You might think that questionnaire design is rather simple and easy; after all, it’s just a list of questions right? However, a proper questionnaire structure is one of the most vital steps in achieving successful results with your research. A good design will help respondents complete your survey, as you should never underestimate the power of something aesthetically pleasing! Read on to find out how a well-planned format for your survey will improve the accuracy of the data you collect...
Tip #1 - Identify your Target Audience
Start by identifying your survey goals, this will help you decide what information you would like to receive and, therefore, who you should send your survey to. It can be beneficial to conduct some initial preliminary interviews to discover the correct questions you need to ask in order to gather the information you need. Once you have chosen your target audience, you will be able to use appropriate terminology and ask the questions in the most effective way.
Tip #2 - Be specific with your Questionnaire Design
Secondly, your questions must be clear and concise and reflect how you want them answered. Your questions must be specific, for instance asking about a person’s income; this could mean monthly, annually or weekly? You must ask for explicit details, such as asking about a particular month or year and whether it is before or after taxes. Despite this being a general example, you can see that by identifying what information you need, you gain a lot more out of your online questionnaire. Your questions must not be ambiguous, be direct and never leave anything to be interpreted by the respondent as it will conclude in misleading results.
Tip #3 - Group your Questions
It is also beneficial, when you create a questionnaire, to group your questions as opposed to just having a long list, as this can be rather daunting. By grouping questions from ‘one to five’, ‘six to ten’ etc., it ultimately helps the respondent by making it more user-friendly for them to collate questions and complete them one step at a time. You can vary your question types by using customised matrix tables, multiple choice questions and different customisation tools when designing surveys.
Tip #4 - Keep it Simple
A fourth tip to help with your questionnaire design is to keep the language simple, direct and unemotional. There are many unnecessary words that are used in questionnaires, this can be misleading and leads respondents to believe you are perhaps trying to persuade them to take a specific route. For instance, don’t include emotive words; an example would be covering a subject such as taxes. By containing the words ‘even more taxes’ in your question; you are implying that you have an opinion based on the increase; ‘even more’, this shows you are not neutral. The initial questionnaire design is what will make the potential participant respond or not. With a vast list of questions displayed and endless response choices, you are making it harder for yourself to evaluate the answers and it becomes a tiresome task for the respondent to complete; so keep it simple!
Tip #5 - Be Methodical
Your questions must be in a logical order, with personal questions and ones that require more thought placed at the end of the survey, so as not to cause people to opt out of completing the questionnaire. Surveys should be simple to understand, with a brief explanation as to the reason for completing the questionnaire. For simple questionnaires, use closed-end questions which are straight forward to complete and easier to collate information in a graph at the conclusion. Skip Logic can be used to hide irrelevant pages based upon the respondent's previous answers and even ensure they jump past entire sections if needed. Read our blog on The Benefits of Using Skip Logic for more information.
It is also important to include rating scale questions throughout your online survey, as this compares variables and provides you with specific information. Keep the consistency the same, with the same amount of choices and uniform language. You want to avoid confusing the respondent otherwise they may leave before completing the questionnaire.
Tip #6 – Offer the option to skip personal questions
Not everybody is going to be comfortable providing personal information. To avoid receiving incomplete surveys, allow respondents to skip the question. To do this, you can add an answer that says “prefer not to say” or by making it not mandatory to answer.
Tip #7 - Reach a conclusion
A final tip for your questionnaire design is to have a logical flow to the design so that you reach a conclusion. It is preferable to start with quite simple questions to make it easy to take part, then get more detailed as the survey progresses, possibly using some ‘open text box’ questions toward the end to gain greater insight.
Many organisations and individuals consistently use online surveys to gain insight. Read our blog on 5 Tips for Conducting Successful Online Surveys or book a personalised live demo to learn more about questionnaire design.
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Editor’s note: This post was originally published in July 2012 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.