Stuart Brent is the founder of userinput.io, a service that provides on-demand feedback for websites and business ideas. He’s a dork and actually really into feedback, and happy to help you form the best questions for your own surveys.

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Getting feedback from users is so important for any startup or website, as it helps achieve the following goals:

  • Increasing trust
  • Finding points of confusion in the site
  • Increasing revenue / conversion
  • Learning what’s missing
  • Improving site copy

Not everyone is great at coming up with quality user feedback questions to ask in a survey, and that’s fine. It’s intimidating and confusing sometimes. I get that.

I run userinput.io, which provides on-demand feedback on websites and business ideas, so I’ve seen a LOT of questions asked. Sometimes when I look over orders that come through (out of curiosity or to spot-check the feedback), I cringe at the bad questions that I see. But the golden questions, those can really help you improve.

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Six crucial user feedback questions

1) What do you think this site offers?

This question is similar to the “five second blink test” where you have someone glance at a site quickly, then tell you what it’s about. If it’s not clear right away, then you need to change something. Or a lot of things.

By asking what the site offers, you’re no longer assuming that the offer of the site is clear, and you’re testing to see if a regular visitor “gets it” right away. And you’ll be surprised of the confusion that can come out of this question.

If you’re on the right track with your copywriting and how you present everything, 90+% of respondents will understand what your site’s about.

But pay attention to everyone who doesn’t understand the offer and pour over what they say.

What are they misinterpreting? What was unclear? What led them to the inaccurate idea of the offer?

Presenting your offer as clearly and simply (and enticingly) as possible is so important for conversion, and keeping people on your site. You of course totally understand your offer, but it’s vital to step back and have other people try to explain your own offer to see where your site falls short.

2) Do you trust this site? Why or why not?

I don’t like yes or no questions for surveys, but the second question here of “why or why not” makes it all worthwhile. Trust is such a huge factor in site activity, bounce rate, conversion, time on site, checkout, everything.

This gets back to the point about the offer above. You of course trust your site. You trust yourself! You’re not some scammer scumbag, you’re a legit person with a legit site. Obviously!

But do visitors trust your site?

Maybe it’s the overall design. I ran feedback on one of my own sites the other day, and one reviewer said they didn’t trust my site because the design “looked a bit out-dated.” Trust is fickle. People are fickle. The design isn’t that outdated in my opinion, of course. The site is built on a tremendously popular WordPress plugin. But that one reviewer thought it looked out-dated, and maybe he’s right, maybe it’s not as elegant and modern as it could be. And that could affect him converting and being a customer.

They’ll pick up on other stuff, good and bad. Those who do trust your site will say “I see the padlock in the address bar, I like that” or “Yeah it looks professional and your team page has pictures and I like that a lot.”

Or maybe they will say “No way, it looks like a pyramid scheme” but they’ll explain why. And the why is the crucial part that you can learn from and execute on and come up with a plan to improve with.

You’re too blind to your own design, so you have to ask others, unbiased others, to tell you why your site is trustworthy. Or not.

3) If you had a magic wand, how would you improve the site?

This is a straight up customer discovery question, one that would be used more in the context of “If you had a magic wand, how would you make international travel easier?” or whatever, in the process of trying to figure out what problem to solve with a new idea or startup.

But the question is gold for site feedback too. Some people laugh at this question, because it’s kinda corny. But it’s gold, Jerry, gold!

The great thing about the “magic wand” question is that it gives reviewers free reign to dream, and say whatever they want. Their gears will turn, and it’ll turn yours too. Some of the responses may not be possible (“Make it free!!”) but you’ll get ideas for new features and different approaches.

When I ran a survey on my other business, which is a screen printing company, I ran it specifically on the page for bands who want custom shirts, and there were lots of fairly common answers like “more images” and “more testimonials”, but two respondents gave me a couple great ideas, including that I should push our graphic design services more, which I hadn’t thought to do, and combine them with the band offer more clearly.

A magic wand can lead to a lot of new ideas.

4) What confused you most about this site?

There’s a recurring theme here, but your own site can’t confuse you because you built it. You’re too wrapped up in it.

Is the pricing confusing? Listen to your reviewers and learn how to change it.

Is the offer confusing? Learn why.

Do they not understand why a certain feature is there? Or why they would want it?

Maybe the offer is confusing because of how it’s laid out. (A reviewer for my site told me to frame the information in a table format instead, to make it easier to digest.)

How long does your process take? What happens first? What are the overall steps in the process?

Maybe they don’t understand how to check out, or get started, or order.

You totally understand your site. Your visitors may not. Find out why, and then fix it.

5) What is the site missing?

What’s not there, that the visitors think should be there? Another variation of this question that I like is “What did you expect to see here, that isn’t here?”

These questions let people tell you what they would expect to see on a site like yours. Maybe it’s testimonials. Maybe it’s social proof. Or images of the team. Or a clearer offer. Or probably it’s something very specific to your site, so I can’t even imagine what it would be, and list it as an example.

Answers to this question can also lead you onto what could be included in order to help improve conversion.

6) What is your least favorite thing about the site?

