Thank you for the latest issue. I'd like to tell you a little story. It's more of a saga, really. My epic struggle with your online survey.
Yes, I was a little surprised at the cryptic comment on the plastic wrapper--
"Your ID is: XXXXXX
Use it to tell us what you think about Granta"--
(I hate your plastic wrapper, btw. It's hard to open. It's too small to reuse as a plastic bag. If you sent things in brown paper envelopes, I could reuse them or recycle. And then you had the nerve to ask about my
green credentials.) But I binned the packaging anyway. So my first annoyance was having to retrieve the wrapper from the bin after I'd found the invitation to participate in your survey inside the usual plastic-wrapped (yes, more
plastic) pile of bumph. If you were able to print an ID and a message, then you could have quite simply included a message telling me not to throw the wrapper away immediately. At least, I only had to ferret around in a bin full of used tissues and not the full panoply of household waste.
So much for mistake number one. Mistake number two was another small irritation arising from your--shall we call it thoughtlessness? unhelpfulness? To get to your site, since it's my standard method, was to type "g Granta" into the address bar of my browser, which took me to a results page with the Granta website address at the top. One click and I'm there. But there's no link to the survey, so I have to type it in myself in the address bar. I hate typing. I reverse too many letters and end up doing everything twice. If you really wanted me to fill in your survey, let me click through to it from a big welcoming link.
If I hadn't already begun to suspect that you didn't really want me to take the survey, problem number three would have been a very broad hint. I typed in my ID. I typed "c" and used auto complete for my postcode (remember I can't type straight). Note, this is the very same postcode you had printed on the plastic wrapper just below the ID you provided me with. The first time my input was rejected I assumed it was one of those formatting things: I learnt to use a keyboard and to format letters aeons ago and still habitually, whether typing manually or setting up automatic text, place two spaces between the two elements of my postcode. So I assumed that, like some other forms I've filled in online, your form could not cope with two spaces or even one space and wanted a block of six characters. This, I tried. No luck. Still it said: "CustomerID and post code don't match." I nearly gave up. Only the lure of a possible book token kept me trying. You
gave me this information. I checked very carefully in the order I typed the numbers in. I'm pretty certain I had them right. But they weren't recognized. At least, I could have another try. Well done, if not well written, for giving me the following: "If you don't remember required details click here to take the survey, and complete all requested details." I did. Click, that is. And filled in the tedious details you already had (and incidentally have had since the publication of your second anthology of new British writers however many years ago that was. Why did you need to ask how long I had been subscribing? Don't you have financial records for the last couple of years, at least? Don't ask unnecessary information. It simply annoys). Success! Onto the form itself.
The questionnaire: oh, the joy of closed sets of options. As I noted previously, I've been getting Granta for quite a number of years. No, I can't remember what first prompted me to subscribe. Please, let me have a "don't know" option. Explicitly. Not by default by letting me skip the question. Or was that one where I had to guess/lie? At least when you asked me about the type of books I like you let me enter the words I chose. Perhaps it's not your problem that your input box was a little short for me to be able to see all the things I typed (I'm sorry. Maybe that's my
problem for having a magpie mind).
And then we get closed questions again. Internet access, home -- yes/no, work -- yes/no. But, my home is
my place of work. (I refuse to say I don't work, 'cos I do. But, while I can guess what you're trying to find out, I don't know how to give an answer that is helpful.)
Actually, it's the closed nature of your questions plus the use of option buttons where I think you needed check boxes sometimes (yes, and they really are different) that really lets you down. The implication of a question with option buttons is that you must
choose one. Sometimes, for example where you ask about occupation for those who are waged, you use option buttons. As I'm not waged, I look for an unwaged option because I've been trained to assume that the form will come back to me requiring an input due to your use of option buttons. Option buttons tell me I must choose one and one only. But here I can get away with no input at all. Later, and this is where I howled with annoyance, you ask about four interests and four types of engagement in these interests. It's a good thing I can honestly answer at least one level of interest for each (although I forgot to answer one and the form complained: heaven help anyone who had no interest in sport at all). However I could only answer one of the options for each interest, despite the fact I wanted to say yes I do enjoy drama at home and
attend public events/performances. For music, I think I wanted to click all four answers. Option buttons mean select one from a list; check boxes allow me to select none, one or many. I think you really needed check boxes here. Your answers here will be incomplete, I believe, to the point of meaninglessness.
Oh, and if you give me the option of not minding as part of a range of feelings from agree to disagree, please don't lose the don't minds and force me to have an opinion. The poor "don't mind" answers disappear when I submit the form and I am prompted to enter my answers again. I really don't mind about these things and you were apparently willing to allow me not to mind.
I think it's only polite, too, that people are allowed to opt out of giving certain potentially sensitive information. I mean things like household income. It's good to tell people that they can opt out over these things to. Similarly, it would be nice to be reassured about how, and especially how not, the data you collected will be used. You haven't said you won't sell it to other people. So maybe it's a good thing I can't submit the form (actually I could, after changing all my don't minds to other answers and when some other responses that asked for responses which weren't relevant then changed their minds and let me skip them). I'd like to trust you enough to assume that you won't use it for purposes I would object to, but I've no way of knowing. If your company procedures are as well organised and designed as your questionnaires, I'm inclined to feel that I can't trust you at all.
The final disappointment was, especially with all the closed questions you'd asked, there was no place to add any additional comments of my own. This is standard in most surveys to the point of being a cliche but it is useful for all that. So these are my comments: Don't produce an online survey without testing it to destruction so that the poor end users don't have to. And make it easy to use and with space for people to really tell you what they want to say.
So thank you again. It's while since I've had the opportunity to test the usability of a form and revise online form design.