This is third article in a four-part series explaining how to implement a great online survey
Setting goals for your online survey is critical. It all depends on what you are trying to achieve with the survey. Many business owners have in mind that online surveys aren’t crucial for their business, but when it comes to market research, this is one of the most important things you need to overcome when you are developing your business and establishing long-term costumers.
If you want to create an excellent survey, then you need to follow a particular type of rules. In this case, you can hire a company, or you can subscribe to some program which will help you generate questions. If you want to buy a good plan, then you will have to pay a monthly subscription. The price often varies between $20 and $100, and it all depends on your preferences and demands. If you are a beginner, we would advise you to start lightly and to choose some programs which aren’t very advanced and later when you get the ropes you can switch to more demanding ones.
In order to obtain the most responses from the largest number of people in your sample, it’s important to send out your survey at the right time and in the right way. Follow these 13 critical steps:
- Outline Your Goals – Be sure to do this before building your survey. What are you hoping to learn from your survey? Also consider whether you want to frequently survey your respondents in order to spot trends or if your survey will be a one-time thing. (Keep in mind user fatigue.)
- Keep it Short – This ensure the highest number of responses. Take the survey and time yourself to see how long it takes to complete. If it takes longer than 10 minutes to complete, consider revising your survey or eliminating a few questions and saving them for another time.
- Go With the Flow – Questions should flow logically from one to the next. A user who stops to wonder why you’re asking something may quickly lose interest. Group questions on the same topic together to make the survey easier to read and complete.
- Be Logical – Answer choices should be in a logical order and consistent throughout your survey. Scales should be presented from “positive to negative” or “excellent to poor.” For numeric scales, higher numbers should mean a more positive answer or greater agreement.
- Be Transparent – Create an intro page or paragraph at the start of your survey letting users know exactly why you’re collecting this data and how you intent to use the results. Stating your intentions upfront and letting your users know whether or not their responses will be anonymous create a sense of trust. This will also increases the likelihood that you’ll receive more honest responses. Example: “Responses will be kept completely anonymous and confidential. All responses will be pooled together so that individual employees cannot be identified; therefore, you are encouraged to answer each question as honestly as possible. The results of this survey will be used to generate a summary report for senior leadership. These results will also be shared with management and staff to ensure we meet the needs of the organization.”
- Define Open and Close Dates – Two weeks is typically considered an adequate amount of time. Inform users about the survey before it goes live. This will allow respondents to feel more prepared. If the survey is required, the notice will give them a chance to work it into their schedules. Have reminders ready to be sent out to respondent’s mid-way through, and then again one day before the closing date. (If you can, filter out users who have already responded).
- Pick an Easy Format – Generally, radio buttons are easier to use than drop-down menus. Drop-downs provide a greater chance of error, as respondents could more easily chose an answer they hadn’t intended to choose. Cover all the possible response choices. Include options such as “Not Applicable” or “None of the above.”
- Include a Progress Bar– Let your respondents know where they are in the process. Most popular online survey tools have this feature built in. Allowing users to gauge just how much of their time is going to be used will help to ensure not only more responses but more accurate responses.
Sample of progress bar by SurveyGizmo
- Funnel Your Questions – Start with more broad or general questions first to help build rapport. Later, funnel down into the more specific/sensitive questions. If users are reluctant to answer the more sensitive questions, and stop halfway through, you’ll at least have some data from the beginning of the survey.
- Entice your respondents – We all love free things! Lure your users with a gift card or discount. If the survey is internal, entice your workers with an early out!
- Check Your Rating Scale – Use either a 5-point rating scale or 7-point rating scale. Most researchers agree that 5 and 7-point scales are generally enough for users to make meaningful distinctions between choices. Be sure to define the choices. This too will help your audience to provide you with more standardized responses. For example: My definition of what makes a product good vs. great could be completely different from yours. Some rating scales have a neutral point while others do not. Depending on the type of question you’re asking and purpose of your survey, one might serve you better than the other. When deciding whether to include a neutral point or not, consider your target audience.
An example of a Google scale that’s too long
- Know Your Target Audience – Create screening questions to ensure you are receiving information from your target audience. These questions will allow you to better control for any “noise” that might stem from people outside your area of interest.
- Remember to Say Thank You – It’s always a good idea to include a “Thank you” at the end of your survey. People value their time, and knowing that you value their time as well, your users will be more inclined to participate again in the future. Most free survey tools offer this option.
The trick in survey creation is to construct a survey that will not only bring you valuable, actionable data when properly distilled, but also to present it in a manner that brings in the highest number of valid responses possible. Let us know how your survey went in the comment field below. Good luck!
Tiffany Henderson is currently an I/O psychologist for the Government and the Lead Organizational Consultant for her agency. Working in three different labs/research organizations, she has led teams through implementing multiple online systems/software and e-learning solutions and management information systems.