Four tips to design great surveys and get the insights you need

Without knowing your desired outcome, it’s hard to reach goals. This is why the best surveys begin with a clear design process, and a knowledge of the desired outcome. This makes it easier to measure whether the goals of the survey have been met. Here are a few tips for creating a successful survey.

1. Follow the basics of good survey design

Answer the following questions to help you think about the best way to get the information that you need.

  • What are your survey goals? Write down the goals for your survey project. Write notes about what would help to get you the data to support your goals.
  • How will the data be used? Will the analysis just be of data from this survey, or will it be combined with other data? Will you use it internally or publish it? Is it just for your use, or are the results for a client, business leaders or employees?
  • What kind of questions do you need to ask? Think about what you need to support your goals. What is absolutely required for you to reach your goals? And then, what is not necessary at all?
  • Who are you targeting? Think about their ages, genders, locations, languages, the devices they are most likely to use.
  • How will you engage your survey respondents?
  • What’s the best way to distribute the survey? Thinking about all the previous questions, how will you send it? Will it be by email, via a website, social media, or an in-person request?
  • What reports do you need? It makes a difference whether you are reporting just for yourself, or for other people?

2. Design questions carefully

The questions you create must support your survey goal. Do notask anything that is irrelevant. Here are some guidelines for writing good questions:

  1. Keep all of your questions short and your language simple
  2. Be specific in what you ask
  3. Phrase your questions in a direct way
  4. Keep all questions directly relevant.

Stick to the point so you get only the data that supports your goal. There is no point asking for specific information that you don’t intend to use.

3. Select the right question types

There is a range of different types of question types that you can use.

Quantitative questions are directly measurable. This means that you set up a list of answers and your respondents will choose from those. They include:

  • Multiple Choice single answer
  • Multiple Choice multiple answer
  • Rating scales

These questions will give you reports that are easy-to-analyse, and will help you to identify patterns and trends.

Qualitative questions are those that let respondents tell you the answer in their own words. Even though they can be more difficult to analyse, qualitative questions will show you exactly how your respondents are thinking. Some of the ways that you can analyse qualitative questions include creating word clouds to identify common words. You should also read all responses to ensure you understand the correct context.

To get the best results, you need to use a combination of quantitative and qualitative survey questions. If you ask a free text question, don’t ask it up-front. Get buy-in from your respondents early with easy quantitative questions.

4. Think about your reporting early

It’s a common problem that surveys are designed and completed, and then reports are difficult to pull together. You can avoid this by thinking about your reporting during the design stage.

This gives you the benefit of being able to include custom values that you will see in your reports, but which are hidden to the survey-takers. You might need to do this when you have to report specific values (which don’t mean anything to your respondents), or you have to analyse data in a particular way, or with a particular tool.

When you set your reporting values, go back to the purpose of your survey. Think about the values that are going to allow you to achieve your goal, and that will fit the purpose. That way, you will design questions that give you effective and useful reports.

Great surveys are designed with the target audience in mind. By paying careful attention to these suggested elements of the design – your response rates, and quality of data will improve dramatically.