How to write survey questions
If this is the first time you’ve conducted online research, you may be wondering how to create a survey. A poor survey design can drastically reduce respondent engagement and completion rates.
In turn, this will impact the quality of your results.
If you have a high number of drop outs, you’ll be left with an incomplete set of results.
This will make it more difficult to draw any conclusions from your data.
The respondents who do stick around may still disengage. So it’s important to get your questions and design just right.
1. Start with easy or interesting questions
The first question you ask respondents will impact whether they stick around.
Begin with an interesting or easy question.
Save demographic and sensitive questions for the end of your survey. These can be off-putting, but respondents are more likely to answer them if they’ve completed the rest of your survey.
Learn more about what demographic questions to ask in surveys, from Hubspot.
2. Ask one question at a time
Your survey questions should only ask one thing at a time. Double-barrelled questions can be confusing and cause drop outs.
You should also keep questions short as not to overwhelm respondents.
If a question needs a bit more context, then insert a text box above the question field.
If you can, limit the number of questions you ask respondents. Asking too much can lead too fatigue.
3. Don’t ask leading questions
These questions are framed in a way that encourages respondents to choose one answer over another.
It’s often a result of the researcher’s opinion or desired data influencing content.
Do you have any problems with your team?
How would you describe your working relationship with your team.
4. Randomize answers for multiple-choice question
Two forms of response bias are where only positive or primary answer choices are made.
I.e. respondents only answer in the affirmative or choose the first available answer.
Randomizing your answer order will avoid any one answer being too heavily weighted in your results.
Avoid ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions
For some reason, respondents tend to answer in the affirmative to yes or no questions (i.e. choosing ‘yes’). So, it’s best to avoid them.
Instead, offer them a list of possible answers to choose from.
Do you drink Coca-Cola?
A: Yes | B: No
Which of these do you drink?
A: Coca-Cola | B: Pepsi | C: Dr Pepper | D: Fanta
This doesn’t apply across the board. For some questions, ‘yes’ and ‘no’ make sense as the options. For example, “do you have a drivers’ license?”.
5. Don’t over-use matrix question types
Too many matrix questions can be a put off for respondents. Not only do they take up large amounts of the page, they’re not very engaging.
A disengaged respondent will drop out or give you bad data.
If you are using matrices, don’t ask for any more than 7 subjects to be rated on the same scale.
Too many will cause respondents to lose sight of the scale as they move down the matrix.
6. Include ‘Opt-Out’ answer options
You may think you’ve covered all the bases when writing answers for a question.
But your respondents may not feel this way.
It’s best to provide an answer option like an N/A or ‘Other’ field to give these respondents a way to opt out of a question.
Learn more about the different types of survey questions.
Tips for creating online surveys
1. Be transparent with respondents
If respondents are invested, you’re going to collect high quality data.
A way of achieving this is by explaining how their answers will help you meet your research goals.
2. Shorter surveys collect better results
It’s important to try keep respondents engaged.
For the best results, your survey shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes to complete.
If you have a lot of questions on a single page, consider splitting them up onto separate pages.
You can use page breaks and titles to make your survey more digestible.
3. Only show relevant questions
A good way to reduce completion time is to only show questions relevant to each respondent.
When creating a survey, break up sets of related questions onto individual pages.
Then use skip logic to filter respondents based on their answer choices.
The will not only reduce the completion time, but make your project seem personal to participants.
4. It should be inclusive
All questions and answers in your survey should be understandable to all.
The use of industry specific jargon or complex terms can alienate respondents.
If it’s essential you use this kind of language, provide explanations or examples before questions.
5. Make sure it’s accessible on all devices
Your respondents will be using a range of devices.
So, you’ll have to ensure that the survey tool you use works for both desktop and mobile devices.
FreeOnlineSurveys’ projects are responsive, meaning they’ll work perfectly across all devices.
6. Review your survey
Pre-testing your survey with a group of colleagues or friends is a great way of identifying areas for improvement.
This test would tell you if you have any unclear questions, whether the survey was too long or poorly designed.
However, you should look at more than content in this pre-test. Ask yourself these questions about the data you collect:
- Are the results what you were expecting?
- Have respondents misinterpreted questions?
- What can be changed to gather better quality survey results?
How to create a survey with FOS
1. Create a new project
Create a survey by selecting ‘New Project’ from your dashboard and selecting the survey option.
2. Insert questions
Open the ‘Add Items’ menu from the left sidebar and drag and drop a question type into your project.
3. Add multiple pages
Add more pages and customize your exit/ thank-you page using the ‘Manage Pages’ tab.
4. Apply logic
Use the ‘Page Logic’ tab to create personalized paths for respondents and keep all questions relevant.
5. Customize your design
The ‘Theme/ Appearance’ tab allows you to edit the colors, background imagery and fonts in your survey theme.
6. Review your survey
Use the preview feature to run through your project, as a respondent would, without collecting any data.
You should also take this last chance to check for any mistakes in the content.
These can be jarring for respondents.
To learn how to create a survey that collects the best quality data, you must put yourself in your respondents shoes. As great surveys consider their point of view.
If you build your survey efficiently, and your questions are engaging, they’ll take more care and time to respond.
You can read more about different survey types over at our sister site, Shout: