Survey suggests opportunities for our future

Recently I agreed to complete an online survey about an innovative online product that was about to be launched to the marketplace. The 40 questions took about 10 minutes to complete. By the end of it I was feeling frustrated because nowhere in the survey did I have the chance to express what I believed was very important for the planned service. The online survey was very mechanical, as surveys tend to be, and simply did not cater for general user comments and feedback. Was the survey successful? It all depends upon the original purpose of the survey.

The purpose of our recent Latvians Online Survey 2003 was to get your feedback on what is and isn’t working and to confirm that Latvians Online is travelling in the right direction. One thing that we had learnt from our 2001 survey was to significantly reduce the number of questions, from about 100 down to 10 questions. The reasons were twofold. First, most online users today are time-poor and will not even attempt to begin what might seem to be a 10-15 minute exercise. Some may argue differently as this time represents only a small percentage they spend on Latvians Online. The other reason is that we ourselves experienced significant data-overload from the last survey. It resulted in a mammoth task in collating and cross-referencing the data and it wasn’t always clear how we could make best use of this information.

In this survey, besides collecting the usual demographic data (age, gender, country of residence, Latvian language ability) and getting a tally of which sections are most favoured, we decided to focus our analysis on the two open-ended questions: “How can we further improve Latvians Online?” and “Any other comments or feedback?”

Although the survey was not scientific, we were able to pick out common threads and clearly categorise answers into areas that required more attention. In all, we received responses from 567 readers.

The results overwhelmingly show that Latvians Online is a service that continues to grow from your referrals. Nearly 70 percent of respondents have found out about Latvians Online through a friend or relative. Google remains the top search engine and we marvel how often it sends its Googlebot (search robot) to dig for new content on Yahoo! and the other popular search engines are a distant second.

Our most popular sections are News (26 percent), Latvian Links (17 percent), Columns (14 percent), Reviews (11 percent) and the Online Store (10 percent), sending a clear message that we should continue to focus on the content that so many readers seem to enjoy.

Not surprisingly, the issue of language occasionally popped up. Although we do carry some articles in Latvian, most of the Web site is in English, consistent with our motto of “Bringing Latvians together worldwide” or “Katram latvietiem pasaulē.”

Our readship is mainly aged between 31 and 65+, the largest group 46-65 (45 percent) being the baby-boomers, the smallest group (10 percent) the under 30s in whom we hold much promise as we see a resurgence of Latvian youth activities worldwide.

The Latvians Online Update e-mail newsletter is sent out to more than 11,000 readers worldwide in more than 50 countries including the United States and Canada (80 percent of subscribers), Australia (15 percent), the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden and most other European countries. We even have friends in Japan, China, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Pakistan, Iceland and South Africa. Our latest Web site statistics for December 2003 is at an impressive average of 2,400 visitors per day or nearly 75,000 visits (25,000 unique visitors) for the month.

We are very grateful that so many of you took the time to express your opinions as well as suggest future improvements for Latvians Online. Your feedback from the Latvians Online Survey 2003 has allowed us to set some clear goals for 2004 and beyond. Many exciting new ideas have been raised. Just how much can be achieved will depend upon available resources in time, human effort and finances, the three main factors that control any project. We would love to hear from volunteers who would like to help and become a part of the worldwide Latvians Online community.

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