Answering surveys with Caroline Jarrett

A transcript of Episode 77 of UX Podcast. James Royal-Lawson and Per Axbom talk to Caroline Jarrett about surveys and forms.

Caroline was interviewed on UX Podcast in July 2014. Caroline is an expert in forms and surveys and is currently writing a new book called Surveys That Work.


James: Hi and welcome to UX Podcast, balancing business, technology and users every other Friday from Stockholm, Sweden. I’m James Royal-Lawson.

Per: And I’m Per Axbom.

James: And well, this week, we’ve got another guest. Who is it?

Per: Yeah. Caroline Jarrett, welcome to the show.

Caroline: Hi. It’s a pleasure to be here.

James: Thank you for joining us.

Per: Yeah. So Caroline, where are you located at right now?

Caroline: I’m in a little town called Leighton Buzzard which is just like the bird, B-U-Z-Z-A-R-D.

Per: OK.

Caroline: We’re about 50 kilometres northwest of London, quite close to Milton Keynes if you know the UK and yesterday was quite an exciting day for my area because the Duchess of Cambridge came to Bletchley Park which is about 8 miles or 10, 12 kilometres from my house in order to open the Bletchley Park which has just been refurbished.

We didn’t go and cheer but we supported her by thinking code breaking thoughts for my house.

James: I read something about Keynes and code breaking and well, I saw the headline and glossed over it. Good honour. But I didn’t realise it was Leighton Buzzard that she was at. You’ve got to look –

Caroline: She was at Bletchley Park but it’s pretty close.

James: It’s close enough, yeah.

Caroline: Close enough, yes.

James: Leighton Buzzard. You’ve got to love British place names. Driving around is fun. Driving around the UK is fantastic just looking at all the signs and there are some great Swedish ones as well to be honest. But you’ve got to understand Swedish to get the most benefit from them.

Per: But the pronunciation is not always obvious either.

Caroline: Well, as you probably know, I’m a form specialist and whenever I encounter a US website that insists I put on a state, US state, I always choose Arkansas because it seems to me that a town called Buzzard would be in Arkansas and because Arkansas is at the top of the alphabet as well.

The UK post office really doesn’t seem to mind if the address has a random AR for Arkansas in it. Then I complain about that to my American friends and they point out that British sites are just as pedantic about forcing them to put in UK post codes. So it’s a classic internationalisation problem.

Per: It is, isn’t it?

James: It’s exactly the same thing with Swedish guys that go international and yeah, the whole web post got displayed up.

Per: I always choose Michigan because I have friends there.

Caroline: Exactly.

James: We all have our little techniques and patterns that we follow when we’re doing this kind of stuff.

Per: Right, but that is a perfect segue into why we are having on the show Caroline, is because you are a forms and survey specialist and you’ve been working with forms. I don’t know. I found somewhere it said for 15 years or something.

Caroline: No, no, 20, 20.

Per: Twenty years!

Caroline: More than 20. I started my — I just had the 20th birthday of Effortmark Limited last month, yeah. I had been specialising in forms for before that, before I actually started the business. So more than 20 years of being completely over-excited and interested in forms.

James: Oh.

Caroline: Yeah.

James: So your background is — you’ve even been working with — you work with non-digital forms as well then.

Caroline: Oh, sure. Yeah, I date back — when I started, dinosaurs roamed the earth and we didn’t have any internet. So to be honest, I actually started in computer systems. So before I got into what we called human computer interaction in those days, it keeps changing its name. I keep doing the same stuff but it keeps changing name.

I was a project manager, software engineer and a project manager in computer systems. So a lot of my work, the reason I got into forms was that I was a project manager delivering optical character recognition systems to the Inland Revenue as it was called at that time.

James: Yeah, the tax authority.

Caroline: The tax authorities, yes. They wanted to scan tax forms obviously to save typing and the sad part was that the systems really didn’t work at all well and I got permission to go and find out what was actually happening in the various tax offices.

I discovered that the forms were filled in extremely badly. So there was no way that my computer system was ever going to deal with a form where someone had written, “Please read attached letter.” That just wasn’t going to happen.

So I then became really interested in, “Well, how do we design the forms so that they’re filled in accurately?” because then my computer system would work and I just became completely interested in how do you make forms easy to fill in and then go. As I said, it’s a fascination that shows no signs of wearing off.

