So, you want feedback from your site users? Great! Put a questionnaire on your site that pops up when they first load a page, a certain percentage of users will click yes to that question, and you’ll get your data – perfect!
No. In my opinion that’s not they way to do it. We are making a mistake so many software developers/designers make all the time: ignoring user context.
We have to think carefully about what is going on for the user when that question pops up in order to optimize both the user experience and the chances of us getting a good quantity of data. The user has very probably not just come floating by your site, but has come to the site with a purpose (and it wasn’t to answer the questionnaire). They might have clicked a link that takes them directly to the the piece of content that they are wanting, and they expect to see it straight away. But BLAM! you’re interrupting them with this annoying popup whateveritis and something about a questionnaire that will take waaay too long and all I want is to quickly read this article or have a look at that photo! Get out of my face!
Popping up your questionnaire on first visit? Firstly, you’re annoying your user and secondly, you’re greatly reducing the chance s/he will click yes to your question, thereby interrupting their current and more important task.
The solution? Easy. Put the question where they will see it shortly after completing their task. Their frame of mind will mean that they are often in a better mood, having (hopefully) just acquired some value from your site, for example reading a good article or completing a purchase. In this state of mind they are much more inclined to do you a small favour of answering a few questions. Also, them having completed their task means that you will no longer be interrupting them by asking the question. We’ve gone from a negative-experience interruption to a positive-experience I-might-well-do-you-this-favour! Both of these mean that the chances of them clicking “Yes” will skyrocket. You will have more data, quicker, and you won’t be annoying your users! Hooray!
Something in a similar vein: On HBR.org, when you scroll down over the end of the article you’re reading, a little box slides in from the right containing a link to similar content as what you’re viewing – a ploy to increase stickyness on the site. Probably works though, as the user is getting to the end of the current article, and if it was valuable, would probably see what else is around. This functionality is normally implemented using jQuery Waypoints or similar.
So, morale of the story: (User) Context is King! Think carefully about your users’ frame of mind in various places on your site, and also in various stages in any step-process on your site, and place your questionnaires accordingly.