Planning for Kumu When Defining Field Types

Planning for Kumu When Defining Field Types

Most surveys aren't designed with complex data-visualization in mind, so even people are adept at making surveys sometimes overlook the fact that the mapping context is different.
Defining survey questions and field types in the context of Social System Mapping requires us to add another layer of thought to the process - how we might want to visualize the information we're asking for.

For instance -  if you want to cluster on a variable (as in the image below), you have to use a standardized list (checkbox, select, or radio button fields). This creates a tension for mappers - between enabling members to self-define their responses, and having pre-defined options. Most people don't like to be put into boxes and having to define important aspects of oneself off of a pre-defined list can be off-putting. But if you leave the survey too open-ended, the information becomes un-findable and becomes irrelevant.

With this tension, we usually recommend using both approaches for key questions. A checkbox field that helps with filtering and clustering in Kumu, plus an open-ended field about the same topic that enables people to expand and use their own words.

Another consideration is how long to make a list. The right length depends on what you plan to do with it. If you want to use flags (those slices of color that surround the circles on a Kumu map) to visualize a dimension, you should only use 2-8 different options in the list. Using more than eight flag colors generally makes the flags too visually busy to discern the message - making the flags irrelevant and detrimental to understanding.

With Radio buttons - be very careful because radio buttons always have a pre-defined default, which may not be appropriate for the question being asked.

The more you're in the habit of thinking about visualizations as a survey is being developed, the better your final outcomes will look, and the less you'll have to go back and change things.

But at the same time, survey development is often a collaborative effort and it's not worth pushing a 'right way' hard enough to alienate folks.

I've been doing this as long as anyone now, but when I suggest a better way (of mapping) and try to explain why it's better, I still sometimes get push-back. I continually work on learning how to explain what I mean better and better, because maybe the problem is just my lack of clarity.

But the other thing that helps to keep in mind is - my brain isn't the only one at work here. When I get strong push-back, I realize - there's something going on that I don't understand. Whether it's relevant to the task at hand or not, I don't know. But the best way to resolve the situation is to just let them go where they want it to go. If there's something they can learn, but aren't ready to learn yet - seeing it in a map will help move them closer.

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