Survey with Prototype

Surveys are a pretty popular research tool but are often used incorrectly. Learn how to use them correctly in Business Design sprints by embedding them in your experimental setting.

1. Overview

Surveys are inexpensive and simple to create – especially when using an online tool. They allow us to collect data from a large sample with simple means. But it’s not as easy as it seems to be. We have been filling out many polls in our lives, often without knowing the "right" answers. However, we love answer questions because it gives us a feeling of being a well-respected expert. 

When we use surveys in the Validate phase to collect feedback, they are usually embedded in an experimental setting that includes the use of a prototype or lean offerings before answering any question about it. Why? Because the person filling answers into our survey should have a very clear picture of what our business ideas are all about. It is also critical that you ask questions that your sample is able to answer - without ambiguities. Questions around past behavior, e.g. how many cups of coffee someone had today, are perfect for a survey. If you are interested in questions why someone had five cups of coffee today, a survey is definitely the wrong tool to go with. Interviews or even observations would be way better! Other questions you shouldn’t ask in either case is how many cups of coffee someone will drink tomorrow or if someone would buy a cup of coffee in the new cafeteria (the person hasn't even seen before). Nobody can tell you for sure what he / she will be doing in the future. In worst case, answers to those questions may lead you in a wrong direction.

2. Key Elements




If necessary, explain the purpose of the survey shortly. This part depends on your experimental setting and the usage situation that happened beforehand. In case you want to split surveys before and after use, ask your participants for a unique tester code to stich together the two parts.

Let’s say your idea is an online platform offering IT trainings for elderly people. You let them use your prototype in your experiment (e.g. they can attend one training course for free) and afterwards you ask them a few questions in a survey.

"Get to know" (demographics)

Research relevant demographic information about your participant (e.g. sex, age, profession, company size, position, devices, experience etc.) to know who is answering.

Following our example above it would be good to know how experienced your participants are in using digital technology like apps / web browser in their point of view.

Questions about the prototype / lean offering

Ask a few key questions about the usage of your prototype / lean offerings that are easy to answer. Choose the most important ones depending on your research focus (see Hypotheses & Experiments template).

In the context of our example e.g. Have you ever attended a training course on that topic before? How would you rate the degree of difficulty? Did you book the training course by yourself? 

Next steps 


Think about including optional parts of the survey that show you how committed your participants are. We call them "investments" of the customer. You could ask them to write a short usage report or testimonial that you are allowed to use for your marketing. You could ask them to register to a newsletter if they are willing to stay in touch with you.


Close the survey by thanking your interview partner and ask them to leave their contact details and if you are allowed to contact them in case you have any question.

3. Usage Scenarios

4. Example Tools

5. Instruction for Coaches

  1. Surveys are in few cases the right method to validate hypotheses about the desirability of your offering. But in many cases, it's very valuable to embed them into your experiments that allow your participants to use or experience your prototype / lean offering in advance. This way, we can combine insights from observation of the usage or tracking of users behavior with insights from surveys.

  2. Take care that your team is choosing a representative sample. It's not about a high number of participants but about the right ones - your potential customers and users.

  3. Online survey tools offer almost all types of question and answer combination, e.g.: single / multiple selections, likert scales, rankings, scores, open questions with text boxes and much more. But not all question and answer combinations make sense in Business Design projects.
    Be aware that you are influencing participants by the possible answers you allow.

  4. Personal interviews are the better choice when you want to dig into details to understand underlying reasons and motivations.

  5. Discuss in your team in advance how each question of your survey helps you to make decisions and plan how to visualize and evaluate the data (including thresholds). 

  6. Make sure the survey isn't too long. Participants tend to answer questions randomly to finish the survey quickly.

Have a look at precise and reliable marketing scales that are presented here: