By Garrett Kelly
McMansion Hell is a blog dedicated to ugliness. Kate Wagner roasts the worlds ugliest houses from top to bottom, all while teaching about architecture and design. She does this in the hope of opening readers’ eyes to the suburban, everyday world around them. The McMansion Hell appraisal has turned our attention to the surveys written by market researchers and just easily they can take the shape of a McMansion. Let us discuss how this is the case.
Mass Production & Customisation Weaken Survey Design
McMansions are the love child of mass production and mass customisation. Easily accessible home mortgages became the catalyst for the ‘you want it? You can have it’ movement in architecture. Online surveys can also operate as a mass or a customised product.
Both of these options can have their benefits but also their shortcomings.
Regardless of their strength, they both can often fail to identify the real issue due to scope being either too broad or too narrow. Semi-custom surveys made up of tried and true techniques can better get to the truth
Inside Out Design Sacrifices Function for Design
Owners of McMansions commission their homes to be built in the image of wealth. They want grandeur, ample space, open plans, stone bench tops and cathedral ceilings. With this intense focus on projecting a certain image, they neglect core design principles. It is ‘want’ design over ‘need’ design. Marketers and insights managers similarly are focused on getting the answers they want, not necessarily the ones they need. This sacrifices the function of the survey for a product that may never line up to either expectations or needs.
McMansions are modeled from the inside out. A list of inclusions is handed to the architect and, limited by time and budget, they build a home with a confusing, garish exterior and poor airflow and light. Surveys built around a laundry list of inclusions can similarly result in a muddied and confusing output. It becomes difficult to craft a meaningful story with the data when efficiency and parsimony are missing. Marketers and quantitative specialists should think about the outputs and the inputs simultaneously when crafting a survey.
Short Term Vs. Long Term Thinking
As McMansions are constructed, the owners and builders have one thing in mind. How can we sell this thing in a couple of years? These decisions are pure short term thinking. Yet houses are made to be lived in, not sold, and its this short term thinking that often leads to needless constructions. This favour toward short-term thinking can also be prevalent in survey writing. In an eagerness to help tactical decision-making we can lose the ability that surveys have to guide strategic thinking over longer periods of time. For example, we may focus too heavily on minor things like slight changes in pack design and lose sight of the bigger picture.
3 Things You Can Do to Avoid Hell in Survey Design
- Balance customisation and mass production: Determine the tried and true methods that can get to the answers you need
- Consider the outputs while creating the inputs: Ill-formed and overly engineered questions can lead to meaningless results. Take a step back and consider the outputs while creating the survey.
- Balance short term and long-term thinking: Try not to get bogged down about all things happening now. Think about the future and how a survey written today can help you tomorrow
To learn more about getting to the truth in surveys, be sure to check out an article by Dipesh Soneji, our Director of Quantitative Research, about building better online surveys: https://rubychacha.com.au/building-better-surveys-and-getting-to-the-truth/