Creating an effective online survey
Let’s get started and look at how to make our online surveys effective, engaging, and useful.
Define your goal – great online surveys start with clear goals
TOP TIP: It’s always important to remember that online surveys should be approached as an ongoing process. Thinking in terms of a survey program, rather than a single survey, will help get this across. If you’ve identified several of these big questions, then start thinking of them as separate surveys, and plan them out accordingly.
Define your audience – targetting the right people is crucial for good engagement
You said, we did
Writing your online survey — great questions are key to success
TOP TIP: As you’re reading this guide, we’ll assume you’re starting out, so as a baseline aim for ten to fifteen questions (though if your goal doesn’t need this many, great!)
Sticking to conventions
Scales and ratingsOne of the first of these is that we’re used to being asked to rate things on the basis of how “good” they are. So, this means that we tend to associate high scores with a “positive” response. This also applies to how questions are displayed. If people are scoring on a number scale, then you’d expect that if the scale is going left-to-right that the highest number would be at the right-hand edge. Simple enough. But this can also apply for scales that don’t use numbers. People subconsciously expect “good” to be on the right. As in a lot of things, there are always exceptions. The most important thing of all is to be internally consistent, and not swap the conventions you’re using back and forth in the same survey. The specific layout of questions doesn’t really become important until the stage of actually creating the survey, but we mention it now so that when you’re writing, you maintain the same conventions in your question-wording.
Beware! False PrecisionThis also feeds into a related point, which is to beware of false precision. Lots of surveys may ask people to rate things on a 1-10 scale or maybe even more detail, but do we really know that everyone is using the same internal calibration? For some people, the difference between an eight and a nine out of ten might be huge, and for others, it could be trivial. Taking things down the basics of “was something good or bad” can make your survey easier to respond to, pushing engagement. This isn’t always the case and there can be solid cases for taking the opposite approach. Every survey is different and the audiences that take part in each can vary wildly. That said, the general trend over the last few years is towards simpler interactions. In most situations, survey respondents are doing it in their own time, which means that your survey has to compete against the vast array of distractions and other things that compete for the attention of anyone who’s sitting in front of a computer or has a smartphone or tablet in their hands.
Avoiding leading responsesOther things to pay close attention to when writing questions is making sure that the questions don’t lead the respondent into giving particular responses. We’ve probably all seen or completed surveys that were set up to supply some predetermined result or other, but for the purposes of this guide, we’re in the business of collecting data to find out something true about the subject.
The right answerAs well as questions, it’s likely you will be writing a lot of answers too, particularly when using multiple choice question types. Again these should be kept as short and simple to understand as possible. Other points of good practice for answers are to avoid offering respondents a chance to sit on the fence or give a non-answer. Asking people to rate things on a 4-point scale can be better than asking on a five-point scale as it removes the opportunity to answer with the mid-point. There are probably very few things that your respondents are genuinely indifferent about and making people come down on one side or the other can help you a lot.
Making the best use of time
TOP TIP: When you’re thinking about your logic and flow, something to remember is that you should make sure that each page has no more than one question on it that will trigger skip logic rules to avoid conflicts.
Making online survey creation easy
TOP TIP: One of the best pieces of advice we can give you is to make use of “Descriptive text” questions. These questions act as content blocks where you can add non-interactive content such as text or images. They’re very useful as survey or page introductions and give you a wealth of options for styling and formatting the text.
Getting the right look & feel
TOP TIP: You can add graphical elements, like a company or product logo and include images.
Distribute your online survey — choosing the right channel
Web Embed Codes
This leaves us to talk about three more options, offline, SMS & email
Gather data – from action to insight
If you’re not getting the number of responses you were hoping, you can wait, try adding new links in new places, reminders, and many other avenues to drum up interest. Another option that’s open is to buy.
Buying responsesSmartSurvey have partnered with leading technology platforms to enable you to access opinions of real people in just a few clicks. Reach over 7 million people in 80+ countries. This can be done with a high level of targeting and the costs can be very reasonable. We’ve found this to be of particular interest to companies looking to launch new products, where they don’t have an internal customer base to draw on, but there are many more applications than this. To do this, get in touch via our online form and we’ll contact you with a quote. One of the best things about this is speed, in getting the results you need quickly instead of having to wait for a couple of days or more to gather data. Often, results can be had within hours. www.smartsurvey.co.uk/services/consumer-panels You’re always going to want to collect as much data, in the form of responses, as you can. There’s a whole field of statistical mathematics based around how much is enough, or (looking at things from the other direction) how accurate your data is likely to be based on the number of responses you have. We have an online page that will calculate these for you, to take the hassle out of it.
Generate reports — start making #smartdecisions
TOP TIP: When creating reports, much like writing the survey itself, it’s important to keep your audience in mind. It rarely pays to make claims for the data that the results can’t support, so be clear in your conclusions and be prepared to justify them based on the data.