Improve your online surveys

Why is it important to have good online surveys?

  • Good surveys provide you with actionable, clear information for your business decisions.
  • Good surveys have higher response rates and higher quality data.
  • Good surveys are easy to fill out and aren’t confusing.

The ten basic rules of good surveying

1. Clearly define the purpose of the survey

Fuzzy goals lead to fuzzy results and the last thing you want to end up with is a set of results that provide no real decision-enhancing value. Good surveys have focused objectives that are easily understood.

Spend time up front to identify these objectives, in writing. This may sound obvious, but there are plenty of examples of surveys where a few minutes of planning could have made the difference between receiving quality responses that are useful as inputs to decisions, or uninterpretable data.

Consider the case of the software firm that wanted to find out what new functionality was most important to customers. The survey asked: “How can we improve our product?” The resulting answers ranged from “Make it easier” to “Add an update button on the recruiting page”. While this data may be interesting, it is not really helpful for the product manager who wanted to make an itemised list for the development team with customer input as a prioritisation variable.

Spending time identifying the objective might have helped the survey creators to determine which of the following they were trying to understand:

  • customers’ perception of the software, in order to identify areas of improvement (e.g. was it hard to use, time consuming, unreliable?)
  • the value of specific enhancements, in which case they would have been better off asking customers to please rank from 1 to 5 the importance of adding X new functionality.

Up-front planning helps ensure that the survey asks the right questions to meet the objective and generate useful data.

To define the purpose of the survey, ask yourself these questions:

  • Why are you creating this survey?
  • What do you hope to accomplish with this survey?
  • How will you use the data you are collecting?
  • What decisions do you hope to impact with the results of this survey? (This will later help you to identify what data you need to collect in order to make these decisions.)

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