Surveys are used to glean information from a dispersed group of respondents. In this example I employed a user survey to gain rapid insight into how people view their shopping habits and experiences, and test early assumptions in a problem space.

survey results.png


I use surveys to gather rapid responses when starting a project. This method helps surface assumptions from the project team to address, set aside, or probe further through ethnographic methods. While surveys offer great opportunity to gather quantifiable data I find that the numbers of responses in many projects, lean more towards a quick gut check on qualitative questions.

1. research goals

  • understand how participants view their consumption.

  • gather an estimation for some figures related to clothing consumption (eg. how much do you spend annually on clothing)

  • probe topics that were difficult to find in published studies (eg. what do you do when you want to dispose of a garment)

  • challenges: no way to monitor how truthful responses were, limited to immediate responses, nature of qualitative questions made it difficult to quantify responses.

  • Suprises: participants reported far lower spending amounts on clothing, consistent responses around trying to dispose of garments responsibly

2. research process

  • gather questions and draft survey

  • disseminate survey through personal network

  • monitor responses every couple of days

  • do a final push for responses

  • close survey after 1 week

  • synthesize responses

  • identify key themes

  • share research findings

3. participants
70 participants, did not collect personal data (in order to not have the barrier of getting participants to sign releases),

4. data gathering
I used Survey monkey, and shared the link to my personal network through email and facebook. 5 friends re-posted my survey to their networks. Others simply filled it out. 

  1. How often do you go shopping?

  2. Where do you shop for clothing?

  3. How do you decide when to go shopping?

  4. How much do you spend on clothes and accessories on an annual basis?

  5. How do you feel when you are shopping?

  6. How do you feel most often after making a purchase?

  7. When was the last time you you felt like you didn’t have anything to wear?

  8. How did you fix this problem?

  9. How often do you sort or remove garments from your closet?


 The survey illuminated certain assumptions that I have imposed form my own experience. People reported spending far less than I expected. They also reported sorting their closets far less frequently than I expected. But over 70% of people stated that they donate their garments when they get rid of them, which is a unique response that I had not anticipated. This helps to inform my project in terms of maximizing this behavior that is ingrained (to donate). The idea of returning, re-purposing, or sharing for continued use is not far from donation, which may make my on-boarding process more tangible and accessible for users if I am able to tap into that existing behavior. 

When i have nothing to wear i wash my clothes
— Survey response on behavior

I found with the survey that people were more likely to respond with an answer that would be viewed as more socially acceptable. For example most respondents identified that they most often go shopping in order to replace a worn out garment. While this may in fact be true, it also appears to be conveniently aligned with expectations set out by an anti-consumer mindset (which my project could likely be represented/interpreted as). In cases like this I am curious if individuals were providing an answer they thought might be best suited for the study. Whereas in comparison the participants in my ethnographic probe offered more intimate and anecdotal information that I am more confident is not as influenced by the participants expectation of the kind of material a thesis like mine may be looking for.