The Contented Strategy Blog

Creating a user survey: Vimcasts, a case study

27 Jan 2014

There's nothing quite like asking your site visitors to find out what your business does well – and what it doesn't. So Drew Neil and I sent out a Vimcasts survey. This blog post is based on the reponses from 216 people. The survey asked five questions.

  1. how did you first learn about Vimcasts.org? (6 options)
  2. how do you prefer to receive updates? (6 options)
  3. Can you suggest any changes that would make it easier to find what you're looking for on Vimcasts.org?
  4. I support my work on Vimcasts by teaching a Core Vim class. You: have attended, would like to attend, can't afford it, are not interested, have never heard about it, other.
  5. Where are you based?

Vimcast fans are based all over the world

Question 5, where are you based, turned out to be pretty exciting: people were based in more than 25 different countries ranging from the UK and USA to Argentina, Lithuania, Taiwan, Russia and China. However, only 3 people suggested that subtitles or access to transcriptions would be useful. Impressive language skills!

Still, Drew has been thinking about making screencast transcripts available on the site and on Github, particuarly in case people would like to translate them into other languages. With people from all over the world browsing Vimcasts this might prove useful.

Vimcasts fans have the kind of memory that my grandad would be embarrassed about

My favourite answer to question 1, 'how did you first learn about Vimcasts.org,' is: can't remember, that was, like, 4 years ago. This was ticked by 36% of respondents. The other results, however, were a little more informative: search engine 24%, referral from another site 20%, personal recommendation 4%, other 8%.

pie-chart showing how users first learnt about Vimcasts

These results suggest that SEO is important, as is continuing to produce content that people want to share and talk about. I was slightly surprised that only 7% of people found out about the site through social media. The Vimcasts Twitter account has almost 3,500 followers. Perhaps people tend to follow Vimcasts when they already know about it though? So this channel currently represents a good way to target repeat rather than first time visitors.

Repeat visitors may never visit the website

A business's website is only part of their content strategy, particularly with this kind of content-as-product business. There are some people who will rarely come back to the site, but who are still important customers. The user survey shows that only 4% of people would prefer not to subscribe.

pie-chart showing how users subscribe to Vimcasts: RSS 61%, email 15%, Twitter 13%, iTunes 6%, don't subscribe 4%, other 2%

One result of these findings, is that Drew needs to think carefully about how he chunks the content on the website. There is a good case, for example, for more obviously separating promotional blog posts, content blog posts and screencasts on the homepage. This was picked up on in the survey by a few respondents. However, if Drew decides that only content blog posts would be permanently linked to from the homepage, then he'd still have to make sure than RSS subscribers received both promotional and content blog posts, as well as screencasts.

Vimcasts visitors know about the Masterclasses

Quite cheeringly, only 1% of people had never heard of Drew's masterclasses. This suggests that although the permanent link on the homepage is not exactly obvious, Twitter, email and RSS time-sensitive promotions are being fairly effective. Also cheeringly, 25% of people would like to attend. The 34% who can't afford it was probably about right, considering Drew's business model. However, it was a useful number for Drew to see because he's considering producing a series of inexpensive eBooks.

pie-chart showing what users know about the Vimcast masterclasses, including 19% not interested and 10% other

Vimcasts fans are a nice bunch

Seriously, 10 people decided to tell Drew how much they liked Vimcasts in the space we'd left for suggestions (question 3). One even wanted to have his babies. Although that is a bit weird, come to think of it. The fan was male.

More categories/tags and a search function

This table shows what people would like Drew to change about Vimcasts:

add categories/tags 23
add search 11
more Vimcasts! 4
include subtitles/transcriptions 3
separate posts and screencasts 2
Vimcasts is great/no changes thanks 13

Great! We've been thinking that tags/categories and a search function would be a nifty idea too. I was also interested to see how many people think Vimcasts is just fine or that there wasn't anything obvious that needed changing. This made me realise how important it is not to be too iconoclastic. After all, there's many a redesign that has seemed like a good idea to the bods at the top but has gone down like a lead balloon with users: the rebranding of Britain's Royal Mail as 'Consignia' springs to mind.

Concluding thoughts

Asking your site visitors what they think of your business is a very good idea. I've learnt a lot. Now onwards to analytics!

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