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Part: III Appendixes > Online Research

Appendix E. Online Research

You can use online research to gather valid data in a short period of time. We have found that this type of research is especially valuable when you're trying to convince management of major changes that must be made on a site or when you're making subtle changes to an important page, such as the homepage. The validity of the data is important because people will make major decisions based on it.

Online research can reduce or eliminate problems typically associated with traditional research—problems such as the following:

  • Sample bias, in which research participants do not accurately reflect the demographics or psychographics of your target customers

  • Undersampling bias, in which there are not enough people to have a statistically valid sample

  • Question bias, in which the questions are worded such that they lead people to answer in a certain way

The benefit of understanding the customer experience on a site is enormous. Web sites are not like physical businesses or stores, where managers can easily ask customers direct questions about their needs and wants. Most sites are set up to be self-service, with a “call to action” that brings customers in contact with the enterprise either through completely automated means, like searching for information or purchasing a product; or through less automated means, such as “for more information, call” offers.

Given the pace of business, running research quickly can be critical to your Web site's success. Data that in the past has traditionally taken months to generate can now be collected online in only hours or days. This speed can provide a competitive advantage.

The quality of the data and the speed with which it is collected are the main reasons for using online methodologies. These are also areas you need to be careful about, especially with respect to data quality. Make sure that your online methodology collects valid data.



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