7 tips for better online surveys

We’ve all had a bad survey experience – whether it involved having to go through pages and pages of questions, or trying to decipher an incomprehensible statement.
Surveys can be incredibly valuable tools to gather feedback on a large scale, are quick to design and send out to respondents, and can be analysed using various online survey tools.

If you’re trying your hand at online surveys, or just want a refresher on some important aspects, here are a few tips to make sure you are creating a good survey.

Survey completion

1.    What are you really asking?

It’s important to be clear about the focus of your survey, which will then shape the focus of your questions. A good survey won’t be trying to find out too many different types of information at once, but instead try and cover different facets of one topic.

2.    Keep it short and sweet

The longer the survey, the higher the drop-off rate. This also works for question length, so keeping your questions shorter and simpler will go a long way to ensure participants are still engaged with the survey by the 2nd or 3rd page in.

3.    Avoid leading questions

Avoid writing questions in a way that will bias respondents’ answers. Participants can be swayed into answering the way they think is expected from the tone of the question. Asking “How bad did you think that movie was?” will elicit different responses to “What did you think of that movie?”

4.    Decide on quantitative vs. qualitative

Survey questions can gather quantitative data (where respondents select from closed set of answers), or qualitative data (where responses can be open-ended text fields).
Which type to use depends on what you are trying to find out, but as a general rule open-ended responses will be more difficult to analyse. They are sometimes best used in conjunction with quantitative questions to add a bit more context around people’s answers.

5.    Use ratings consistently

Questions which use rating scales can be a valuable way to get rich quantitative data from your audience. If you do choose to use rating scales, make sure you use them consistently throughout your survey If you start off assigning 1 as “Very good” and 5 as “Very poor” it is best to stick to this order rather than flip it around later on in the survey.

Rating scales in surveys

6.    End on a high note

At the end of your survey, think of ending on a positive note for users, after all they have just stuck with you through X number of questions. Whether it’s by offering an incentive at the end of the survey, or just writing a message of thanks, remember to be courteous to your respondents and end their survey experience on a positive note.

7.    Test the survey

It’s good practice to road-test a survey before it goes live, particularly if it will be large-scale. Test the survey on a smaller sample of participants beforehand, and take a look at the data you are getting to make sure everything is working as expected.

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