Survey Design Best Practices & Techniques

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July 13, 2023
* min read

Everyone can run a survey, but few can design a survey people will actually enjoy answering. One mistake can make your survey flop, so it’s important to test and refine until the survey is truly seamless. 

In this blog post, we’ll discuss survey design best practices that will help you make your surveys effective and hassle-free. 

1. Define your objectives

The first step of designing an effective survey is clearly defining your survey objectives. If you cast your net too wide, you’ll end up with a lot of data and little understanding of how you can apply it. Ideally, the purpose of your survey should be expressed in one sentence. 

For example, if you want to gauge the effectiveness of your customer retention strategy, your goal might be “to measure customer retention and determine which touchpoints, products, or services drive customer retention”. With a clear goal in mind, you can craft survey questions that will help you collect all the necessary information without spreading yourself too thin. 

2. Test the survey

Testing is a great way to make sure that your survey is smooth and respondent-friendly. Invite some volunteers from your target group to take the survey and share their experiences. If your survey doesn’t have a logical flow or some questions don’t make sense, you can make the necessary adjustments before launching the survey. 

Before sending your survey to anyone, take it yourself and put yourself in the respondent’s shoes. Imagine you have very limited knowledge about the company and little motivation to complete the survey. Do you feel motivated to answer all of the questions? Do you have all the information you need to understand and answer the questions? Refine and edit your survey until there are no obstacles. 

3. Avoid jargon

Use simple language in your survey to reduce cognitive load and encourage the respondents to finish the survey. When you design a survey for your customers, you should speak their language and use the wording they would use to describe the product and their experience with it. If you find it hard to take a step back and stay away from jargon, analyze your customers’ social media content and product reviews. By doing so, you can discover what language they use and incorporate it into your survey. To make your survey easy to digest, avoid long sentences and unnecessary instructions. 

4. Design mobile first

Being mobile-friendly is not enough anymore. It is safe to say that most of your respondents will take the survey on their smartphones, so design a mobile-first survey to ensure maximum convenience and usability. Make sure your questions don’t take up 10 lines of text, all your images fit on the screen, and the flow of the survey is not interrupted. 

5. Minimize repetition

Repetition makes surveys long and boring, resulting in lower response rates. Long sections with approval scales tend to get tiresome, especially when they include similar and overlapping concepts. While some people may exit the survey, others will provide random answers thus making survey results less accurate. Unless it’s necessary, don’t include more than 12 statements in one section. 

In B2B relationships where products are more complex and users have more experience with them, detailed surveys are more acceptable. Still, it’s important to respect the respondent’s time, exclude repetitive questions, and leave out questions that don’t address your research objectives. 

6. Avoid biased questions.

When you invest your time and resources into a customer survey, you want to get honest answers that will help you improve your products. However, it’s easy to get carried away by your biases and include leading questions and emotionally colored words. Give the respondents a variety of answer options but don’t make assumptions. For example, “How would you rate our app?” is a better alternative to “Do you love our app?”. 

7. Refrain from absolutes

Another way you can accidentally skew your survey results is by using absolutes in your questions or answer options, such as “always”, “never”, and “all”. By focusing on extremes, you’re leaving out the majority of respondents who are likely somewhere in between. Include more nuanced questions and use scales that provide a variety of options with different levels of intensity and agreement. 

8. Ask one question at a time

Your survey shouldn’t include too many questions, but that doesn’t mean you should pack several questions into one. Complex questions are harder to answer and analyze, so it is better to ask two simple questions rather than one that is long and unclear. As a rule of thumb, try to express every question in one simple sentence. That means not asking the respondents to rate multiple aspects of your product or customer journey touchpoints at once. 

9. Use different question types

To maximize the results of your survey, use a mix of close-ended and open-ended questions. Close-ended questions with predetermined answers such as multiple choice or checkbox are easier to answer and analyze. Starting your survey with close-ended questions is a good way to get the respondents to think about your product.

Open-ended questions result in qualitative data, which is harder to analyze but can provide you with valuable customer insights. Make sure your open-ended questions are aligned with your key survey objectives and appear at the end of the survey. With Essense, you can analyze your qualitative data such as surveys and customer reviews in just a few clicks. Link your sources, set up recurring reports, and let Essence uncover actionable insights from your data. 

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