Surveys are a powerful tool for collecting valuable data from your target audience, especially if they are utilized effectively and tailored to your customers’ needs.
However, the effectiveness of your survey greatly hinges on its design. A well-designed survey not only ensures high response rates but also yields accurate and actionable information while conducting market research, gathering customer feedback, or conducting user satisfaction surveys.
What is survey design?
Survey design refers to the process of planning, creating, and structuring a survey to collect specific information or data from respondents. It involves careful consideration of various factors, such as the survey objective, target audience, question types, response options, layout, and overall design elements.
The goal of survey design is to create a survey instrument that effectively captures the desired information in a clear, concise, and unbiased manner, while also ensuring a positive user experience for respondents. A well-designed survey maximizes response rates, minimizes respondent confusion, and yields reliable and meaningful data for analysis and decision-making.
How can you create a great survey design?
Define clear objectives
Start your survey by clearly defining the objectives and what you want from the study. If you have multiple objectives, list them down in the order of priority so that you know what’s important. Doing this can help you when you’re in the process of designing your survey and ensure you collect relevant and actionable data.
Identify the target audience
Understanding your target audience is vital for designing a survey that resonates with them. Consider their demographics, characteristics, and knowledge level to tailor the survey's language, tone, and complexity accordingly.
Choose the right question types
Selecting appropriate question types is crucial for collecting accurate and meaningful data. Common question types include multiple-choice, open-ended, Likert scale, ranking, and demographic questions. Choose the ones that align with your objectives and ensure they are clear, concise, and easy to understand.
Include an introductory statement
Begin the survey with a brief introduction that explains the purpose, confidentiality, and estimated time required to complete it. This helps set expectations and encourages participation.
Establish a logical flow
Organize your survey questions in a logical and coherent manner. Start with introductory questions to engage respondents, progress to more specific and potentially sensitive topics, and end with demographic questions or any concluding remarks. A well-structured survey ensures a smooth respondent experience.
Keep it short and focused
Design surveys that are concise and focused. If there are too many questions, users might get irritated and drop off from the survey or not pay attention to the answers they are providing.
Test and refine
Before launching your survey, conduct a pilot test with a small sample of respondents. This allows you to identify any issues with question clarity, flow, or technical aspects. Based on the pilot test results, refine the survey to ensure its effectiveness and eliminate potential biases.
Survey design best practices
Use simple language and avoid jargon
While creating questions, remember that your respondents might not have the same technical expertise you have – so use simple language and explain any complex ideas that might be present. Also, avoid jargon and abbreviations – if you need to use them, make sure you provide an explanation so that your respondents know what you’re talking about. Consider the education level and background of your target audience and craft questions that are easy for them to understand. For example, instead of asking, "What is your preferred modality for knowledge acquisition?", you can rephrase it as, "How do you prefer to learn new things?"
Provide balanced response options
Avoid leading questions
Leading questions can introduce bias and influence respondents' answers. Formulate questions in a neutral and unbiased manner, allowing respondents to express their genuine opinions or experiences without undue influence. For example, instead of asking, "Don't you agree that our product is superior to competitors?" you can rephrase it as, "How would you rate the quality of our product compared to competitors?"
Consider question order and bias
The order of questions can impact respondents' answers. Be mindful of question sequencing and potential biases that may arise from the order in which questions are presented. Randomizing or counterbalancing questions can help minimize bias. For instance, if you're surveying customer satisfaction, you can alternate between positive and negative aspects of the experience to balance the impact of question order on respondents' responses.
Use skip logic and branching
To enhance respondent experience and collect relevant data, employ skip logic or branching. This feature directs respondents to different sets of questions based on their previous answers, ensuring they only encounter questions that are relevant to them. For example, if a respondent indicates that they haven't purchased a particular product, you can skip follow-up questions related to that product and focus on their interactions with other offerings.
Design for mobile devices
As more surveys are taken on mobile devices, it is essential to design surveys that are mobile-friendly and responsive. Optimize the survey layout and formatting to provide a seamless experience across various devices. Use a clear and intuitive interface with appropriately sized buttons and text that is easily readable on smaller screens. Test your survey on different mobile devices and adjust as needed to ensure optimal usability.
Ask one question at a time
Each survey question should focus on a single topic or concept. Avoid double-barreled questions that ask about multiple things at once, as they can lead to confusion and biased responses. For example, instead of asking, "How satisfied are you with our customer service and product quality?" split it into two separate questions: "How satisfied are you with our customer service?" and "How satisfied are you with our product quality?"
Use images where possible
Integrating images into your survey can enhance the respondent experience and provide additional context to the questions being asked. Visual elements can help clarify concepts, evoke emotions, or provide visual cues for respondents to better understand the context of the question. For example, if you're conducting a survey about food preferences, including images of different dishes can make it easier for respondents to express their preferences or indicate their familiarity with specific items. However, it's essential to ensure that the images are clear, relevant, and do not introduce any bias or confusion.
Provide response options
For multiple-choice questions, provide a comprehensive list of response options that cover all possible answers. Include an "other" or "none of the above" option when necessary to avoid forcing respondents into predetermined choices.
Offer incentives and show appreciation
To encourage participation and improve response rates, consider offering incentives or showing appreciation to respondents. This can be in the form of discounts, gift cards, or a sincere thank-you message at the end of the survey. Alternatively, a simple thank-you message at the end of the survey can show gratitude for their time and valuable input.
Balance positive and negative wording
When using rating scales or Likert-type questions, balance the use of positive and negative wording to avoid response bias. Alternating positive and negative statements can help minimize response acquiescence or bias toward extreme responses. For example, if you're assessing customer satisfaction, include both positively phrased statements like "The product exceeded my expectations" and negatively phrased statements like "The product fell short of my expectations."
Make sure you analyze the results
Collecting survey responses is only the first step; analyzing the results is equally important to extract meaningful insights. Once you have gathered a sufficient number of responses, carefully analyze the data using appropriate statistical methods or qualitative techniques, depending on the nature of your survey. Look for patterns, trends, and correlations among the responses to identify key findings and draw conclusions. Consider cross-tabulating responses to explore relationships between different variables. It's also essential to interpret the results within the context of your research objectives and any limitations or biases inherent in the survey design. By conducting a thorough analysis, you can derive actionable insights that can inform decision-making and drive improvements in your product or service.
It’s important to remember that survey design is a continuous learning process; it's important to regularly evaluate and refine your surveys based on feedback and data analysis. By investing time and effort in thoughtful survey design, you can unlock the full potential of surveys as a powerful tool for decision-making, improving user experiences, and driving business growth.