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Discover What Your Audience Is Thinking, Feeling, and Doing on Your Website

The insights gained from user research are foundational to creating stellar user experiences. But because all projects have unique differences, UX teams should tailor their research approach to fit the needs of each one. When determining an appropriate methodology, the True Intent Study shines because of its efficiency, effectiveness, and scalability. Use this powerful research tool to fill in the gaps on what you don’t know about your audience and their experience on your website.


A True Intent Study is an online research tool that measures the experience users have with a website, and provides insight for improving the design by answering the following questions:
• Who’s visiting?
• Why are they coming?
• How well do they succeed?
• What do they like or dislike?

The study begins when a site visitor is intercepted with a message to participate in an online study. Visitors who agree are directed to continue with whatever they came to do on the website. Once finished, they’re directed back to the survey and provide feedback about their experience.


The data collected through this approach comes from actual visitors while they naturally interact with the website. Furthermore, this data is powerful in guiding UX teams through the redesign process because it helps them empathize with users and understand how to address their needs.


Quantitative data shows the demographics of site visitors and helps identify key user profiles. It also helps you to better understand how different characteristics influence performance and the overall experience of the site. Data from subjective ratings allows you to evaluate the site on key attributes, such as usability, appearance, loyalty, and credibility, and then benchmark the attributes against future design improvements.


Qualitative data provides rich insights into the issues users encounter on the site and improvements that should be made. Reading user comments is helpful for empathizing with users and deeply understanding their experience on the site.


Some websites are so large that a single True Intent Study may not be adequate. In these cases, multiple studies can be deployed to target sections of interest. For example, separate studies can be tailored and deployed to target the enterprise, consumer, and support sections of a website. Studies can be scaled up or down depending on the size and needs of the site.

Although the general report provides key insights and recommendations, the qualitative data can be utilized to create other key deliverables. For example, we often collect thousands of user comments in a single study; these comments can be used to create an affinity diagram, personas, and/or an experience map that can inform site maps and content strategies that will resonate with users.


There’s never a bad time to deploy a True Intent Study. Ideally, you would deploy the study right before a redesign to provide insights for the new design. Once the new website launches, you can conduct a second study to see how well it performs using the first study as a baseline. A True Intent Study could also be used as a yearly health checkup, which would inform ways to continually improve the user experience.


When designing a True Intent Study, it’s important to plan how visitors will be intercepted on the site and to align the survey questions with project objectives.

Intercepting Users

The success of a True Intent Study depends on how well you recruit participants through the online intercept; therefore, it’s important to set it up correctly. The study can gauge the entire web experience by intercepting users from the home page or it can be used to evaluate key areas of the site by targeting specific landing pages or sections of the site. The study can also run over a targeted amount of time: users can be intercepted during an ad campaign or over key dates unique to your website and audience (e.g., collecting data on holiday shoppers). Determining the objectives of the study will direct how to best set up and deploy the intercept.

Asking the right questions

To gain the best insights from the study, it’s critical that you ask the right questions. Profile questions like title, age, and experience with technology can shed light on how these user characteristics may be influencing their overall experience. Other questions can be about specific features and behavior on the site. You may want to understand how people are using a specific section of the site, or you may want to find out why a feature is not gaining traction. For example, one of our clients wanted to know why visitors weren’t signing up for their newsletter. After evaluating the site, we noticed the newsletter sign-up was a bit hidden. We suspected users were not seeing the call to action, so we asked visitors if they were aware of the newsletter and if they were interested in receiving it. We found that just under half of visitors weren’t aware of the newsletter, and of those, about half were interested in subscribing to it. With this finding, and other insights from the study, we were able to improve the strategy for increasing newsletter subscriptions.

UX Graph

When in doubt, get an expert

An experienced UX researcher can help you through the logistics, and craft the kinds of questions that will yield the most relevant insights for your specific project. They can also help with analyzing data to discover findings and actionable recommendations on how to improve your site. A good researcher can finally introduce you to your audience.


If you are considering running a True Intent Study, you’ll need to consider:

  1. How much of the website you want to study, depending on areas you want to focus on and the scale of the site—because you want your data to be manageable.
  2. What questions to ask in the survey based on any gaps in knowledge about your users and their experience on the site.
  3. When and for how long to conduct the study, based on things like seasons and site redesign stages. The length of each study will depend on your site traffic, and how long it takes to get a decent amount of participants. We recommend a minimum of 200 participants.
  4. Where to intercept users in relation to the features you want to test.
  5. How to analyze and present the data in a way that gives your team a clear direction on how to improve the site.
  6. When to engage an expert. There is a lot to consider, and a lot to gain. If you have never run a True Intent Study, our UX researchers can lend a hand to ensure it’s done quickly and effectively. With our experts you can design, run, and analyze a study within a few weeks.

Learn more about Merkle's Digital and User Experience capabilities here.