The hardest task as a product manager is the guessing game. Basically, we have to guess what users want or need.
If you’re in the B2B industry and you want to think about your next step, all you have to do is ask your business users what they need. Add some development estimation to the mix, and you have yourself a roadmap.

However, in the B2C industry, and especially in the mobile apps industry, you can’t really do that. First of all, you can’t just go and talk to your users, you have (hopefully) hundreds of thousands of them!
Secondly, in the mobile world, everything is so dynamic. You can’t plan six months ahead because your playing field would have changed by then, you need to work in small intervals, one step at a time to make sure you are going in the right direction.

Now, the major question of course is – Which is the right direction? What do your users need from your service? How do you know if you should go in one direction or the other?
A great way to get information from your users is to simply ask them -send a survey!

A survey is a list of questions, that can be distributed among the crowd. There are a few ways to conduct surveys, but we are going to concentrate on online surveys, which can be distribute in various ways in a click on a button.

As you probably know, the advantages of using online surveys are many. Here are just a few:

  • It’s relatively cheap. There are many tools and some of them are free. Even the more advanced tools have a small cost comparing to other methods.
  • It’s a way to reach a large amount of users. By using an online survey, you will basically send a link to your users, asking for a few minutes of their time. In a few days of distribution you can get thousands of answers.
  • You can identify trends in user behavior. By analyzing the answers you can identify trends that were not part of your initial intention and act accordingly.
  • You can discover answers to questions you never even thought to ask.. When you first conduct a survey, you have the obvious question you need answer for. By using open questions you can sometime uncover whole new directions.

If you decided you want to do a survey, the most important part is to define your goals.

  • First of all, what do you want to know? Write a short description of your goal. It can be understand usage of a feature, user behavior or user needs. After you know your goal you can write the questions that will help you achieve it. Try to keep it as narrow as possible to increase the user’s focus. You can use open questions but make sure you do it wisely and use the opportunity to learn.
  • Next step is to define your target audience. Do you want to ask your existing users? In some cases it will be useful but for long term changes existing users might hold you back

When you know your audience it can affect the method of distribution and help you publish the survey where it will be best answered.

  • Third is to decide about the amount of users you need to accomplish your goals. If you are looking for a specific use case you can settle for a relatively small number of answers. However, if you have millions of users and you want to define your next feature, a few hundreds will not do. There are some tools that will help you calculate, like this one.

Last step is to compose your questions. When doing so, you need to remember a few things:

  • Don’t lead the user to the answer you want – keep the question objective and not biased.
  • Your user must find themselves in the answers – when you have multiple answers, make sure they cover all options.
  • Keep it short and clear – both the questions and the survey. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. The questions should be in simple language, this is not the time to use clever metaphors or complicated phrases.

When you finish writing your questions, do a “dry run” with a small group of users to make sure your questions fits all the above.

Use these tips to create a good survey and distribute it to your target audience. Most importantly – use the data you gather to make smarter decisions about your product.