Per: That’s fantastic.

James: What you mentioned one of my first jobs that I did in that bit after university was data entry for British Gas that comes with these piles of, well, completed work orders I guess.

When the engineers have been out and done things for people’s gas meters and so on and that was just the things you got back on these pieces of paper which is crazy. You sat there and you had to fill them all into the system. So straight away, you see that problem of humans, paper, data entry.

Caroline: These days, I still completely recommend work observation to people. Go and watch people actually deal with the stuff and you will learn an enormous amount and in particular I love a post room. I love going to visit the post room and will indeed get up at 5:00 AM because a lot of large organisations like to open their post at times like 6:00 AM, so that al the work is — I have the piles of post ready and waiting for them.

You meet interesting, nice people in the post room and you learn an awful lot about how forms actually arrive and what they really look like. Again there’s a great story. Now back in the day, the Revenue was thinking about using scanning for all their posts and went to the post room and there were amazing things turned up in the post.

For example, a box of uniforms arrived. I said, “How are you going to scan the uniforms exactly?” So the rule was that if a uniform had to be inspected by a tax officer to assess whether it was purely a uniform and therefore could not be used as normal clothing, because if you could wear the uniform as everyday clothing, then it was a taxable benefit.

James: Oh.

Caroline: Just great.

Per: Yeah, fantastic. Yeah.

Caroline: So paper, computer systems and then the internet came along and Web forms and that was really cool, because you could get people to type stuff in on their computer rather than having people type it in for them and so much more efficient and wonderful. So, many new and interesting and exciting ways for people to mess up their forms, which they carry on doing. Yeah.

Per: Of course best case scenario, I mean you can always — if you find that the form isn’t working, you can change it much faster than if you have 1000 copies of it.

Caroline: Absolutely. You can also make an awful lot of people really upset because there’s no way that they can write on the edge of the form. I don’t know what button to click. Just today, today I tweeted an example where I happen to have a small problem with my food and I went to see the podiatrist, as they call the foot doctor.

He said, “Well, you need the special type of insoles,” and he gave me a pair and they’re great. He said, “Order some spares.” So I went on to the website to order some spares and it gave me two buttons to click, neither of which applied to me.

What did I do? I need to buy this stuff. I need to get them from the manufacturer. The choice was, “Are you a private practitioner or another type of practitioner?” and there was no button or anything to do if you were just a normal person. I was stuck. So –

James: I suppose you could stretch it to other, yeah.

Caroline: Yeah, there was nothing. I rang them up and they said, “Oh, yes, we have a completely different website for the general public.” I just thought, “Well, it would save you a lot of time and trouble if you had put that information on the ‘contact us’ page or indeed on the registration page.” Anyway, a very nice lady.

James: But that’s something that happens. I think last year I ordered some — I think it was some timers, children’s — some of these kind of big colourful timers you have at schools to say, “You have five minutes left,” and then turn it off, and the website I bought them from.

It was really hard work ordering and I kind of thought, “This just feels really odd and wrong,” and then it took absolutely age for the things to come. I think it’s like four or five weeks and I kept ringing up and I kept getting real nice people apologising to me and saying, “I’m really sorry it has taken so long. They’ve just missed your order again.”

Something is not right. So eventually, I got to speak to the director of this company. He explained to me that basically I was pretty much the first public — private person who had ordered anything from their company website. Previously they’ve been education-only, only selling to schools.

As it turned out, it was — that their stockroom guys and the — how the system was built, just wasn’t at all prepared for this other channel in, that people could — private people could order it. So they were prioritising these bulk orders for all the schools and leaving all the private individuals who are only wanting one or two in a pile and would do that with the next slot of orders.

That’s where supply comes in, so we’re just never getting fulfilled, but none of this was apparent to me. I treat it like a normal website but with a few quirks. You can tell this kind of things when you work in the business. You would feel — the force says this isn’t going to work well.

Caroline: It’s such a great story because it just goes to show that some of the old-fashioned techniques that I used in the 1980s of going and observing people working are still important. Even though we think it’s all internet, in the end, an awful lot of this is actually — comes down to people in a warehouse or going and watching them work can tell you an enormous amount. We often need to get out of our offices and to the people who are doing the real work.

