Five tips for writing an online survey

online survey


When surveying respondents it is always important to respect the time they have given to complete your questionnaire.   It is courtesy when someone is helping you out not to take advantage of them by asking a lot of questions, or questions that are confusing, poorly written or very sensitive.

When you are using an online methodology it is especially important to respect their time.  Often potential respondents are recruited by email and therefore interrupting them while they are doing other tasks.  Perhaps they are interrupted while browsing a website for information, or they are at work checking their emails.  Either way respondents are probably only in the mood to skim read a survey and respond quickly.   Therefore it is important that your online survey is designed to be understood at a glance and responses are quick.

Here are five tips to help you write your online questionnaire

  1. Keep it short – How many times have you been filling out an online survey where there are pages and pages of questions to be answered.  How frustrated do you get?  Many respondents will just drop out, or if there is an incentive click anything to get to the end.   Ensure all questionnaires are less than 5 minutes long.
  2. Limit open- ended questions – Try not to get respondents to have to write too many text based answers.  Sometimes you need to ask open end questions to understand why respondents like or dislike a product or service, or describe why they had a bad customer experience.    However, ensure that questions are only shown to respondents for whom they are relevant, which leads to the next point.
  3. Invest in an upgrade to a pro version of your online survey software – This is will allow you to program skip logic into your questionnaire, and only ask respondents questions that are relevant to them.   For example, if you are asking respondents how interested they are in a new product you are offering, you may wish to direct those who are interested to a question asking them why they are interested, and those who are not interested to a question asking them why they are not interested.   This not only shortens your questionnaire, it prevents irritating your respondents by asking them irrelevant questions.   This also means that you can run an unlimited number of surveys with an unlimited number of responses.    (Check out Fluid Surveys for a cost effective option)
  4.   Send a reminder email – People are busy and sometimes they open their email and think “I will do that survey later”, but they forget.  It is ok to send a reminder a few days later to those who have not yet completed their survey.  However, do not send more than two reminders.
  5.    Spend some time planning your survey – Often when businesses decide they need some market research data, they want it immediately.  Then a questionnaire is quickly written and distributed.   However, when the results come back there are often errors and nobody knows how to interpret the results.

It is better to take some time to

  • Think about the information you require
  • Think about who you need to target
  • Pilot your questionnaire
  • And how you are going to analyse your results

Planning a short well written questionnaire can often give you better results than a long list of unstructured questions.

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