In tomorrow's Toronto Globe and Mail: On-line surveys help sites improve. The article makes this claim:
Having the best Web designers on the planet is no guarantee of getting it right the first time, or even the second. The only way to know for sure that you're hitting the mark is to ask customers.
In reading it, I was instantly reminded of Jakob Nielsen's column First Rule of Usability? Don't Listen to Users, in which he claims:
To design an easy-to-use interface, pay attention to what users do, not what they say. Self-reported claims are unreliable, as are user speculations about future behavior.
OK, so we have two very different opinions here. But I think they're both valid points.
I'm of the belief that users know a little something about their Web surfing habits, and therefore it can be useful to ask them what your site is doing wrong or right. But Jakob has a point -- sometimes users aren't the coldest beers in the fridge, and what they say isn't really helpful.
I'm curious as to how common these online surveys are in the Web news world. To what degree do sites use them? Are they helpful? My experience with them has been minimal.