Then that can make life so much more efficient. These days of course — I’ve been doing that forever but these days it tends to be called something like journey mapping or touch point analysis or pain points. People keep changing the terms but it’s still just down to basic common sense watching people work and having a think about it.

Per: I love what you said before, I that I keep doing the same stuff but it just changes its name. It’s really, really true.

James: Did it use to be called — was it time and motion studies?

Per: Exactly.

Caroline: It did.

James: Back in many decades ago.

Per: Yes.

Caroline: Yeah.

Per: I actually gave a talk on that recently.

James: Recently.

Per: Where I used that example, yeah, motion study.

Caroline: Yeah.

Per: With Taylor and the Gilbreths. You know the book and the film — where they have a dozen children. It’s actually based on the couple that started in time studies back in the Taylor days and he had an example where he was observing brick layers and the brick layers were bending down each time to grab the brick and put it on the wall. He invented something that — well, something that would hold the bricks for him. He didn’t have to bend down and they saved like 80 percent of time based on the motion studies and what he came up with.

Just observing patients in a room or during an operation, observing a doctor during an operation. They were the couple that actually determined that oh my god, this doctor needs to ask for the instruments from a nurse, so he doesn’t have to walk back and forth to the table and get those instruments. So those people, based on those observations, are the reason why operations are performing that way today. That is pretty cool actually.

James: It is.

Caroline: Yes, it’s great.

James: We all do nothing but optimise. We’re just constantly optimising everything we do. We call it designed that way but we’re optimising.

Caroline: Well, it’s that. That’s us as designers, I guess. But what happens is that the people, people tend to satisfy rather than optimise. Now they will do what they can to get through the day. So the person that was observed picking up the book, that was a satisfy thing. That wasn’t — it was because that person needed to get that job done and was just muddling through and we see that behaviour all the time with people, simply muddling through situations.

Then they get used to it. So this is another reason why we have to do the observation because they forget — they just do the work that they do. They don’t have to recall it or think about it or do anything other than do their jobs, so going and observing them.

But it’s interesting that we’re talking about some of the historic research because one of the things that’s absolutely fascinating me about the field of surveys is that it’s a field with a tremendously long literature.

So one of the most cited and actually most interesting papers in the world of survey methodology is the famous Rensis Likert paper from 1932, which is the one that talks about what’s now known as Likert scales or Likert response formats and there’s an interesting defined distinction between those two.

Per: Oh, I’ve always pronounced that Likert. So now I hear what you’re saying. Yes.

Caroline: I believe that Mr. Likert called it “Likert”. I shall just have to double check.

Per: You’re probably right. I probably just read it everywhere. I just pronounced it “Likert”.

Caroline: Right.

James: One of the problems we have being — well, speaking lots and lots of English in Sweden but not always having English-speaking input. We sometimes just make them up.

Caroline: Well, and who can say how a name is pronounced in English until you ask the person themselves. You have no chance really. Yeah. So that just goes to show there has been surveys going for a long time. I got into the whole world of surveys because I was looking for what research have been done in forms and discovered that consistently, people really haven’t researched forms. They’ve just assumed — I don’t know why they don’t research them, but they don’t.

But the survey methodologists have done enormous amounts of research and continue to do so. So practically every country — I mean the 190 odd different national statistical institutes listed on the United Nations website for example, but every country in the world has a central statistical authority. Majority of official statistics arise from surveys. So this survey methodology going on at a national, international level has been for decades, centuries even, enormous amounts of interesting literature, all of which is — a lot of which is about how the people answer questions, how they think about questions, how to get better answered questions.

So all of that is very interesting for forms and that’s kind of how I got into surveys, sort of by accident really, because that was where I could find insights for my forms work. But recently I’ve become more and more interested in surveys too and that’s what I’m mostly doing in workshops at the moment is survey workshops. I’ve just come back from doing one at UX Lx. The slides are on my slideshow account and I’m just preparing one for the User Experience Professionals Conference which is in less than a month now in London.

Per: Right. So that’s — you were at UX Lx which is first year and the many years that we haven’t been there. So you have to tell us how that experience was as well, going there and getting that talk and how people appreciated the talk that you gave and the workshop.

