A Content and User Experience Strategy for local government

Updating my original content strategy first written in 2013. Still a work in progress, still subject to change and additions

Surveys and Equalities Monitoring


People who commission survey forms - especially user satisfaction survey forms - think users love filling in survey forms. Almost everybody I know hates filling in satisfaction survey forms, and has contempt for needy organisations who hassle them. Does anybody you know like filling in satisfaction survey forms as much as the people commissioning them think people do? OK, in an infinitely expanding multiverse, there will be some people who actually do like filling in satisfaction survey forms.

With this in mind, satisfaction survey forms should be short and simple. Read the words of the questions and the options aloud - does your tongue end up twisting? Do you feel like an idiot reading them aloud to your soulmate? Are there so many questions you feel you're losing the will to live reading them aloud? If the answer to any of those is yes, it's almost certainly too long and complicated.

I'm not saying there's no place for highly nuanced questions in a survey form, however, consider the likelihood of somebody completing a survey form putting the same level of analysis into interpreting the nuance that you've put into crafting the question in the first place. For example, a user at the end of a process of reporting antisocial behaviour who is ultimately told sorry, there's nothing we can do about it - a question 'how satisfied were you with the manner in which we handled your report?' - nah mate, the user is almost certainly going to be very dissatisfied with the outcome of the report, they're unlikely to stop and think 'but the advisor was really sympathetic and understanding and got back to me quickly' and mark that they were very satisfied with the manner in which we handled it. Some users may put more thought into reading the question carefully, but a survey in which different users have differing interpretations of the questions is a useless survey.

By default, the answers to range-based questions should be from 1 to 5; ranges of 1 to 10 similarly suffer the problem of over-nuance that standard users are unlikely to consider. 1 should always be the 'really bad' option, and 5 should always be the 'really good' option. The user should always have the ability to actively signal an 'I don't really care' neutral option (eg 3) as well as having the ability to not answer the question at all. The answer 'No opinion' will usually be the better answer than eg 'Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied' - again, see what the range of answers feels like when read aloud.

Survey forms should never contain mandatory fields. The user is gifting you their opinion, don't abuse that gift. You want their honest opinion - if you start adding mandatory fields they'll either give up or give you a donkey vote.

An example general survey form can be found as Local news habits survey.

Equalities monitoring

Equalities monitoring questions should always be optional, and they should never be submitted as part of the main form submission to the same recipient as the main form submission – they should always be sent as a separate, anonymised, submission and stored in a separate area of the case management system or form submission database from the actual service details – whilst a staff member checking for equalities trends needs to see that anonymous user [a] is a member of demographic [b] requesting or reporting service [c], it should never be possible for any staff member to determine the identity of anonymous user [a] as being a member of demographic [b] as part of an equalities monitoring exercise.

There should be a common set of standard equalities monitoring questions in use across the organisation, and the user should see the clear separation between their service request form and the equalities monitoring form. Ideally this might be done by them being invited to complete a clearly separate form. 

Last reviewed: 24 April 2024
Next planned review: 24 May 2024


  • 10 April 2024 - Page created
  • 24 April 2024 - Example general survey form added