New to Designing Surveys?

Have you been tasked with designing a survey and don’t know where to begin?

You’re not alone. The decision to gather feedback is an easy one, but creating a survey can seem like a daunting task.

With the need for social distancing during these uncertain times, many organizations are turning to online surveys and forms to collect feedback from a wide range of audiences, across all industries.

But why surveys? Businesses and researchers across all industries conduct surveys to uncover answers to specific, important questions. These questions are varied, cover a diverse range of topics, and can be asked in multiple formats.

When planning the design of your survey, you want to have a clear understanding as to why you are completing this research. The first step is to answer the following 5 questions:

1. What is the main goal of the research?
2. What’s the objective of the survey?
3. How do you plan to apply the data?
4. Who else will be seeing and using the data?
5. What decisions will you make as a result of the survey data?

Once you identify and understand why you want to create a survey, you can move forward more confidently in designing it. The information provided below will help you structure your survey, and will cover the following topics:

  • Choose the best survey format
  • Explain the purpose of the survey
  • Set expectations for survey duration
  • Strategically plan and structure your questions
  • Keep the survey relevant to respondents
  • Create an engaging and personalized survey
  • Ensure online surveys are mobile friendly
  • Make your surveys accessible to everyone
  • Thank respondents for their time
  • Test your survey

10 steps to design a survey

1. Choose a survey format.

Before designing your survey, consider which formats are most suited to your research project and potential respondents. Online surveys can be distributed via email, a website or through social media networks, and they can be completed on mobile devices. However, paper surveys can be a more accessible option as they don’t require a computer or an internet connection. Using a combination of online and paper surveys can help to extend your reach, and help to increase response rates.

2. Explain the purpose of the survey.

A well-written introduction is the key to encouraging respondents to complete your survey. Use the introduction to briefly outline the purpose of the survey. Be clear about the goal of your research and what data you need to collect. This will help respondents better understand what feedback you trying to gather, so they can better answer the questions. Present clear, brief, and easy-to-follow instructions on how to complete the questionnaire.

3. Set expectations for survey duration.

Let respondents know how long a survey will take to complete so they can set aside enough time. You can either outline the survey length in your introduction or include a progress bar throughout the questionnaire.

4. Strategically plan and structure questions.

Your questions should be strategically planned and structured in the best ways possible in order to receive the most accurate data.

  • Group similar questions to keep your survey focused with a logical flow.
  • Focus on the first question. Place important, yet non-threatening and interesting questions first. It will encourage respondents to continue and complete the questionnaire. Keep personal or sensitive questions for the end. If the respondent chooses not to finish your survey, you have your most desired information.
  • Avoid asking any unnecessary questions. If a survey is too long, respondents are more likely to get distracted, or they’ll spend less time and effort on each question, which will diminish the quality of responses.
  • Be observant and avoid questions that could influence the answers to subsequent questions. For example, if you ask a respondent to answer a very difficult math question, then follow with a question asking how much they enjoy mathematics, the respondent may be influenced to rate their enjoyment level lower if they struggled to solve the math question. To avoid question order influence in online surveys, randomization can be used – so respondents answer questions in random order.
  • Stay on topic. Survey questions should focus on one topic at a time. More than one topic can confuse a respondent. Don’t try to fit two questions into one – if a question includes ‘and’ it could indicate that it’s asking for two different responses.
  • Keep it simple. Every question should be simple and easy to understand. Avoid using technical terms unless necessary, and use direct language that makes it clear what you are asking about.
  • Use open and closed question styles appropriately. Closed-ended questions with answer choices are often easier for respondents to complete and give you quantitative data to analyze. Open-ended questions allow respondents to give more in-depth responses, in their own word, but do take longer to complete and require more thought.

5. Keep the survey relevant to the respondent.

Create a survey that keeps respondents focused by only showing questions that directly apply to them. Use skip logic to skip irrelevant questions, keeping questions relevant to respondents. This will avoid respondents having to answer unnecessary questions.

6. Create an engaging and personalized survey, where possible.

Use a variety of question styles and make them as engaging as possible with images, drag-and-drop, sliders, or emojis to increase response rates. Personalize the questionnaire with details such as the respondent’s name.

7. Ensure online surveys are mobile friendly.

It’s essential that online surveys can be viewed and completed on a mobile device. If your survey is not mobile friendly, you’ll miss out on valuable feedback.

8. Make your surveys accessible to everyone.

Ensure your online survey is compliant with version 2.1 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and in the US with Section 508 requirements. By doing this, you can increase response rates and collect reduced bias quality data.

9. Thank respondents for their time.

Respondents’ time is valuable. Always conclude a survey by thanking respondents for taking the time to complete it. If they feel that their input is valued, they’ll be more likely to participate in future surveys.

10. Test, test, and test again.

Ask several different people to test out the survey so you can fix any problems before you distribute it.

Learn about using Snap Survey Software to create engaging questionnaires and produce in-depth, customized analysis and reports.

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