Survey questionnaires are a basic way to obtain that crucial primary market research data you need to launch your business in a smarter and smoother way. Taking the time to create a complex yet well-designed questionnaire gives you useful and accurate insight into your audience’s opinions. Here’s a compilation of tips for getting your surveys off the ground:
- Keep it short. In general, the shorter the questionnaire, the higher the response rate. Establish a clear goal for your market research project and only ask the questions that will lead directly to this goal. Language should also be brief and easy to understand.
- Keep it simple and logical. As complex as you make the back-end logic in your online surveys, the respondent should always have a simple, logical experience. When you are programming the questions, be sure to fully flesh out the skip logic. Automatically skip questions that are irrelevant based upon a respondent’s previous responses.
- Choose the right platform. If your questionnaire is going to be full of complex skip logic and open-ended questions, consider asking your audience via an interviewer. This can be accomplished over the phone or face-to-face. The software will automatically skip irrelevant questions, lending to the smooth experience for the respondent and the interviewer. Note that with interviews, you can also record the more qualitative, open-ended answers.
- Use open-ended questions sparingly. Closed-ended questions are easier for respondents to answer and easier for researchers to analyze. Make sure that you only use a few open-ended questions to dig deeper on key issues where you think it’s essential that a respondent answers more freely.
- Avoid leading questions. Questions like “Why do you prefer X product over Y product?” are a turnoff for respondents and lead to skewed survey results. Be sure to only ask that type of question only after a respondent has already claimed they prefer X over Y in a previous question. (this is the basis of skip logic!)
- Avoid compound questions. Each question should only ask one thing. Consider every possible answer. If you ask ‘How often to you purchase products X and Y?’, you’re actually asking two questions and that can frustrate or confuse respondents.
- Avoid ambiguous questions. In the question “Do you purchase X regularly?”, ‘regularly’ can mean different things to different respondents. Be sure that every element to your questions can only be defined one way. Also avoid questions that are hard to answer, eg. asking respondents to remember something from long ago, or to anticipate something in the future.
- Use clear response scales. Response scales assess levels of agreement or satisfaction. They’re the perfect work-around for avoiding ambiguity in questions, and the data they gather is easy to analyze. We recommend using scales with 5 points (eg. strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree and strongly disagree). But don’t be shy about putting some personality into the responses, and avoid massive grids of scaled questions as they can be seriously off-putting.
- Keep it clean and visually appealing. Consider font size, length of paragraphs, white space, visual appeal, branding and mobile rendering. All of these can make a big difference to response rates.
- Pre-test. Set aside a small portion of your respondent database to use as testers. These could be friends and family, or some of your most loyal customers. This small group can tell you if your survey was easy to follow and clear. Also, try to ‘break’ the logic of your survey yourself. Go through the survey a few times trying to think of every possible situation where a respondent would be answering, and see if the logic holds up.
It’s amazing how many questionnaires we see that ignore some or all of these basic rules. A well-designed questionnaire leads to valuable research that actually means something. Ready to get started, but want more guidance? We can lead the way!