I also sometimes run the question “what’s your favorite thing about the site?” because it’s nice to see what people really like, but honestly, negative feedback is better than positive, so you need to find out what people don’t like, and if you’re lucky, you might find someone who really shreds your site, so that you get a list of a ton of things that should be improved.

“Everything looks great, no complaints” is worthless feedback. They need to find something they don’t like. And they’ll let you know, whether it’s your color scheme or logo or how you wrote the copy. I’ve had people shred the popups on my sites before, ranting about how annoying they are. You won’t know until you ask.

I mentioned improving site copy above, but none of the questions relate. So what questions cover that? It’s more about using the verbiage that the reviewers use, and you can also explore their fears with feedback questions, by asking things like “What’s the hardest thing about X?” Pour over what they really say, and then use their own words in your copy. Speak to their needs and concerns.

I was running feedback on that band merch page, and one reviewer said this in an answer “We were afraid of spending a lot of money and then being stuck with a bunch of merchandise since there is often a high minimum order” when asked about ordering shirts before. There’s actually a lot there for me to use in the site copy, by saying that my solution of fundraising with shirts helps avoid spending a lot upfront and getting stuck with shirts that no one wants. And I also learned to emphasize our relatively low minimum order too.

Four awful questions that should be avoided

What not to ask and how not to ask it. When you’re getting feedback, you need it to be valuable, insightful and actionable. There are ways to shape questions to make them bear more fruit. And there are also ways to shape questions to make them rotten.

Here are some tips to avoid bad questions.

Awful: Would you buy/use this?

This is an awful question for a couple of reasons, one major reason being that you never want to ask a “yes/no” question because you want way more than “yes” or “no” as an answer. You want detail and depth and an explanation. “Yes/no” limits you right from the beginning, and screws up your potential for learning something that matters. “Yes I would buy this” is nice to feel like you’re on the right track, but it’s still too limiting, and you also don’t know WHY they would buy it. If you’re going to ask a question like this, make it a two part question with “why or why not?” added on, for the real valuable info.

The other reason it’s a lousy question is that people taking surveys may be within your target market, and they may be within your audience, but you can’t count on them to be your customers. I believe payment is validation, but this is not the time to see if they would pay.

That being said, there is plenty of value to “Would you use this? Why or why not?” which removes the payment question, and lets you gauge the desirability of the offer, and also find out what features make it desirable and more importantly what keeps people from wanting it.

A customer ran this question on an app she’s working on the other day, and I reviewed her answers. It was pretty polarized, with some people hating the idea, and some people loving the idea. She ran the good version of the question with the “why or why not” part, and got tons of feedback on what people liked and what they extremely disliked on the idea.

Asking “why or why not?” makes the feedback valuable. But don’t just ask a “yes/no” question.

Awful: Do you like this website?

Again, not valuable enough. A “yes” is flattering, but you don’t know why they like it. A “no” is meaningless because you’re just going to be bummed they didn’t like your site and you have no idea what they disliked and how you can improve it.

There are better versions of this answer:

“What do you like most about this site?”

“What do you think of the branding, design and appearance of this site?” “What do you dislike most about this site?”

Any of those questions will give you helpful feedback, way more helpful than a binary response with no clarification.

Awful: How would you rate this website on a scale from 1 to 10?

I am not a fan of Net Promoter Score or any system like it because it has no depth and detail and because it’s not actionable at all.

If someone gives your site a “1”, whatever. If they give it a “10”, whatever. Did you learn anything from those numbers? Sort of but not really. You don’t know why they gave it a 1, or a 10, or anything in between. You have no actionable feedback here, so you can’t take action. See the previous question and ask something that you can actually learn from.

Awful: What would you pay for this?

Again, these survey takes may be within your target demographic, but they’re not customers or leads or in your sales funnel or anything. They’re just taking a survey.

Well, I take that back a little bit. If you were suave enough to get someone on your mailing list / waiting list to take a survey about your startup / idea / business, then they are in fact a potential customer. But it’s really hard to talk someone from a waiting list into taking a survey, at least in my experience. You gotta bribe them somehow. Or develop personal relationships with them a bit, and ask questions one by one, not so much in a survey format.

But the main reason this question sucks it that people who are getting paid a small amount of money to take a survey are not probably in a position to buy your service or product anyway. By the nature of paid surveys, those taking the survey may skew towards having less income or at least less disposable income.

I quit asking this question a while ago when doing customer discovery surveys, after guys said they wouldn’t pay anything, or just some really small amount for an online dating related startup I had, while customers would pay $39 or even $149 for the services.

These surveys can be great to explore ideas, validate needs, and improve your website by easily learning the weak areas. They’re insightful and easy, and I love them. The formation of the question is key, so spend time giving them thought.

Also, make sure the questions are clear, and not at all misleading. I’ve seen customers run a survey question (and I’ve done it myself) where the question was not written very clearly, and it really affected the answers. You can end up getting feedback that isn’t at all about what you asked, if your question is unclear.

That’s it. I hope this was helpful.

What would you rate this article on a scale from 1 to 10?

Just kidding. That question is garbage.

Check out userinput.io to learn how to improve your website or idea today.


Also published on Medium.