understand users' top tasks on the site. This provides invaluable data to inform hierarchy within the site design, to determine necessary content and to inform user flows. The survey also provides insight into who is actually visiting the website.

Benchmarking the user experience is another use for a True Intent Survey. Firstly, it helps us to understand the current state of the site and secondly, it can be re-visited as changes are made to understand their impact.

Furthermore, the data from the survey provides insight into opportunities for enhancing the site by exploring the reasons why people could not complete their chosen tasks. True Intent Survey results also provide an indication of the number of people experiencing specific issues, which can inform prioritisation of efforts for enhancing the site experience.

When to run a True Intent Survey?

A True Intent Survey can be valuable at any stage of a website's life-cycle. Understanding common issues with task completion and gaining an overall view of performance can be used to prioritise enhancements for any site. Having access to a benchmark on the current experience and identifying top tasks is critical when planning a site re-development. The top tasks will directly inform the design of the new site. A Benchmark of the existing experience will also provide a yardstick for the performance of the new site.

Benefits of a True Intent Survey

Having data on the customer experience is invaluable for designing better interfaces. Firstly, it provides direction for designing the right products and executions.  For example, if we know that there are many disparate tasks being completed by users, we may need to introduce an effective and visually prominent search tool. Secondly, having the data from the survey can be used to influence stakeholders. This could take the form of evidence about which features to prioritise and how to build them. Ultimately this information allows us to make informed decisions about design.

The Nomat experience

The key ingredient to running a successful True Intent Survey is an appropriate level of granularity with the reason for visiting (top tasks). For example, if you are an online retailer it is more useful to understand that people are browsing for shoes than it is that that they are just browsing. Understanding the proportion of people looking for shoes enables you to ensure the site supports this specific task in terms of content and navigation.

We also find that providing open text fields for participants to provide their story is essential. Again this takes our understanding beyond a superficial understanding. Consider the difference between 'making a booking at a restaurant' and wanting to 'making a booking for a 30th birthday with 6 of my closest friends'. We also find that stakeholders can identify better with stories than percentages.

Wrap up

To understand more about why our client was against running a True Intent Survey we investigated a little further. Looking at the previous research we could see their concerns, the results provided limited value due to the lack of granularity in the top tasks.  We agreed to an approach for another survey where we increased the granularity of the options.  The new information was instrumental in optimising their site and arming the team with data to make informed discussions.

For more on Surveys we wrote an article on UX Mastery a couple of years ago.

About the author

About the author

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Author photo
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Chris Gray

Founder and Chief Inspiration Officer

Chris is a leader in the Human Centred Design field with a 18 year track record of improving customer interactions with some of Australia’s largest organisations. He is a strategic thinker who brings a calm and considered approach to tackling complex problems. An accomplished workshop facilitator, Chris excels at engaging with senior stakeholders and guiding projects to success. Chris has expertise in user research, service design and embedding Human Centred Design within organisations.

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