DIY Deja Vu

Deja VuA week doesn’t go by in #MRX land (Market Research in the Twitterverse) without bashing the Do-It-Yourself phenomenon of survey production.

This reminds me of my somewhat distant past in graphic design..I was a Marketing Communications Manager for a large paper company at the time–when the advent of “Desktop Publishing” invaded the hallowed halls of commercial design and production.

At that time Graphic Designers were artists, using pen and paper, specifying fonts and photos, laying out designs with non-photo blue pencil. There were type houses whose sole job was to produce beautiful fonts on sheets of paper for the layout artists to cut and arrange. No WYSIWG here–typesetting was command code only. Think HTML for the dark ages.

Then a little company named Adobe created PostScript enabling Aldus to create PageMaker–the first page layout program.

Suddenly anyone could be a ‘designer’ because they had a new tool that enabled them to layout type and images. Graphic Designers balked at this idea and many resisted the change. But, in time, using a computer to do layouts became de rigueur and those who didn’t have innate talent or training in design fell by the wayside.

It wasn’t enough to just use the tools anymore…

The same is true today in market research. The advent of tools like Google Surveys, Survey Monkey and Survey Gizmo (all good products for basic data collection needs) has made my industry balk at those who send out a “Survey Monkey” to their customers. Companies feel they are engaging with their customers by sending out a survey…except that many of these ‘surveys’ haven’t taken into account biased questions, too many open-ended responses (see this post all about those!), pages and pages of characteristic grids, and many of the other painful survey mistakes we market researchers cringe at.

At some point, like it did for graphic designers, using the tool won’t be enough. We just have to be patient and keep educating companies about what is ‘good research’. Until then, let the teeth gnashing continue.