A Terrible User Experience & how to fix it– Zoomerang.com

When running a website, its important to make sure that the user can achieve their goal with the minimal fuss. This is especially important if you are selling, or trying to sell, a commercial service. I recently had to use Zoomerang.com, a survey site, and had a few notes about the user experience. As you’ll remember, I don’t rant often…

I’m in the process of designing a GPS game, and am currently discovering the functional requirements for the project. As UX practitioners, we know that involving the user is of critical importance at this stage, hence we designed a questionnaire to establish peoples experience, and perception of GPS games, and what they’d like a GPS game to be like. (linked here)

When at university, our internet access goes through a proxy server, which blocks unsuitable content. For some reason, this includes surveymonkey.com, a site I’ve used a few times in the past to construct online surveys. Interestingly, the ‘site blocked’ dialogue said “for survey sites, try zoomerang.com”. However, when I search for some hardcore action, it never gives me alternate suggestions for that. Have I uncovered a conspiracy? Nonetheless, I followed the link.

And so I ended up on zoomerang.com. Being fair, there is one key advantage to zoomerang which immediately put me in a good mood. On surveymonkey, for a free account, you are limited to ten questions. On Zoomerang, you can ask 30 questions before you have to pay. This meant we didn’t have to redo, or concatenate our questions, and made me smile inside

smiley eye

Pictured: an inside smile

Problems with Zoomerang.com

This goodwill was shortlived, when I tried to use the site to implement my questionnaire. Heres why:

  1. The workflow isn’t clear when making a survey, and so I entirely missed the step where you add your questions. Clicking through the process actually caused me publish a blank questionnaire. Which wouldn’t be a problem, except…
  2. …You can’t edit an existing survey. Once its published, you cannot add/remove/change questions. Surveymonkey allows this. So I was stuck with my blank survey, and had to start again from scratch.
  3. Having figured out how to add questions, I got started, and selected “insert question”. It added a header, which then had to be changed to type question. I guessed that was because it was my first item, but no, it always defaults to inserting a header (odd, since you’d only need 1 per page, whereas you’d need multiple questions).
  4. So I finally got to add a question, and this is when the terribleness of the design struck me. I selected a question where a radio button would select from a number of answers, and typed in my list of 15 or so alternative answers into a rich text field. I hit submit, and … got an error, saying “answers can only be 1000 characters, including HTML”, and even worse…
  5. …It deleted the data I had entered in that field. All 15 answers. This is a critical failure of any system, since the data a user inputs should be considered sacred.
  6. There was no counter telling me how many characters I had entered, so I had to retry a few times. Eventually I realised that I could only enter 5 potential one word answers before it’d error that I was over 1000 characters. That had to be a mistake? I investigated further…
  7. …Looking at the HTML, it turned out that the rich text editor was writing rubbish html. At the start of each answer, it’d add needless style tags, often multiple times. Heres an example of the HTML it generated for my one word answer “complicated”

    <p><span style=”font-family: Arial; color: #000000; font-size: small;”><span style=”font-family: Arial; color: #000000; font-size: small;”><span style=”font-family: Arial; color: #000000; font-size: small;”>Complicated</span></span></span></p>
  8. …no wonder it was hitting the character limit after 4 or 5 words. I had to manually enter the html for all the possible answers, just so I could get round this.
  9. My last fault with zoomerang.com is just a suspicion. I look after my email accounts, and so have never received spam in my current primary address. After signing up for zoomerang last week, I received my first random spam email. Might just be a coincidence, but I didn’t sign up for anything else that week!
Code HTML Guy

I had to call this guy to fix my survey

How to fix zoomerang.com

To improve their user experience, they should look at red-routing the goals the user needs to achieve:

  1. Make the progression through survey design clearer, highlighting which step questions are added in
  2. Also make it clear how far through the design process you are, and what steps remain
  3. Restrict what the user can do, so they cannot post a blank questionnaire. Its obvious if they are about to do this that they’ve made a mistake, tell them!
  4. Don’t make question types default to “header”. Surely users will only use this type once at most, whereas they’re going to have more than one question on the questionnaire. Make it default to that!
  5. Fix the WYSIWYG code generator, so that the user doesn’t have to manually code the answers in HTML. A lot of user’s would get stuck at this point!
  6. Don’t send me spam!

And what can you do, until these fixes are made? Use surveymonkey.com. Or, if you’ve found anything better, leave a comment and let me know!

150 150 Steve Bromley
  • Hey Steve,
    Sounds really frustrating! I do have a suggestion next time you want to do a survey, and one that doesn’t have a question limit, even on Free accounts! Check out SurveyGizmo.com. Here is a direct link to create a free account:

    Full disclosure, I am actually employed by SurveyGizmo, so the recommendation is a bit biased, yet still completely a good idea!

  • Thanks for the recommendation Mario, will try it out next time I’m making a survey, and share my thoughts!

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  • Hi Steve,

    I was recently using Zoomerang and it looks like they have updated their application to address many of these issues. Maybe they were listening!

    How about trying it again and posting a review of the changes?

  • Excellent, will have to do a re-review in the near future 🙂
    Thanks for letting me know!

  • Steve, thanks for sharing your experience. I was doing a search on Zoomerang to find out what users think and found your post informative. One thing that really struck a chord with me was the comment from Mark. It looks like a plant to me (meaning someone from Zoomerang posted it but did not disclose that fact), unlike Mario who was open about his reasoning for commenting. I’m going to continue on with my search to see what other reviews I come across, and you can bet I’m going to read all the comments with an eagle eye from now on.

  • I agree, he does sound like a plant. I wonder if following up with a re-review would find the same issues… interesting! 🙂

  • Hi,

    No plant. I have been using Zoomerang and did come across some of the issues you mentioned. Since you took the time to voice your thoughts, I figured you may be interested to know that they made some changes not too long ago. I find another user’s opinion to be more valuable than an employee pitching their product.

  • Hello! I’m a marketing manager at Zoomerang and I wanted to chime in 🙂

    Steve, I appreciate the detailed post and I can tell you that any feedback is good feedback – especially when it’s constructive and detailed like yours is.

    Many of the points you raised are not only accurate, but I and my team share your frustration. Zoomerang was one of the first online survey apps launched back in 1999 and although we have launched many new features and improvements, I will be the first to admit that we have not kept as vigilant an eye on usability.

    Great news is that we have already launched a first phase of improvements that went live last month. You’ll notice now that the survey creation process has been streamlined, simplified and de-cluttered. We were making it just too complex to get a survey out the door and the improvements have already been helping our subscribers create surveys quicker and with fewer issues.

    Not sure who the Mark person is that commented but, yes, I agree – full disclosure is the only way to go so you can expect only that from us.

    Please feel free to reach out to me (rob.glickmanATmarkettools.com) at anytime – I would love to get your thoughts on either our improved UI or any other thoughts you have on how to improve Zoomerang further.



  • Interesting find Rob, is that an approved marketing scheme at Zoomerang? Inspired by this blog post maybe!
    Checking alexa.com shows that my blog isn’t popular enough for someone to make money posting pro-zoomerang comments, pity!

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