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How To Write a Short and Effective Survey

How To Write a Short and Effective Survey

Online surveys are an effective tool for getting quick and concrete feedback from customers and site-visitors. You don’t need to print and hand out little strips of paper paired with a pencil to learn what your customers think of your product. But it is not just about creating a survey, sending it out, and then collecting the results. It is also important to write the survey in such a way that you are helping your product get honest, unbiased, and valuable feedback from your customers.

Here are some tips on how you can keep your survey easy to understand and therefore easy to answer. Remember that your customers may not have more than five minutes of free time, so make sure you get straight to the point and get the most value out of their responses.


Define the Objectives Of Your Survey


Create a list of wants and needs that you wish to address through your online survey. Whether you are creating this survey from a free online tool or a paid service, you want to make sure that you have specific goals for doing this. Here are some guide questions that can help you identify what sort of goals you are after with this activity:

  • Do you just want generic feedback for the overall customer experience or do you want to focus on one or two particular products offered?
  • What is the one thing that you want to know from your customer?
  • How will you use the information you collect from the survey? Will this help you design an upcoming product? Or are you considering changing the price of your product?

Keep your goal list to a minimum - a maximum of 5 goals per survey will prevent you from having a very long list of targets that you need to reach with a single survey.


Keep It Short and Simple


Trim down your number of questions into half. After writing your list of questions, prioritize which ones are most important to you. Remember that usually a person will not have enough time to answer a 50-question online survey. You will risk losing them halfway through the process, which will mark that survey incomplete. If you have already written more than 25 survey questions, you could consider conducting a second survey in the near future to reduce the weight of the survey.

Use questions that are straight to the point and do not assume anything from the respondents.

  • Do not assume they are loyal customers
  • Do not assume they know about your industry's jargon
  • Do not assume they know your product inside out

Review the sample questions below. The first one is more open-ended, but is not very specific about a particular customer experience. While you may get more variety in data from the first one, you might get a more quantifiable response from the second one.

Example 1: 'What did you like the most about your dining experience today?'
Example 2: 'How satisfied are you with the speed of the service of the restaurant today?'


Review the Order Of Your Questions


A great way to lead respondents into more detailed answers is to order your questions in such a way that the more generic, open-ended questions are at the beginning of the survey. Ask about further details as you go. Here’s an example:

  1. How often do you visit our news website?
  2. How satisfied are you with the overall look and feel of the website?
  3. Which section do you usually visit first?

Ask demographic questions at the very end of the survey. This way, if your respondent loses interest in your survey towards the end, at least you captured their thoughts and opinions through your initial questions.

Some people might be turned off with demographic questions, too. Just ensure that you tell them that it is for classification and statistical purposes only. You will not be sharing their information to any other parties.


Use a Consistent Rating Scale


Most free online survey tools allow you to use pre-defined or pre-made scales to help you make a survey quickly. It is best to use just one kind of rating scale so that your respondent will grow accustomed to using it, making his or her survey completion time faster.

Some typical rating scales are:

  • Rate from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest
  • Extremely disappointed, Disappointed, Do Not Know, Satisfied, Extremely Satisfied
  • Scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest

Switching scales in the middle of the survey will just confuse your users and may create variances in your data. This switching can be both switching the order of the scale and switching to a different scale entirely. If you must use two types of scales, just use one with a number range (1 to 5) and another one focusing on the emotions of the person (Unhappy, Neutral, Happy) to have a clear distinction between the two.



Now that you better know how to properly write your online survey, you just need to get started.
Good luck!

Photo credit: Brendan DeBrincat (thanks, Brendan)


P.S. If you liked this article, you might also like How to Best Construct Survey Questions, How To Send Your Online Survey by Email, and How To Share Your Online Survey on Social Media.

Deanne Dalisay
Dec 06, 2013
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