Surveys and Interviews: Getting to Know Your Mobile Visitors

In my last post, I talked about how to use analytics to research your mobile website visitors so that you can make an informed decision about your future mobile projects. This time, we’ll look at how surveys and interviews can help you glean insights about your mobile presence (or lack of) from your site’s visitors.

Why surveys and interviews?

While site analytics gather quantitative behavioral data, online surveys and interviews can also collect more qualitative data, like opinions and self-reported preferences. Though self-reported anecdotes should always be taken with a grain of salt, survey and interview responses can be very helpful for prioritizing ideas, uncovering new insights, and giving a voice to your site’s visitors.


Conducting an online survey is a great way to gain insights about your visitors because you can easily collect data and opinions from a large group of people. Surveys can be structured to gather both qualitative and quantitative data. For example, say that you wondered how many of your site visitors were interested in a mobile-optimized experience. You could do a quick pop-up survey on your site to gauge interest. From that, you could say with certainty that a certain percentage of your audience wanted (or didn’t want) a mobile version.

Other insights surveys can provide include:

  • Ranking and prioritizing of features, content and tasks
  • Rating or commenting on ideas and concepts
  • Suggesting ideas or features not captured by the survey choices
  • Self-reported behaviors like how often they use their mobile device to view your site, and where they are when they do (at home, on the go, etc.)

As with any research method, there are drawbacks to surveys. Survey questions are easy to bias with your own leanings, and self-reported behavior is not always actual behavior. Plus, your survey participant may feel like he or she has to be polite or agreeable, even to a survey on a computer. (No joke: researchers at Stanford wrote a book about people being polite to computers.)


It’s always great to talk to your site visitors one-on-one or in a focus group because it enables you to prod more deeply into the “why” and “how.” Plus, interviews and focus groups can be conducted face-to-face or over the phone; the only equipment you need is a pen and paper for your notes.

When conducting an interview, you’ll be able to look for detail. Consider asking:

  • When was the last time you visited X site on your mobile device? What were you looking for? Did you find it? How easy or difficult was it?
  • Can you think of any other times you used X site on your smartphone or tablet? Ask questions about the experience.
  • What apps do you use the most? Ask the interviewee to look at her device and list her most used apps. Ask what she likes about them.
  • Start a discussion about how she would like to use X website on her mobile device. If she doesn’t want to use your site on her mobile device, why?

You’ll collect great information and perspectives that can only help you understand who your mobile visitor is, and what their motivations are.

Naturally, there are drawbacks to interviews. The politeness problem crops up again, and so does error-prone self-reported behaviors. You also cannot draw make generalizations about your visitors based on a few interviews because of the low number of participants—interviews are purely qualitative. Aside from these drawbacks, interviews are valuable because they humanize your site visitor. Through conducting a handful of interviews, you’ll be able to draw a picture of your actual visitors in greater detail than by data alone.

If you take the time to learn a little bit more about your mobile visitors, you’ll be able to better understand your customer. With the knowledge gained from easy research techniques like surveys, interviews and examining website analytics, you’ll have the basis for a great mobile experience that your visitors actually want to use.