What are screener surveys and what impact can they have on the course and outcome of a UX survey? Read the article to learn the answer and how to create an effective screener survey in 10 steps.
Screener survey for UX Research – table of contents:
What is a screener survey?
Screener surveys (commonly referred to as screeners) are surveys conducted before the actual UX study with participants. They consist of several questions designed to verify our respondents and “sift out” those who do not meet key requirements – do not fit into our user profile (e.g., do not fit into the age fork, come from a large city instead of a small village, don’t know the product, whether we care about the opinion of its actual buyers).
The screener functions like a tool to select and qualify only those individuals who meet all of our criteria – obtain the most valuable conclusions and probably avoid unnecessary repetition of the study.
How to create an effective screener survey?
At the very beginning, forge an effective screener survey, i.e. formulate clear questions. On the surface, it seems easy, yet if underestimated, it will undermine all the research as ambiguous inquiries confuse respondents, who in turn, hand in invaluable data.
- Keep in mind the research objectives you set
- Define your target audience
- Determine the key criteria of the target group
- Formulate precise, clear questions
- Plan the right sequence of screening questions
- Avoid questions that suggest an answer and provide alternative answers
- Add at least one open-ended question to the survey
- Don’t reveal too much at the start
- Manage respondents’ expectations
- Keep it short
We’ve already discussed gathering project requirements, and creating a research plan, as well as ways to recruit participants in our previous posts from the UX series. Still, we can’t forget that well-defined screening goals and their awareness play a role in the WHOLE UX process. If the entire team gets familiar with the concise objectives of the research, the foundations of the whole UX become solid, paving the way to the entire process – including screening. Research objectives are the reason we probe in the first place.
At this stage, sketch out a picture of the ideal research participant. To do this, reconsider the purpose of the study to determine what is the current phase of product development, figure out your research questions as well as establish who will (or won’t) provide a substantial reply to them. Take into account variables like psychological (interests, hobbies, opinions), geographic (country, city, region), demographic (age, gender, education, income, marital status) as well as behavior or habits. In the first step, form as detailed characteristics of your target audience as possible.
Now, look at the criteria to determine those respondents that meet best your characteristics from a research perspective. Demographics such as age, gender, race, and income – while potentially valuable information for us, may not always matter. Demographic requirements that are too specific can also make it difficult for us to recruit and assemble a sufficiently large research group. It also applies to geographic criteria – unless we are probing a very specific niche in a particular market, there are no grounds to disqualify someone based on geography alone. With the modern technologies available today, there is nothing to prevent carrying out remotely most surveys, interviews as well as usability tests.
Giving up on these two criteria when analyzing participants helps in avoiding bias and discrimination on racial, religious, or material grounds. What is essential is extracting primarily the psychological aspects and shopping habits of our respondents, so reducing the number of demographic-geographic questions should let us inquire more deeply about the significant matters.
Once you’ve identified the characteristics of your target participants and put down criteria for their eligibility for the survey, it’s time to prepare questions that divide potential respondents into those who fit into the target group and those who don’t qualify for the target survey.
In formulating screening questions (but also target surveys), the language of instruction becomes an issue to examine carefully. Remember to avoid double negations. Formulate consistent, coherent as well as precise questions that are also brief. The clearer and less ambiguous they are, the less you risk confusion and inaccurate replies from respondents.
Take care not only of the questions but also the answers. Remember that the available options shouldn’t rule one another out. Keep their number small and make sure to leave the respondent the option to mark “don’t know” or “other”.
Start with questions relating to the key criteria for the survey. If you plan to conduct desktop surveys – begin by asking the respondents about their current place of residence (since location is a key criterion here). If you are researching a new feature of a tablet application – inquire about having a tablet at all. Prioritizing your interrogation according to importance will quickly eliminate those who do not meet the key requirements.
Suggestive questions can influence people to answer in a certain way. Hence, they have no place during UX research – after all, we want to find out users’ opinions, not confirm our assumptions. Suggesting answers will distort the results of the screening and negatively affect the outcome of the project.+ A non-suggestive inquiry should not impose an opinion on the respondent (e.g., don’t ask “What problems did you encounter during…” – instead start with: “Did you encounter problems during…”. – If they confirm, you can always dig deeper and ask about the kind of difficulty. Still, don’t presume in advance that they came across obstacles at all. Avoid only yes/no or true/false questions and go for variety. Add multiple choice options as well as alternative replies such as: don’t know/don’t know/have no opinion / other.
To avoid qualifying non-communicative, small-talking participants from whom you will have to forcibly extract answers in the target study, eliminate them at the screening stage. Even if such a person meets the other criteria, fitting perfectly into our target group, it is sometimes better to cross them out, to save time and energy later – and devote them to interviews with communicative participants, thus obtaining valuable results and design cues. If they can easily express their insights, they will contribute a lot. Adding open-ended questions also enables shuffling off so-called “professional participants,” i.e., those who regularly qualify for surveys for the sole purpose of making a profit.
Keep in mind that the purpose of the screener survey is to help you find candidates who perfectly match your user profile. Revealing too much information about the purpose of the survey at the very beginning (for example, disclosing the company name to non-users) – may adversely affect the “screener” process and reduce the effectiveness of the survey. This rule applies not only to the screener study but also to the title and description of the study, the way you talk about it when recruiting participants as well as any information you share before the actual study – all of this matters.
Make sure all participants are clear about what they are doing and what stage of the process they are at. Make sure the candidate knows what the study will concern and what it will consist of if they manage to qualify for it. Additionally, don’t forget that the reward/payment for participating in the study goes to those who complete the actual survey and provide feedback to the targeted questions.
As a final tip – try to keep screening surveys short. Some screener surveys can scare respondents away with their length – which is often unreasonable. So what is the reasonable number of screening questions? We won’t surprise you here-it depends! Chiefly on the context of a particular survey, yet in most cases, a survey contains no more than 10 questions.
We hope that the tips we presented will facilitate you to line up an effective screener survey on your own and efficiently conduct it. Remember to aim at eliminating people who could negatively affect the final result and the effect of your entire survey. That’s why a proper design of the scenario for the screener survey – from formulating the questions, and determining their order, to recruiting participants together with carrying out the survey comprise the key elements of the success of running a screener survey for UX research.
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