Top 10 Best Practices for Online Surveys
By Griffin Granberg on July 30, 2013
Use these best practices for your next survey to yield better data.
One of the best ways to keep your finger on the pulse of your business or organization is to gather feedback from your most valuable asset – your customers. Efficiently gathering feedback, analyzing it, and acting on it in a meaningful way can increase your business or organization’s success as well as strengthen your end-user’s experience with your company, products and services.
To help gather insightful customer feedback or market research from your customers, users, donors, employees, students, academic cohorts, and any other constituents important to you or your organization, we’ve assembled the Top 10 Best Practices for effectively building, deploying and promoting an awesome and valuable online survey.
- Identify and define your survey’s objective. Before you begin, ask yourself, “What feedback do I really want from my customers?” Once you define precisely what you want to know, think about survey questions that get at the root of the issue – getting you to your well-defined objective. It’s very important to take a few minutes to plan your survey goals so you can ask effective, efficient questions that get you the results you can act on. Keep your surveys succinct and focused and avoid the slippery slope of going on a tangent to ask “just one more question.”
- Keep your survey short and simple. The purpose of surveys is to gather insightful feedback and research. In order to yield the most responses out of your survey, think first about the potential respondent’s time as well as their ability to focus while possibly on the go. We recommend taking your own survey prior to deploying it. Make sure it reads well, is easy to understand and takes only a few minutes to complete. Also, try avoiding questions with too many options. For example, multiple select questions should not exceed 5 options per question. If you have trouble with this, try breaking the question into multiple questions or try rephrasing it.
- Design your survey around the results you want. Sounds simple, right? It’s easier than you think to lose sight of your objective and develop questions that are not efficient – or effective. Asking close-ended questions generates results that are easy to analyze and act on. If your questions are open-ended it becomes quite difficult to derive any value out of the data, spot trends or identify something you need to take action on. In some cases, you may need to add questions that are open-ended and require the respondent to type in their response. Be mindful that these types of questions, while sometimes of great value, can dramatically increase the time it takes to complete the survey. Plus, the responses are harder to quantify and require in-depth review in order to extract actionable (or insightful) data.
- Each survey question should have only one point. You would be surprised how common it is for people to combine multiple items in one question. If you combine to unrelated subjects into one question it, it produces vague responses. For example, avoid asking something like “Do you like hiking and camping?” While these seem highly correlated, they’re actually unrelated subjects. Note: When giving an option of “Other,” it’s recommended to provide a text box for free text answers.
- Don’t ask questions that bias the response. Ask questions in a manner that doesn’t influence or trend the responses in a particular way. For instance, if you’re looking to gauge a customer’s likelihood of referring your business to a friend, use a scale that ranges from “not very” to “extremely” with a few degrees in between versus using extremes like “Never” or “Always.”
- Too many required questions decreases response rate. We recommend making sure that you only require responses for those questions that you absolutely need in order to take action. If too many questions within a survey are required, respondents are likely to get frustrated and dropout from responding to your survey altogether.
- Prioritize and order your survey questions. Survey questions should be easy, interesting and engaging. Also, the order of your questions matter. The first couple of questions should serve as a hook to get the respondent interested. Note: Typically, you get higher quality responses towards the beginning of your survey so prioritize accordingly.
- Create a logical flow for your survey questions. When designing a survey, be sure to group your questions that cover similar or related topics. You may also want to consider adding Free Text Boxes to create and introduce sections of the survey. Page Breaks are also useful in breaking up longer surveys to prevent the feeling of “endless scrolling.”
- Test your survey before deploying. Once you’ve completed building your survey, send it to a couple of trusted associates as well as yourself for testing purposes. Consider timing how long it takes to complete the survey. Ask your testers for any feedback on the flow and question quality. Most importantly, review the results and analytics to assure that the questions you’re asking are providing you useful, insightful and actionable data.
- Share the results and any actions with your respondents. Let your respondents know what you’ve learned and what actions you’ll be taking as a result of their precious feedback. Like anything, following up helps validate your relationship and sends the message that their feedback matters and can make a difference. When customers feel like their opinion matters, and that they’re a part of the business, they’re more likely to provide genuine, constructive and insightful feedback.
Try putting these best practices to work as you build and deploy your next online survey with TidySurveys – it’s sure to be a success!
Be sure to check out the TidySurveys Blog often as we’re dedicated to helping you build better, more beautiful, online and mobile-friendly surveys that give you valuable and actionable data.