Ten Useful Survey Building Tips

Your boss just popped her head over your cubicle and has said: "We need to know what our customers think about our changes. And this time, we aren't going to send out a paper-based survey -- I want it done online!"

Desiginng a questionnaire is all about setting up questions to get the answers you need to do your analysis. In our experience, the simplier your survey the better. The longer and more complex your survey, the less likely you'll have a full set of response from each person. I remember once receiving a survey that took 20 minutes to complete -- I didn't get that far into it before the phone rang, and I was off to other things.

So, before you start building your survey, I recommend you do some initial planning. The following are some tips to guide you on your way...

1. Clear Objectives
Before you create your survey make sure you have a practical vision of what it is about. Keep it practical and focused on a purpose.

2. Introduce the Survey
Always provide a brief introduction of the survey for the respondents. Tell them the intention of the research, how long it will take to complete and how you will use their feedback.

3. Short is best
Keeping a survey as short and as to the point as possible you will provide more focus for the respondent and they are more likely to complete the survey for you. Use branching to jump respondees past questions which are irrelevant to them.

4. Avoid jargon
Don't use terms that a general audience will find confusing or misleading. It is best to use generic words that are easy to follow and understand, as they will not deter the respondent from completing the survey.

5. Test the survey
It is important to test your finished surveys before uploading them. This allows you to see if the survey is exactly how you want it to be in terms of design, layout and question flow.

6. Space for comments
Where possible provide free-text spaces so that the respondent can add additional comments to their answers. This can be very useful in gaining further insight into an area you are researching and provides additional information for analysis.

7. Question Types
Make questions easy to follow and understand. Have only one question at a time rather than combining a set of questions as this may confuse the respondent and not provide a response. Minimise the use of open-ended questions and try to keep all questions precise. Don't use leading questions as they will influence the respondent's answer, and most of all ensure questions always relate back to your defined objectives.

8. Logic
Keep questions in a logic order so that they have a natural flow. Start with the important questions relating directly to your objectives and what you want to gain from the survey, keeping demographic questions until near the end of the survey.

9. Incentives
Incentives are an excellent way to influence the respondent to complete a questionnaire or survey. They feel there is a reward at the end and this motivates them to respond. An incentive can be something small such as free subscriptions or can be something as big as prize draws etc. depending on your organisation and the nature of the survey.

10. Acknowledgements
It is very important to always give acknowledgement to the respondents for taking time out of their routine to complete your survey. Giving a note of appreciation at the start of the survey, and again at the end by thanking them for their participation can achieve this.

Customers include ...