There is a simple truth presented by the Internet era: Soliciting feedback and gaining insight into your customer base and target market is easy. This can be a wonderful fact or a fear-inducing one, depending on who you are and what you’re looking for feedback about, but if you’re in the market to connect with your base to get their honest opinion, you have tons of free and cost effective options to do. There are any number of ways you can do this, but I work at SurveyMonkey, so my area of expertise is, naturally, creating online surveys that provide clear, reliable, actionable results.
We take our mission to help you make the best decisions possible seriously, whether you’re trying to decide which picture to use on the cover, which product improvements to prioritize, or which appetizers to serve at your launch party. But what if you’ve never made an online survey, or are confused by all the fancy features (skip logic? Is that a kind of double dutch??)
I will save the intricacies of our survey features for another time (though I can safely tell you, Skip Logic has nothing to do with jump ropes). But I am going to share with you these top 5 insider tips to creating a great online survey.
1. Clearly define the purpose of your online survey
You wouldn’t launch an ad campaign without clarifying the goals of the campaign (increase brand awareness, drive conversions, discredit your competitors, etc), would you? Unclear goals lead to unclear results, and the whole purpose of sending an online survey is to get results that are easily understood and acted upon. Good surveys have one or two focused objectives that are easy to comprehend and explain to others (if you could easily explain it to an 8th grader, you’re on the right track). Spend time up front to identify, in writing:
- Why are you creating this survey (what is your goal)?
- What do you hope this survey will help you accomplish?
- What decisions do you hope to impact with the results of this survey, and what are the key data metrics you’ll need to get there?
Sounds obvious, but we have seen plenty of surveys where a few minutes of planning could have made the difference between receiving quality responses (responses that are useful and actionable) or un–interpretable data. Taking a few extra minutes on the front end of your survey will help to ensure that you’re asking the right questions to meet the objective and generate useful data (and will save you a ton of time and headache on the back end).
2. Keep the survey short and focused
Like most forms of communication, your online survey is best when short, sweet, and to the point. Short and focused helps with both quality and quantity of response. It is generally better to focus on a single objective than try to create a master survey that covers multiple objectives.
Shorter surveys generally have higher response rates and lower abandonment among survey respondents. It’s human nature to want things to be quick and easy – once a survey taker loses interest they simply abandon the task – leaving you with the messy task of interpreting that partial data set (or deciding to throw it out all together).
Make sure each of your questions is focused on helping to meet your stated objective (Don’t have one? Go back to step 1). Don’t toss in ‘nice to have’ questions that don’t directly provide data to help you meet your objectives.
To be certain that your survey is reasonably short, time a few people while they take it. SurveyMonkey research (along with Gallup and others) has shown that the survey should take 5 minutes or less to complete. 6 – 10 minutes is acceptable but we see significant abandonment rates occurring after 11 minutes.
3. Keep the questions simple
Make sure your questions get to the point and avoid the use of industry-specific jargon. We have often received surveys with questions along the lines of: “When was the last time you used our (insert technical industry mumbo jumbo here)?”
Don’t assume that your survey takers are as comfortable with your acronyms and lingo as you are. Spell it out for them (remember that 8th grader you ran your objectives by? Solicit their feedback — real or imagined — for this step as well).
Try to make your questions as specific and direct as possible. Compare: What has your experience been working with our HR team? To: How satisfied are you with the response time of our HR team?
4. Use closed ended questions whenever possible
Closed ended survey questions give respondents specific choices (e.g. Yes or No), making your analysis work much easier. Closed ended questions can take the form of yes/no, multiple choice, or rating scale. Open ended survey questions allow people to answer a question in their own words. Open–ended questions are great to supplement your data and may provide useful qualitative information and insights. But for collating and analysis purposes, closed ended questions are tough to beat.
5. Keep rating scale questions consistent through the survey
Rating scales are a great way to measure and compare sets of variables. If you choose to use rating scales (e.g. from 1 – 5) make sure you keep them consistent throughout the survey. Use the same number of points on the scale (or better yet, use descriptive terms), and make sure meanings of high and low stay consistent throughout the survey. Also, it helps to use an odd number in your rating scale to make data analysis easier. Switching your rating scales around will confuse survey takers, which will lead to untrustworthy responses.
That’s it for the top 5 tips for survey greatness, but there are a ton of other important things to keep in mind when creating your online survey. Check back in here for more tips, or check out our SurveyMonkey blog!