Using questionnaires to gather requirements

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When working with a large user population (hundreds or thousands) you will typically want to sample the population to do in depth interviews. But how do you know that the information that you gather is representative of the population as a whole? One way to get this information is to do surveys. In another blog post “product democracy” I described one innovative way that salesforce.com surveyed their users. However, a more traditional way to survey users is to use an old fashioned (or electronic) questionnaire. When would you use a questionnaire/survey to gather requirements?

  • You need to survey a large population
  • You need confidential answers
  • You need quantifiable statistics
  • Your users are geographically distributed
  • Your users are extremely busy
  • You have an unknown user group

In all of these cases it would be appropriate to use a survey to gather requirements. For a quick read on how to write survey questions try this link http://www.statpac.com/surveys/question-qualities.htm

For a more in depth discussion, I highly recommend the following book: Mail and Internet Surveys by Don Dillman

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