Science fiction, fantasy, & horror - web design, graphic design, interactive media development by greententacles

Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror - Web Design, Graphic Design, Interactive Media Development by Greententacles 2019-09-22 GMT


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A Survey of Nuketown

~ by Kenneth J. Newquist (December 2000) ~

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Nuketown is a heroic speculative fiction webzine, and I've been its editor since its inception in 1996. Over that time I've formed intuitive, intimate knowledge of the site that comes from hours of tweaking of its back-end, adding new features, and answering the constant (and sometimes bizarre) e-mail from visitors.

Based on e-mail and Nuketown's web traffic logs, I guessed that:

Nuketown's visitors were probably older than teenagers folks associate with science fiction the hoaxes, short stories and news sections were the most heavily trafficked. the newsletter's most popular feature was the Zine Scene, which included brief blurbs about various other zines on the net.

But as GreenTentacles approached Nuketown's redesign, it was obvious that there was a lot we didn't know -- really know -- about the site. We had plenty of guesses, but few facts.

We needed a Reader Survey.

Preparing for the Survey The first question we had to answer was what was the purpose of the survey? Did we need a short survey focusing on what people wanted to see added or removed from a redesigned Nuketown? Or did we need a long survey that collected demographic information and information what folks wanted to see? Did we want to give away something to respondents? Or did we only want answers from those we didn't reward?

Because we were initiating Nuketown's first ever survey, we decided to go with a long survey that asked all the questions about:

  • demographics
  • the current site
  • the redesign
  • the newsletter
  • possible projects
  • new sections
  • We decided not to give prizes for responding because we wanted to learn what kind of a response we could expect from unrewarded readers. We also weren't sure what readers would want for filling out the survey - so we added that very question to the survey. The final survey included 30 questions; the ones dealing with Nuketown were required, those involving demographic (personal) information were optional. We made sure the entire survey conform to Nuketown's privacy policy. And finally, we decided the survey would run in the April 2000 edition of the zine.

    With the questions in hand, we began working on the "Pick Your Brain" advertising campaign to promote the survey. The campaign included:

  • Four banner ads (one for each week of the survey) asking "Nuketown is Changing: Mind If We Pick Your Brain?"
  • Two newsletter ads asking the same question
  • An "soapbox" editorial explaining the redesign
  • A news article announcing the survey
  • The Results

    The results were both expected and surprising. On the expected side, we found that our short story, news and hoax sections were indeed very popular. We also found our readership didn't meet the standard "pimply-faced teenager" perception of the sci-fi crowd, being both older and better educated.

    There were some very interesting results. We found our readers liked the idea of a print anthology honoring Nuketown's 5th anniversary, were ambivalent toward an Adobe Acrobat edition of a zine, and favored Nuketown branded mugs and T-shirts over radiation suits and pen knifes. They also disliked the idea of paying for premium access.

    And then there were the findings that dropped our jaws. Our audience held a few shocks. We expected that our audience was older, perhaps in the 20 to 40 year old range, with perhaps some as old as 60. Our findings agreed with our informal guesses, but also exceeded them. The youngest respondent was 19, and the oldest was 82! On the economic side of things, our readers yearly salaries ranged from under $20k to over $100k, with an average around $55k. There were content surprises two -- some folks said our Nukeshop e-commerce area (which was implemented as more of an afterthought than anything else), was their favorite section.

    At the end of the survey we had received 22 responses. Although for the demographics portion of the survey it wouldn't be considered scientifically valid, the few responses that we received gave us a wealth of information that really helped us direct the changes that were to come at Nuketown.

    We plan to make the Nuketown Readers Survey an annual feature, perhaps offering some of the T-shirts that folks were interested in as rewards. This way we can continually check our progress, and make sure what we are doing with Nuketown and its content is valid and useful to our readers.

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