How to create effective survey questions

Surveys are an invaluable tool in generating powerful research. However, like a spoon, surveys are only effective when used properly. Whether they are used to gauge customer service satisfaction or conduct market research, surveys are key to company success.

Before starting the conversation, establish a clear goal for the questions you will be asking. What insights are you trying to collect in this survey? How can you use those insights to make decisions? Determining the type of data you want to gather will help in asking effective survey questions. 

What are some best practices that turn good surveys into great surveys? Begin your survey strategy keeping these concepts in mind:

 

Tools for Survey Creation

Think of designing a survey as putting puzzle pieces together. To be most effective, online surveys are precise in recruiting respondents, identifying a research purpose and using innovative platforms. Instead of putting the pieces together on your own, try using these products and services for survey creation.

For example, Typeform is an online platform that is used to create surveys, polls, quizzes and forms. By using online tools to collect data, you’ll stay organized make responses easier to analyze.

Using Typeform to create a survey

(Source: Typeform)

In addition, you’ll need to come up with drafts for each question type. Rather than relying solely on your own writing abilities to draft a question, use tools like Grammarly to write clearly. The best surveys use multiple types of survey questions, which can consist of:

  • Open ended questions
  • Close ended questions
  • Multiple choice
  • Likert scale questions
  • True or False
  • Short Answer Questions
  • Skip logic question paths

Each type of question serves a unique purpose in gathering accurate data.

Using Grammarly to write out different question types

(Source: Grammarly)

Once you’ve put the pieces in, you’ll be ready to get started creating your survey.

 

Creating A Survey

1. Recruiting Sample Participants 

When recruiting your sample (the people who respond in your survey), select respondents who are most relevant to your research. In some cases, such as an employer surveying its employees, the sample is relatively straight forward. 

In a customer satisfaction survey, you would need to determine your customer profile according to your research. Consider: 

  • Is there a certain age demographic of product users that you are targeting in the research?
  • Is there a customer profile that you are hoping to attract for the future of your product? 

Take care to recruit your sample selectively. Sometimes, you may find that a diverse array of ages and demographics might work best for your responses. In this case, recruiting “general population participants” is the best fit.

2. Transparency in Survey Creation

Explain to your respondents why participating matters. Why are they doing this? Who will be reading their responses?

You wouldn’t be creating your survey without a reason behind your research or without a greater goal to achieve, right? Reasons to create a survey include:

  • improving user experience
  • collecting opinions on an updated product
  • bolstering office culture 

Give your respondents an idea of how they are helping by clearly stating your goals. 

For example, if you’re creating a survey to measure customer satisfaction, explain how the results will improve future products. When surveying employees, explain that employee responses help to develop important changes like leadership and structure. This personal interest will yield more accurate survey results.

In some cases, your survey may ask questions that require respondents to share sensitive information. 

For example, an employee survey about office culture may ask about the behavior of coworkers. Be sure to justify these questions and give your respondents an idea of who will be accessing the information. Explain to respondents that their info is confidential and ensure their comfort throughout the survey. 

Pro Tip: Remember to include a “prefer not to answer” option for questions about personal experiences.

3. Create Concise Survey Questions

Remember in high school when the person sitting next to you filled in random bubbles on a test to leave for lunch early? Chances are, the same thing happens for your respondents while giving their responses. When a survey is too long or unfocused, people are less likely to pay attention or stay active. 

If you’re having a hard time keeping it short, it may be time to rethink your questions. Re-focus on what you are hoping to achieve through this survey and what the research will be used for. Keep questions concise to be as clear as possible. 

The more words on the page, the more likely the respondent is to develop their own understanding of the question.

4. Pinpoint User Experience Indicators 

Products and experiences change over time. 

When asking survey questions about a product, be sure to include information about when your respondents may have used the product. A respondent who used a product last year has a different experience than a respondent who just used the product. 

Use time frames to your advantage in studying what works with the product. Then, find areas that need to be improved as the product progresses over time.

Example:Have you used Product X?”

Don't ask your respondents if they have used a product. Ask how long it’s been since they used it.

Example: Have you used Product X in the last:

  • Week
  • Month
  • Year
  • I have never used Product X

5.  Avoid Leading Questions 

Write questions as questions, not as statements.

Example: “How would you rate a slice of Joe’s Pizza, considered to be New York’s best slice?”

This question already hints that Joe’s Pizza is praised for its slices, which creates a bias for respondents. By including the phrase “considered to be New York’s best slice,” the respondent is more likely to conform to the way the question is written. They won’t write their own opinion of the product.

In addition, using words like “could” and “might” can also leave your audience to interpret a question in different ways. When phrasing questions like normative statements (making a judgement or opinion), it makes the answers given by your respondents less accurate. Remember to stay focused on the purpose of your survey: accurate data.

6. Scaling Questions

In any list of multiple choice answers, remember to offer an entire spectrum of response options. That way, your respondents will reflect on the varying degrees in which they identify with a statement. Here’s an example,

Example: How likely are you to purchase a product packaged in a plastic bottle?

  • Extremely likely
  • Somewhat likely
  • Indifferent
  • Fairly unlikely

In the options available above, the survey does not offer an option for respondents who never purchase products in plastic bottles. Start by assigning the highest possible value (the strongest agreement) and work evenly toward the lowest possible value (high disagreement). 

This method applies to any rating scale questions.

7. Answer options

The survey questions that are most direct often yield the best results. If your respondents aren’t sure exactly what the question is asking, they may respond with a different answer. Explore one idea at a time.

Some ways to re-think survey-making preparation include: 

  • Wording
    • When creating a survey, treat each question as a single idea for your research.
    • Use terms that will be easier to analyze when the results are submitted. 
  • Format
    • Are similarly designed questions grouped together (i.e. does the True or False section mix into the open ended responses)? 

Example: “What suggestions do you have for improving our online service?”

Because of the way this question is worded, respondents may offer suggestions to a wide range of problems. This can include the interface of the website, the design, the user experience, or the product itself. As an alternative, make your question more specific by asking:

“What suggestions do you have for improving the design of our website for users?”

This question was designed directly toward a single subject, leaving less room for the respondent to interpret the question differently. By making sure each question only focuses on one research idea at a time, your data will be stronger. 

 

Summing Up Survey Creation

Overall, remember that the design of the survey will determine how effectively you can conduct your research. Often times, sample surveys are used to help design a list of questions before a survey is created. Clear questions and clear answers will make your survey easier for respondents to deliver accurate responses. It will also make your job easier when collecting and analyzing the responses.

Once you’ve successfully crafted the survey and received results, what do you do with the data? Check out our guide to developing a customer feedback management strategy!


Read: "How to Develop A Customer Feedback Management Platform"



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