Soft launching a survey is not an industry secret. In fact, it’s a standard for researchers that is regarded as a best practice for conducting a successful study.
Intuitively, it makes sense. A soft launch refers to testing an online survey with a smaller sample size before releasing it for wider distribution in order to iron out any kinks. However, the unfortunate reality is that researchers often skip this step because it’s deemed as an expensive process or a waste of precious project time. If a researcher does not prioritize testing for these reasons, it’s even less likely that a client will.
Despite researcher and client apprehension on the topic, a soft launch is actually an integral part of conducting an effective survey. It doesn’t necessarily need to be very costly or take up too much time.
Realistically, it’ll save you resources because effective surveys have cleaner datasets, require less data handling, and reach completion more quickly.
Still not sure whether you should incorporate soft launching into your online survey research yet? Keep on reading…
1. Reaching the right audience
First and foremost, you must verify that your survey is reaching the correct audience. It should not come as a surprise that a survey with an unrefined sample can lead to a polluted dataset. Even if you use a sample provider, you need to ensure that the provided contacts are correct with a smaller test.
2. Refining your invitation
An early indicator of the success of your study is the results behind your survey invitation email. You will be able to see whether your invitation is appealing in a short amount of time. Keep a close eye on whether people are clicking on the links within the email, or if the email has been marked as spam. You can use these metrics to craft survey invitations that stick.
3. Evaluate the sample criteria
Ask yourself; are your criteria too restrictive to reach a large enough sample size? For example: if you’re looking for smartphone users that also own a personal robot, you may run into some trouble finding an audience for your survey. Doing a test launch will tell you pretty quickly if the criteria needs to change and if you need to manage client expectations for the results.
4. Pose clearer questions
An online survey’s “no answer rate” can serve as proof that the questions need to be clarified, posed in a different way, or removed altogether. Non-sensical or dismissive responses can also be indicators of this. In addition, if you find that a certain thing is mentioned over and over in an open-ended question; you can vet to ask further deeper questions on that topic as well.
5. Avoid QA catastrophes
A soft launch survey test is just that – a test. And can be treated as such. Sending your survey out to a smaller sample can help you identify glitches, typos, mistakes. You will also be able to determine if you need to further refine skip patterns and logic.
6. Take note of completion time
Average completion time of a soft launched survey can also help you determine whether you need to remove less important questions or look into having an incentive budget for respondents. Unfortunately, potential respondents will often not take the time to fill out an hour-long survey without a reward, driving your response rate down.
If you’re forced to do a lot of manual work to clean your dataset, then it’s likely you’re not putting enough care and testing into your workflow of survey programming. If potential respondents are not engaging with your survey, the case may be that not enough work has been done to test elements of the survey.
In short, a quick soft launch can help researchers build surveys that are more effective at getting the job done.
And hey! Perhaps you’ll conduct a soft launch survey test and find that everything is set up perfectly. But you owe it to yourself and your clients to ensure your success.