Caroline: It’s a great conference. If you’ve been — you know, it’s the most international conference that I’ve been to. I was lucky enough to go and do a talk on forms at the first one in 2010.

Per: Oh, right.

Caroline: So it was a real pleasure to be invited back to do something on surveys at the most recent one. Had about, I guess, 25 people in my workshop and probably representing at least a dozen countries.

James: Excellent.

Caroline: Which was great and we had a good productive time I think. So we were doing a bit of a deep dive into questions, looking first of all at the four-step model for answering questions, and then we had a good look at asking about satisfaction and the post-task satisfaction questionnaires. That was fun.

James: The four steps, that was — I’ve got the presentation in front of me now. So I’m going to cheat and read it. Read and understand, find the answer, judge the answer and place the answer.

Caroline: Correct.

James: Yeah.

Caroline: Do you want me to elaborate?

James: Absolutely! I think I would have come to the workshop if I’ve been there because I think this is — I mean it’s a fascinating subject because we’re — well, when we’re doing UX research, we’re constantly asking questions. We’re constantly placing questions or we’re asking for — like you said, the post-task or post-test questionnaires, system usability scales or whatever it is. We’re constantly throwing questions to people with skills here and there and net promoter scores.

When you start digging into it, which — it’s easily done for the presentation. There are so many little things, so many details, just like with everything else we do. It’s all about the detail and understanding what you’re doing.

Per: So it is actually easy for us to understand how you can get passionate about forms although when I had given talks about specific web forms and I try to pitch it to my client, that the first thing that comes out of the mouth is that that sounds really, really boring and forms tend to have an effect on people. Well, just forms? That’s boring.

But if we get back to the four steps that you were — that you just read there James, is that we need to understand and find an answer. The one that really caught my eye when I was looking at the presentation was judge the answer because I couldn’t — I wouldn’t have picked that out just thinking about it. So guide us through those steps Caroline. What do they really mean?

Caroline: Well, I think read and understand is pretty obvious. If you can’t read the question, if it’s illegible, you can’t understand it, if you can’t understand it, you can’t try and answer it. So those are sort of obvious.

Finding an answer, some questions we do have answers just in our heads. So you just asked me a question and I know this stuff pretty well, so I have the answer directly in my head. If you wanted to find an explanation, you would possibly have to go and read something or look it up or hunt for it.

So one of the classic examples I give on finding an answer is when you pay for something using a credit card. Now, some people are very good with numbers and have memorised the long number on their credit card. I’m very bad with numbers and I have to read the number off the card. I have to have the physical card in front of me and I have to copy it digit by digit.

So I have to find an answer. I have to look at something else to have an answer to that.

Judging the answer is something that we generally are fairly happy to reveal just to people. But if you think about privacy, a lot of us — I don’t want to shock you but many people actually have a completely full set of information that they use on the internet. I know. I know. You can’t credit it, can you?

Obviously majority of people always give exactly their precise correct and accurate personal details on all occasions but there is this behaviour which I’ve heard of where people may not always wish to reveal that to everybody. That’s where they’re judging the answer. They’re deciding, “Is this an answer I actually want to tell someone?” You can for example have — on some websites I’ve seen which have been thoughtfully designed against email address. They may have a link to click to say how we will use your email address, which for people who are sensitive about privacy might be the difference between revealing their actual email address of making one up.

Per: Yeah.

Caroline: So that’s the judging part. Do people actually want to give you this answer and are they willing to give you the correct information? Then the placing the answer thing is exactly that problem I was just talking about where I had an answer for that website, which is to say I want to purchase as a private individual but the only options they gave me was which type of doctor are you.

There was no place for me to tell them, “I’m not a doctor. I’m just an individual person.” So it’s extremely common for there to be fewer choices in the mind of an organisation than there are in real life. Yeah.

James: So another example maybe would be male, female or none of your business.

Caroline: Yeah, yeah. Indeed the Australian government has — now official Australian government policy is male, female or other. So some people are quite happy to tell you what their gender is but it’s neither male nor female.

Per: Yeah, of course. Some people can be offended by just having the other box to check because there are — well, I think Facebook has 23 different genders you can select.

James: Excellent, yeah.

