We want our users to have an excellent user experience whenever possible. Whether you're working from an application or a website, how you gather data should not impede user experience.
Data collection discussions frequently pop up in the media. Different news outlets discuss how companies, governments, and organizations already gather data, what types and how much data they collect, and the benefits and downsides of data collection for the everyday person. They weigh in on new advances in data collection, like the company that wants to develop a "planetary nervous system" for the entire Earth.
For people who work in the tech industry, questions like "what type of user data should you collect?" are commonly debated. We all agree that we need access to data, but people have different opinions on the best way to go about collecting it and how that data gathering process affects the user experience.
Take a look at our eBook A Guide to the Design-Focused Software Cycle for a methodology that ensures the user experience is the priority.
We're going to say it: you always need to keep your user experience in mind when you gather data. Earlier this year, New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission passed new regulations requiring ride services companies to share passenger pickup and destination data, prompting a huge backlash from privacy groups and many NYC residents. Some users have become so frustrated with what they see as unreasonable data collection practices that they've established Data Privacy Day, a day devoted to every person's right to control his/her personal data.
At a national level, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently passed laws that require ISPs to get explicit permission from users before selling any data they've collected.
Some companies address data collection and privacy concerns by associating all data collected about a person with a User ID instead of a person's real name whenever possible. But for many professional associations, you need your members' actual name and contact information in your system.
Consider the following recommendations to address concerns about data collection and make your association's data-gathering process as user-friendly as possible.
1: Have Clean Data
You want the data collection process to be fast and painless. Redundancy makes everyone's lives slower and less productive. Having "clean data" means that all of your information is well-organized and formatted. Clean data helps ensure that your data is as accurate and up-to-date as possible.
You'll also want to make sure that your data systems are integrated, meaning that once a member fills out a piece of information, that info should automatically populate across all of your data. If a member updates payment information in your AMS, that change should carry over into your financial system as well. If your databases don't currently work this way, brainstorm ways to improve them and consider outsourcing the creation of a data warehouse app.
2: Learn About Their Interests - But Keep it Relevant
You want to learn important information about your members in order to produce relevant content that appeals to them and provides them value. Identify which pieces of data you absolutely need -- and ask only these questions. If you ask too much of your members, it's unlikely that they'll want to provide that much personal data.
For example, marketers recommend including as few form fields as possible on landing pages which ask users to provide contact information to receive an offer. While some marketers have used forms that ask their target audience for 16 pieces of personal information, that's not the norm.
One way to continue to learn about your members but avoid the friction that coincides with a long form, is to create smart forms. With smart forms you can ask a new question of your member each time you serve them the form. This is a great way to continue to learn about your member and the type of information they want from you. ONe thing to watch out for though ,ensure content that is gated in this way is premium and worth the effort. Also, identify the top three things you want to know, after two or three times a member does this they may start to develop form-fatigue and avoid that content in the future.
3: Require Less Work on the User End
On the flip side, consider not using forms at all! Think about incorporating snippets of code that can identify member information automatically via a script so that users don't have to self-select on the front end.
For example, if your members need to submit a promo code to gain access to gated content, include the promo code into the script based on where they enter your site from While forms and questionnaires can help you garner data from a large group of people, you can implement software that eliminates this step and records the info without any work on the user's end. This way, you can seamlessly learn more about your existing members.
If you want your users to keep coming back, develop a clear, non-intrusive way to collect the data you absolutely need in a way that doesn't require a lot of work from your members. Identify what data is essential, and don't ask them for superfluous info. You want your users to have a great user experience when they use your product, and the last thing you want is to come off invasive.
For a look at our process that ensures the user experience and design of the software gets its due, download our eBook below.