Survey design is often overlooked despite being a critical aspect for the quality of online market research.

First of all, it is already difficult to reach certain target groups (low incidence) and if we reach them, it is hard to get them to start doing the survey (low response). If we finally manage to get people to participate we might have a high dropout, for all kinds of reasons, e.g. not mobile friendly, the length of the interview, not engaging, boring and repetitive to fill in.

All this leads to higher sample costs and impacts the quality of the sample. Which means cost per complete increases and panel attrition becomes a growing concern.

Furthermore, badly designed surveys not only impact the economics but also the quality of the data (with no data variance and suspicious behaviour, like straight lining, pattern clickers and speedsters). Poor data quality can lead to wrong results which inevitably leads to wrong business decisions.

Careful considered survey design will also impact your relationship with clients. 

Not only because badly designed surveys can easily lead to difficulties in managing fieldwork on time, but it can also be seen as not providing the right and innovative solutions as your competitors might do.

If you respect and reward participants (they are real human beings after all) for their time and effort to fill in your survey, I am sure you will receive valuable feedback in return.

How to start

a. Think and feel differently about your online survey

You are the benchmark. Do you like to fill out your own survey?

If you don’t like to fill it out yourself, how can you expect other people to be willing and motivated to participate? Or even worse, what if they just complete the survey without any attention and interest?

Would you send it to friends and family to showcase your survey?

Often researchers just script surveys instead of designing them. Therefore, most online surveys are simply not competing with other online and mobile experiences. Survey design is akin to web design and this requires a different shift from scripting to designing questionnaires.

Therefore it seems strange that we don’t take the time for a good design. A lot of time and money is being spent for the research in itself. But very often proper survey design is neglected. Too many badly designed surveys are being sent to respondents asking them to spend their precious time to help us solve research questions. Why would any researcher mind sending boring and badly designed surveys?

Actually researchers already know everything about creating successful surveys. It’s just due to time, budget and the crazy “busyness” way of life of a researcher that we seem to have lost touch with it.

I respect that there is not always budget for a designer but with some small adjustments you can make a huge improvement already.

Survey design is not rocket science, so with some extra care you can provide a great looking survey to your participants. People will appreciate this with valuable feedback in return!

b. Realise what is important and why we need to make changes

Realise that everything you change in your survey can have an effect on your data. Do you want the same outcome and effect as always? Then don’t change! Make sure to test and adjust your changes.

For example, don’t add interactive question types just for fun. Use question types that capture the right type of information from the right audience. It is mostly the repetition of the same type of questions that makes a survey less interesting and where people are not concentrating anymore.

c. Don’t get limited by the software you are using

There are more solutions and features available than just straight forward and standard question types.

Use survey data collection software where you can be flexible to setup templates to make surveys device friendly and which gives you the option to create your own interactive questions and tools.

The survey platform you are using should allow you to create a library of interactive question types without needed further coding. QuenchTec Q_Survey is such a platform.

QuenchTec Q_Survey

To put this all into practice I will write a series of blog posts. In the next posts I will be sharing best practices in how to improve online questionnaires and how you can tweak your survey design with minor adjustments to get the best result. Stay tuned!