Important Mistakes to Avoid in Online Surveys

You are considering distributing online surveys to gather feedback for your business. Therefore, it goes without saying that you will want to ensure you do not make any mistakes in the design or the creation process. It is generally straightforward for respondents to answer surveys that are well-written. The results that you gather will provide insightful data to help you make smart decisions so it’s worth spending some time finding out how to design the most effective surveys.

Increasing numbers of organisations are using online surveys to improve their services or products, or even to provide a better working environment for employees, by gathering relevant feedback. Last week we discussed our top 7 tips to help you design an online questionnaire, this week we are going to investigate some of the common mistakes people can make when conducting research so that you can avoid them!

Do not ask the wrong questions

If you are looking for specific answers, you need to be very precise with the questions you ask. For example, if you want to learn which product colour is the most appealing, you can easily use a Ranking Question where consumers would be asked to rank each colour in order of preference. You would not want to ask the question ‘What colours would you like the product to be available in’ unless you intend to make those colours available.

Don’t ask leading questions 

Online surveys
Creating online surveys

The questions you ask should be clear and concise. Do not ask questions that can be interrupted differently or lead the respondent one way or the other. Therefore, avoid using subjective language that communicates opinions.

  • An example of a bad survey question: Should a concerned parent limit the amount of sugar their child eats?
  • An example of a good survey question: Describe your position on how much sugar your child should eat.

Try to always use neutral wording so as not to sway your respondent one way or the other.

Do not mix questions

Do not ask double-barrelled questions, such as: “Do you like the colour and style of the product”. This can be confusing, especially if respondents like the colour but not the style. Ask each question separately. Each question needs to stand-alone so your participants can answer succinctly.

Don’t make questionnaires too long

Short online surveys are more appealing than long surveys and will usually result in more participants taking part. In today’s fast-paced world, respondents will be put off by online questionnaires that take up too much of their time. By keeping your survey to less than 10 questions, you should be able to avoid survey fatigue. Also, it will focus your mind to ask questions that you really want to know the answer to. Don’t forget, you can use skip logic to improve the relevancy of the questions and reduce the time it will take to complete the survey.

Avoid badly designed questionnaires

The survey software you use to create your online questionnaires should let you design a survey that has a clear structure and is easy to navigate through. The look and feel of your survey should be appealing and very simple, encouraging respondents to take part. Today’s advanced software allows you to design and brand surveys using your company logo and colours.

Don’t ask unsuitable questions

To get actionable data, you may have to be gutsy and ask a few questions that may throw up answers you do not particularly like but remember, do not invade people’s privacy! If you want honest feedback about the customer service you are providing, then you need to ask. You may learn that you have some staff that are not meeting customer’s needs and are actually putting people off doing business with your organisation. However, it is advisable to include a ‘prefer not to answer’ option for some questions as people will abandon your survey if they are uncomfortable answering a certain question.

Offering incentives to complete online surveys

It may be a good idea to occasionally offer incentives in order to improve response rates. However, don’t offer a reward every time as you will skew your data. You will end up with participants that are only answering to get the rewards offered, instead of truly being interested in your online surveys. By choosing relevant incentives, you can safeguard the quality of the data received. Make sure you keep your messaging clear to meet people’s expectations about what they will receive!

Designing online surveys is an art and we believe that the more you do it, the better you become at it! Let us know if you have any tips for designing great online surveys or if you have any questions that you would like to discuss.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in July 2012 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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