Per: Yeah.

Caroline: Right.

Per: You’re in the middle of a sex change. You had a sex change and you’re a — yeah, there’s a lot.

Caroline: Why should you reveal all those details? But it just goes to show that very few questions where there are only exactly the sorts of answers, that — I call it the answers in the official mind may not match up the answers in the real world. Yeah.

I find that four-step framework. It’s a very powerful way of looking at questions in general. It comes out of the world of survey methodology which shows how the two fields can be used to inform each other really.

So we did a lot of digging into that at the UX Lx workshop. For the one coming up in London, it’s a workshop that’s specifically aimed at experienced practitioners. So I’m really taking the opportunity to kind of max it out with a challenge and hit people with some fairly challenging or difficult concepts and seeing how they fly.

James: You got an example of one? You got to give an example now of a difficult concept. That sounds great.

Caroline: An example of difficult concept, well, the really interesting concept is the concept of total survey error. So the survey methodologists do not think just about sampling error or statistical significance. So one of the things people say is, “Well, how many people do I have to survey in order to achieve statistical significance?” which is sort of worth asking. But no matter how many people you ask a question of, if it’s a stupid question, you won’t achieve real significance. You can achieve practical significance but with uninteresting answers.

So total survey error is about looking at your overall costs both actual costs in terms of how many people you asked and how much data you’re going to have to process and cognitive costs, as in how much burden are you putting on this population that you’re surveying. Is that worthwhile? Should you be asking fewer questions of fewer people if the answer is nearly always yes?

Per: So you’re trying to balance — really you’re trying to balance the pain of doing the stuff with the value of doing it.

Caroline: Right. Looking at things like coverage area. So you could get 50,000 responses. Is that good or bad? Is 50,000 a good representation of the population you’re trying to survey or not? So for example 50,000 responses generated by people who are on Twitter would not be a good representation of for example the UK population because only a small minority of us are on Twitter.

James: You made me think of — I got a new car this year and well, I got rung up a couple of times by the car company to ask how the whole experience was. I mean I’m used to them doing that. I had a car from them before. But this time, I got a new car survey and I didn’t fill it in. The reason I didn’t fill it in is because if memory serves me right, it was about 30 pages and I will flick through it and I’m just looking at it. My god! I mean it’s all in Swedish as well.

How long is it going to take me? What am I going to do? There are like pictures of cars. They’re asking me to tell what I think about this bit, that bit, how it is to drive, how it is to buy, what I thought about it before. It was just endless number of questions.

There was nothing not in the survey and I didn’t fill it in. I normally do quite like filling in surveys. There’s a bit of me that enjoys it. But now I’m reflecting on and thinking of what you’ve just said Caroline, that the people who do bother to fill that survey in, they can’t possibly be representative. Who in their right mind is going to fill in that survey with no reward or anything?

It’s just for pure joy. I will have to see if I still got it. I will even send it to you Caroline. Even though it’s in Swedish, I think you will like it.

Caroline: Well, that’s an interesting example because that’s another type of error that comes into total survey error. That’s an error called non-response error. So another source of error you have to think about is even if you’ve sent your survey to a good random sample that does directly represent the population of interest, if you’ve got a situation where the people who don’t respond differ from the people who do respond in some way that matters to your survey, then you’ve got non-response error.

James: Yeah.

Caroline: OK? And you can see how your sampling is not going to help that taking a better sample will not solve non-response error. You’re addressing the problem there where you’re saying, “Well, actually I think only people who are particularly boring will answer this survey. Do they really want to infer the general population characteristics just on people who are completely obsessed and boring?” Maybe they do. Maybe that’s fine.

James: Exactly, or every single person with two kids and everyone with full-time jobs who doesn't have anywhere near enough time to fill in the 30-page survey are not going to respond. So you end up cutting out an entire segment.

Per: But you did touch upon something else there also James. You said something and there wasn’t even a reward. That’s something I wanted to talk about a bit is what if there was a reward and given that there were also 30 pages and you had 500 questions with the Likert scale with your strongly disagree to strongly agree.

In the end having filled out a lot of those types of surveys, I realised that as I get further and further into it, I’m getting more and more tired and I’m not really concentrating on the answers. I realised, well, I’m just checking — I’m sort of agreeing with the questions because I sort of know — half expect what the questions are going to be.

