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Creating a Survey? These are the 12 Questions You Should Never Ask!

Karun Krishnadas

Karun Krishnadas

6 min read

You know those people who’d just tick the first box on the form as their response, and get it done with when asked to fill up feedback forms? I am one of them. And I know I am not the only one to do that when approached with a questionnaire at a restaurant or store.

In fact, most people I’ve met aren’t too keen to take surveys. However, the catch here is that this feedback we provide is looked upon by the company/organization and they use it to improve their service.  It is quite essential for a company to take surveys to find out ways the brand can evolve and deliver the best.

While we can agree that surveys are necessary, a large chunk of them are made boring, unpleasant, and even offensive. There are a lot of engaging online survey platforms and expert-made survey templates to help you out. With these, it’s easier than ever to craft clever surveys that will get you the exact insights you desired. We’ve listed the question types that ruin even the most thoughtfully crafted surveys.

Here’s a list of 12 question types which should never be asked in an online survey:

Awkward Question #1: The Contradictory Question

Contradictory questions are those questions which would have only a confirmatory answer or a negative answer. In other words, these are just yes/no questions, without intending to be. But these questions do not shed light on the ‘why’ part.

Such questions are often close-ended, and the company will not get a clear idea of why the user opted for that answer. Such questions that pull respondents towards a single answer disrupts the objective of the survey.

To resolve this, you can follow up with a question digging deeper or go with a multiple choice question type.

Don’t:

“Would you prefer product A?”

  1. Yes
  2. No

Do:

“Which of the following products do you prefer?”

  1. C
  2. B
  3. A

Awkward Question#2: The Twofold Question

Not unlike the shotgun which fires two rounds a time, this question type combines two questions into one. While that might sound like hitting two birds with a single rock, you end up confusing the respondent and may not even get the answers you were looking for.

The golden rule when drafting survey questions is to come up with a single and a clear question so that the user can give a clear answer. When you double up the question, it is sure to lead to ambiguity.

online survey golden rule

Hence, it is always advisable to split up the twofold question so you can find the response you require from the respondent. It is always better to focus on one question at a time so that the respondent gives genuine feedback.

Don’t: “Will this cookbook be useful for beginners and professionals?”

Do: “Will this cookbook be useful for beginners?” and “Will this cookbook be useful for professionals?”

Awkward Question #3: The Manipulating Question

I’ve seen my share of survey questions which manipulates me to go for a particulate answer. The problem with these questions is that the manipulation puts off your respondent from giving you any feedback. It can trigger an instant suspicion and dislike towards your brand.

And the survey creators might get what they want, but definitely not what they need!

Don’t: “Was the dish too spicy?”

Do: “How would you describe the flavor of the dish?”

Awkward Question #4: The Rigged Question

A variation of the manipulating questions, rigged questions make an assumption about the respondent and expects them to abide by that.

Such questions force the respondents to give an answer and that hides the real opinion they may have had. The rigged questions could reduce the accuracy of the respondents’ answers which, in turn, forces them to answer less accurately.

Rigged survey question
Don’t: “Where would you go to buy superhero costumes for Halloween?”

Do: Ask a preliminary question to check whether the user dresses up for Halloween and if he is into superheroes before asking him about the store he frequents.

Awkward Question #5: The Complicated Question

Your average survey respondent doesn’t have to be as well-versed in the topic as you. Moreover, they are doing you a favor by offering their feedback. You wouldn’t want to risk offending them or stuff it with jargons that will only complicate things further.

When people go through survey questions which they can’t understand, they tend to give sloppy answers. Each time you prepare a survey, make sure that your average user can readily understand what is required of them without having to refer Thesaurus so they can provide an accurate answer. Remember to keep it real and simple, always.

Don’t: “How well did the food match up to your palate?”

Do: “How tasty was the food?”

Awkward Question #6: The Irrelevant Question

A couple of weeks ago, I went to this new restaurant in town, famous for its Chinese cuisine. The meal was splendid, but I was taken aback by a question in their feedback form.

There was a question asking me to state my occupation and I couldn’t figure out how was it relevant to how much I liked the food. I’m sure the Dragon Chicken would taste just the same to me were I a lawyer, or an accountant.

complicated survey questions
The shorter the survey, the better your chances of getting more responses. Each of your questions has to be valid and insightful. It’s always recommended to stick to relevant questions that make a sensible survey.

Awkward Question #7: The Nosy Question

While this might sound similar to the irrelevant question types, the spying question can do more damage. These questions tend to pry and require the respondent to divulge information that they would rather not tell.

Unless you are their auditor, stay away from questions that require your survey respondent to disclose their annual income. Respect their privacy and never demand sensitive information. Unless you are the auditor, of course!

Awkward Question #8: The Puzzling Question

This one is rather obvious, but it’s amazing how many surveys get this wrong. Do not, at any cost, confuse your survey taker.

Multiple choice questions that are not mutually exclusive to one another makes me want to pull my hair out. Not the ideal response you were looking for, am sure.

Don’t: “Choose the range of marks you scored on the exam?”

  1. 0-10
  2. 10-20
  3. 20-30
  4. 30-40
  5. 40-50

Do: “Choose the range of marks you scored on the exam?”

  1. 0-10
  2. 11-20
  3. 21-30
  4. 31-40
  5. 41-50

Awkward Question #9: The Spying Question

The spying questions put the respondents in a fix where they cannot afford to answer you truthfully. For instance, when your employee surveys require you to give a character analysis of your manager, you are left with little choices.

In most cases, people don’t trust the survey and would give a glowing report which could be far from the truth. Which, if you didn’t already realize, defeats the whole purpose.

Don’t: “Was Mark able to perform well?”

Do: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how effective is your Direct Manager in aligning your assignments with the organization goals?”

Awkward Question #10: The ‘Uh?’ Question

Some questions contain double negatives which can be incredibly perplexing. Double negatives are bad news, and they can ruin an otherwise thoughtful survey.

Unlike mathematics, it’s highly unlikely that you elicit a positive response with double negatives in a survey. It causes uncertainty and makes it difficult for the respondent to even comprehend the question.

Albert Einstein quote

Don’t: “Which of these pictures is not unattractive?”

Do: “Which among these pictures did you find attractive?”

Awkward Question #11: The ‘Know-it-all’ Question

During an online survey, making assumptions within the question is not a good practice as the respondent may be oblivious to what you are talking about. Not a good way to go about surveys, we can all agree.

Don’t: “How do you like the new features of the Audi TT?”

Do: Mention the new features of the Audi TT and ask how the respondent feels about each.

Awkward Question #12: The Weird Question

Weird questions are those questions that qualify as pointless, dumb, irrelevant, and simply strange. Weird questions make you look unprofessional and incompetent.

The rule of thumb should be to stick to the objective of the survey so that you don’t deviate from its purpose.

Don’t: “Would you rather know when you will die or how you will die?”

Do: Ask relevant questions that will give you the insights that you actually need.

Great surveys are all about great questions. Crafting fine questions always gives you accurate results to look upon. When in doubt, you could always look up some expert-crafted survey templates available online.

Remember, clearer insights equip you to make informed decisions!

Karun Krishnadas
Karun Krishnadas

Guest Blogger at SurveySparrow

A fun loving soul, enjoys the little things life has to offer

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