Survey Group

Phil Blume's picture

There are many decisions that need to be made when developing a website. For much of the time the answers are objective, rational and obvious, so we just make our choices and get on with it. The problem comes with more subjective issues, where viewing things from the heart of the process can distort our perspective leaving us poorly qualified to make choices.

To help us in these situations we call on the wisdom of our Survey Group.

The Survey Group comprises some 20 - 24 people, drawn from those who volunteer at the heritage centre in Brighton where our company is based. They come ostensibly to engage in local history research and building restoration, but are equally happy when we ask for their help to make our corner of the web a nicer place.

Here are a couple of situations we have used the Survey Group.

Early in October we needed to decide what three ‘ranking names’ to use for the people playing our 10 Most Wanted game. We asked around the office and consulted our partners, but no one could make their mind up.

  1. Some felt they should have an academic leaning, such as: Field Researcher, Senior Researcher and Chief Researcher.
  2. Others wanted to embrace the FBI ethos and were keen on: Field Agent, Special Agent and Chief Agent.
  3. Yet more could not decide and suggested combining them: Field Research Agent, Senior Research Agent and Chief Research Agent.

We listed the options on a whiteboard and asked each member of the Survey Group for their preference as if they were playing the game. The result was 2:10:4 in favour of option 2, so we went with it.

Later that month we became increasingly concerned that first-time visitors to the website were unlikely to have seen anything quite like it before and that for them to understand what the site is for and how it works was going to be a big ask. With the website ‘nearly ready’ each member of our Survey Group was sent a link to the site and asked to bash around inside it for a few minutes then send us an email explaining what they thought site is for and how it works.

This was a bit of an eye-opener because its purpose turned out to be somewhat less obvious and its workings more opaque than we had hoped for.

As a result of their feedback we made a number of changes to the home page:

All navigation that was not strictly necessary to play the game was moved from the main menu bar to the foot of the page.

Prominent links to How to Begin, Points & Prizes and Research Tips were added to the main menu.

The artefact titles were replaced with the information we wanted to find, so Portadyne transistor radio became Wanted: Designer.

So now we have what we think are some fairly obvious clues as to what the site is about, beginning with the title 10 Most Wanted, then the strapline “…there’s something about it we don’t know and need your help to find out”, next a menu that includes How to Begin and Points & Prizes and finally an array of ten artefacts with titles that read variously, Wanted: Designer and Wanted: Maker.

These are just a couple of examples where our Survey Group have been extremely useful. Sometimes we pack as many as we can into a room then ask them to stare at something and tell us what they think, at other times they will be emailed a question and asked for quick, simple feedback.

Our thanks to: Yvonne, Rupert, Sarah, Jilly, Ellen, Jane, Shirley, Jill, Clare, Rebecca, Katie, Anna, Peter, Catherine, Val, Liz, Geoff, Pauline, Chris, Nick, Cireena and Fiona.