So I’m guessing that the reward — if I want the reward enough, I’m going to complete the survey but I may not really be truthful in my answers or give them enough thought for them to be representative of what I really feel.

Caroline: Yeah, I mean that’s definitely a phenomenon of people’s level of interest can decline and really it’s also a questionnaire of putting too much burden on the respondents. So, you can persuade people to answer for longer by giving them a better reward, but you can’t stop them getting bored. You would bore them.

Per: That’s perfect. I love that.

Caroline: A lot of surveys and market research have not moved on conceptually I think from — if you go back to the 1950s or before, collecting answers to a survey meant sending out someone with a survey as an interviewer and getting them to sit down with someone and they would have a conversation and write down all the answers.

Well, that’s a very expensive collection procedure. So once you’ve decided to do that, you really want to ring every last possible shred of opinion after the person you’re interviewing.

In those days I’m assuming surveys were possibly a nice novel interruption into the humdrum level of everyday life possibly or maybe people were just very busy. But because surveys were few and far between, there was a level of novelty.

James: You felt special maybe. I mean …

Caroline: Yeah, you felt special.

James: Yeah, when those days, when someone rang up and said, “Do you mind if we come around and talk to you about radio listenership?” what have you or something. They come around and talk to you about BBC Radio and things. It was quite interesting. You felt like you were important. You were valued.

Caroline: Right, right.

James: It was unusual.

Caroline: You were and you still ought to feel important and valued and unusual.

Per: Exactly.

Caroline: But when it’s done in a very impersonal way and when it’s one of the many different things that compete for your attention in a very busy information stream that’s being hosed at us, and when it’s possible to reach far more people far more easily, then I think we should get over asking people quite so many questions.

These days I think we can do what I call patch working which is my own name for it, which is instead of asking 500 people 50 pages of questions, you could ask 100 people five questions and another 100 people different five questions, and another 100 people different five questions, possibly with one or two questions that are common. Build up a sort of patchwork quilt picture of your data, which sounds much more laborious but — and it sounds as if it wouldn’t be representative.

But it’s much more likely to be representative than asking two or three people who have got loads of time on their hands and maybe completely unrepresentative of population, everything. It will be better to get little bits of very representative data and make a sort of mosaic or patchwork picture that is a good picture than have very large amounts or very unrepresentative data. Does that make sense?

James: Yeah, it does.

Per: Yes, it does. I’ve never heard of it before.

James: That’s an excellent idea. I was thinking as well that so often now we see the layer comes up on the website in the middle of you doing something else, which is your actual task on the website, and ask you, “Do you have a few minutes of your time to answer some questions about our website?”

Straight away there, you’re distracted. You’re irritated and you’ve got to click yes or no. But that in itself using the patchwork method that you described now Caroline, that itself could be a question. So if you’re going to get them to do one click, you might ask well ask them the questions straight off and get them to click there, on that one.

Caroline: That’s right. Also if you can try and build some confidence in the population. Now what we’re doing at the moment is I think organisations are systematically training their customers to ignore them. So for example, hey, let’s name and shame. British Telecom, great big major telecom supplier in the UK.

Per: Yeah.

Caroline: I did a small study, a qualitative study of survey response a couple of summers ago and a friend of mine was very kind and kept records of every survey she filled in for a month. She was having a couple of problems with her telephone at the time and the first time she contacted customer support at BT, they sent her a “How was this for you?” survey. She filled it in.

The problem wasn’t resolved and the second time she contacted them, they sent her the same survey. She filled it in but she wasn’t really happy about it.

By the third time she contacted them and they sent her the same survey, she decided never to answer their surveys ever again.

Per: Of course.

Caroline: So in the course of a month, they trained her to be a completely dedicated non-respondent. I think many organisations are doing that to their customers, by asking them too often, which is sad.

Per: We lost James.

Caroline: We lost James?

Per: We lost James. I’m going to call him up again.

Caroline: Now he’s back.

James: No, I’ve managed to come back. I don’t really know what happened to me or where I went, but sorry for that.

Per: OK.

