Survey says…

As internet usage continues to increase at a mind-numbing speed, so do the number of surveys, studies, and technological advances used to capture information about who is using the internet, for what purposes, and how satisfied they are when using it.
By Len O'Neal March 1, 1999

As internet usage continues to increase at a mind-numbing speed, so do the number of surveys, studies, and technological advances used to capture information about who is using the internet, for what purposes, and how satisfied they are when using it. PE Online is no different. And there’s good reason for this (beyond the ease at which the internet allows you to conduct a survey): The more an information provider knows about its audience, the better equipped that provider is to serve its audience with the information they need.

The use of surveys goes a long way in helping an information provider develop and implement strategies for presenting and disseminating information products and services to users. If you are a frequent reader of this column, you will recall that PE Online conducted a survey back in August 1998 to record your content preferences, your satisfaction level with the content offered on the web site, and your suggestions for improvements. (See the November 1998 “Web Update” for a summary of the results.) Results of that survey played a significant role in determining what you see on the newly redesigned PE Online .

Be prepared

It’s one thing to know what readers feel would improve a web site, but it is also important for information providers to know how (un)prepared its readers are to receive information. For example, knowing such things as what sort of equipment a majority of the readers use to access the internet, how likely readers are to purchase products via the internet, or the tendency of readers to fill out registration form impacts the many design, architecture, and usability aspects of a web site.

To meet this need, “Internet Readiness” studies are conducted for PE Online . Each year, the research arm of Cahners Business Information randomly selects readers from Plant Engineering to participate in this study in an attempt to better understand how its readers use the internet.

Your opinion matters

On a smaller scale, quick and informal opinion polls are useful tools for capturing reader position on a current industry event or topic. If done correctly, readers gain the added value of viewing up-to-the-minute results, which can provide them with a general idea of where they and their peers stand on certain issues. On the flip side, those creating the polls can gain a better understanding of where their focus may need to be in future content. Be sure to participate in PE Online’s new monthly opinion poll, posted with the release of each new issue in the “Your Voice” section.

If you’re interested in detailed statistics for the internet and World Wide Web communities, one of the more popular series of user surveys is conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Graphic, Visualization, & Usability Center, located at www.cc.gatech.edu/gvu/user_surveys/.

If you have any questions about the surveys conducted for PE Online , or any suggestions for future opinion polls, we’d like to hear from you.

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