Caroline: I mean as you can tell, I’m developing an insane interest in surveys as well as an insane interest in forms. I find it inexplicable that anyone would think they were boring. I have a lot of chats with — well, internet chat with Craig Sullivan, the conversion specialist.

James: We’re a big fan of Craig. He has been on the show a record number of times.

Per: Three times.

Caroline: Oh, cool. He’s a good guy and he and I both understand that when you talk about conversion, the only part of the conversion funnel that’s not optional is the form. You better get that right. If that part is not working, then you can do what you like and the rest of it, the rest of it is optional. But your form is your non-optional part. So it should be the most interesting. Yeah.

It seems to be complaining about a call to me as well. So as I mentioned, I have been having problems with power cuts today, so perhaps we should think about wrapping up. I hate to say that because I love chatting about this stuff so much.

Per: We’ve only scratched the surface really because we haven’t talked about how sensitive a topic is. We’re asking about how do we formulate the questions, stuff like that. How do we make people understand what the question is and what type of response we’re really expecting? Even legibility. I know that you’ve talked about that in your workshop as well Caroline, the type face, the font, how legible it is. Is it black and white? Are you using colours that distract the user? There are so many aspects of online forums that it’s just mind-blowing.

James: Yeah, I was thinking about the question bias as well. Knowingly or unknowingly write biased questions. I got an example about that as well.

Caroline: So there you go. You see, I detect a little bit of forms passion coming through there. I can feel the infection spread out. Be careful because if it hits you bad, you might be stuck with it for the next 20 years.

But it has been lovely to have an opportunity to chat with you and I just hope, well, perhaps you could consider coming over to London to join my tutorial. It’s on Monday the 22nd of July I think.

Per: We will put up a link to it in the show notes as well.

Caroline: That would be great. Let me just correct that. It’s actually Monday the 21st of July. I said I’m always pretty challenged about my numbers. So it’s an evening tutorial at — connected with the UXPA Conference. So there we go.

James: I’m sure that will be absolutely excellent. I think we probably will invite you back on again at some point in the future, Caroline, because I can tell you we could fill up definitely more than one show.

Per: Oh, yeah.

James: With content, with talking with you.

Caroline: That will be terrific. So it has just been such pleasure to have an opportunity to share some of my passions with you and I hope we will meet up in person sometime or perhaps have another chance to have a chat.

Per: Oh, yeah, definitely.

James: Absolutely.

Per: Thank you so much for being with us.

James: Thanks Caroline.

Caroline: You’re welcome.

James: Thank you.


Per: All right then. Wow! I was just getting started really. We could have talked for ages.

James: We could. It was very good. It’s not very often one of our guests have to remind us that we need to wrap up.

Per: Exactly.

James: It was really good of her to help us because I could have talked then for another couple of hours.

Per: Yeah.

James: Because forms are one thing and the survey is another.

Per: But it’s fantastic how we started out thinking we were going to talk about forms. We started talking — well, surveys as well. But ended up talking about history lessons in time management and stuff …

James: Yeah. Well, it’s all related.

Per: Yeah, and the importance of observation is really what we’re talking about I guess.

James: Yeah, and how easy you can mess things up.

Per: Which goes to show that — I mean forms and surveys are a perfect example of how you can design really the perfect form in the end but if it doesn’t fit with the organisation and the effects that you want to achieve and the resources that you have on hand, it’s not going to work anyway.

James: And those being surveyed.

Per: Exactly.

James: Yeah. There’s so much more to talk about, so much more to do and look at. Yeah. Excellent, Per. Well, it’s time to wrap up.

Per: It is.

James: And thank you all very much for listening. You can find us of course as always as UX Podcast absolutely everywhere and also on where you will find links we mentioned during the show and other little details.

Per: Are we still on Spotify? What’s the deal with that?

James: We are clinging on by our fingernails. There will be a few more. Until August we will pushing out new episodes.

Per: OK. But we will have to have a serious talk with Spotify then, I guess.

James: We do need to talk to Spotify.

Per: Yeah. OK then. Remember to keep moving.

James: See you on the other side.


[End of transcript]

This is a transcript of a conversation between James Royal-Lawson, Per Axbom and Caroline Jarrett recorded for UX Podcast in July 2015. To hear more episodes visit or search for UX Podcast in your favourite podcast client.