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Survey Design: A 10-step Guide with Examples

Kate William

23 January 2024

9 min read

Designing and conducting a survey is indeed easier said than done. However, with the right tools at hand, this could even turn into a fun process!

And now, in light of this noble quest, we’ve prepared a fabulous guide on survey design (with examples, mind you!) that will give you some great ideas to work on. So, if you’re all set, let’s begin!

What’s A Survey Design?

Simply put, survey design is the process of putting together efficient surveys that will help you collect much-needed research. And more often than not, it uses an online survey tool or some ready-made templates.

But if those aren’t for you, you’re also free to design a survey from scratch. So, this is where you get to choose your sample size, set a desirable response rate, select a survey medium, design your questions, and so on.

10 Steps for a Better Survey Design

Now, since you’re more familiar with survey design, we’ll let you in on our secrets. So, here are some great survey design guidelines, tips, and tricks.

Survey design steps

1. Keeping it Relevant

Do you know what’s most likely to throw your responders off track? That’s right! Irrelevant questions. So, before you even start thinking about the questions, make sure you plan out what you wish to assess. And once you lock that down, keep your questions very close to those goals.

For instance, let’s say you want to know how well your food products have been selling. So, you can ask them about its taste, quality, price, and so on. This way, when you tell them why you’re recording their answers, they’ll be more inclined to believe you.

Survey design example

2. Incentives Go a Long Way

Are you thinking about giving out some incentives for taking your survey? If so, you’re certainly on the right path! However, when it comes to questionnaire design, this can get a little dicey.

Now, there’s no harm in offering some rewards. So, feel free to send out gift vouchers or discount coupons to your regular responders and non-responders. But fair warning!

You do not want to overdo it. Because if you do, you might just push your customers to lie in the survey. So do watch out for false answers to see what works best for you!

3. Short and Sweet for the Win!

Say it with us! Nobody wants to fill out a 40-minute survey. Sure, in an ideal world, this would work, and you’d get some detailed answers. But sadly, that’s far from reality.

For one, you’d most likely bore your customers to death. Or they’d get frustrated with the non-stop questions and gain a negative image of your company.

But more importantly, an insanely long survey would tell the responder that you do not respect their time. And that, dear readers, is why we say – ‘short and sweet is the best!’

4. Say Yes To Mobile Features

Given how quickly smartphones have taken over the world, it would be a bad idea to not have mobile features in your survey. So, while sending out an email survey, you may want to embed some cool features for your mobile users.

For instance, in such a survey design, you could add features like doodling, swiping, drag-and-drop, share buttons, and more. And who’s to say? These attractive features might just improve your response rates.

5. Some Visual Aids, to Taste

The better your survey looks, the more responses you’ll likely get. So let your creative juices flow, and throw in some animations, fun color schemes, and more into your survey research design. And while you’re at it, make sure that the font is easy to read. This way, you can give your customers a fabulous visual treat that’d be hard to turn down.

Picture question type
Image question type with SurveySparrow

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6. A Touch of Personalization

Over the years, personalized surveys have been proven to improve customer engagement. This is because such surveys can make them feel heard and seen by your company. So when you send out your final questionnaire design, why not give them a personalized experience?

So go ahead and address your clients by name or send them tailor-made messages. In fact, while you’re at it, why not categorize them (based on their purchases) and assess their recent experiences? This way, they’ll know that you’re listening to their individual needs.

7. Stay in the Moment

Trust us when we say this! You do NOT want to be the company that sends out their surveys too late. So, while planning your survey design, make sure to put “timely email” at the top of your list.

Then stick to that goal, and send out your questionnaires within 3 to 4 days of a customer’s purchase. This way, your client won’t forget about their experiences and can answer all your questions.

Now, if you feel this is too much work, we understand! However, this is an easy fix. With the help of online survey tools like SurveySparrow, you can now schedule your questionnaires whenever you need them. And then just sit back and relax, because you’ll never miss another survey!

8. Remember the Follow-up

If your follow-up game is strong, you’re already miles ahead of your competitors. Because most companies fail to send out a follow-up email. So, folks, always remember to send out your follow-up surveys! This way, you can get at least some of your non-responders to answer it.

9. Make it Fun

A survey design that entertains its responders is very likely to succeed. So, through means like chat surveys, gamification features, and more, you can keep your customers hooked. And guess what? If you add some humor to that, your users won’t bore too quickly!

10. Sprinkle the Marketing Mix

Finally, just put your marketing hats on and get to work! Recent methodology suggests that the 4 Ps of marketing – product, price, placement, and promotion – can be applied to surveys as well.

So, think of your questionnaire as a product you’re selling and market it accordingly. For instance, catchy titles, rewards, and more can entice your customers to spend their time (the price) on your survey. Similarly, you could also use pop-up surveys (placed at the right spot) to draw in your users.

Some Popular Question Types Used in Survey Design

The trick to a good survey is asking the right questions. But if you find it hard to nail this down, we understand! And this is why we’ve put together some examples of survey questions that you can use. So, let’s have a look at them.

1. The Multiple Choice

We’ve all, at some point in time, come across a multiple-choice question. And its beauty lies in the fact that it gives your respondents a finite number of answers. This way, they aren’t forced to think hard and can quickly move through the questions.

Now, are you wondering how this would work? Perhaps these examples can help.

multiple choice question example

With this question, you can ask your customers to choose one answer and quickly move on. But if you want multiple right choices for a question, you can do this instead:

Here, your respondents are free to choose one or more answers from the list.

For best results, we’d urge you to put these questions at regular intervals in the survey. This way, you can ensure that it’ll be quick and efficient.

2. Ranking Order Questions

As far as these examples go, this is a great one! Here, you’d be able to have an overview of all answers, allowing for easy comparison.

Let’s consider a company, A. It’s time for their annual customer review, and they want to quiz people on their services. So, this is how that could look:

Matrix Question Type

And so, this survey design would let your respondents rank each answer as they please.

3. The Image Type Question

Now, this is a clear no-brainer. Here, to spruce your survey up, you can show your respondents a series of images and ask them to choose one as their answer.

Let’s say you’re a company that produces hot and cold beverages. So, your products must range from soft drinks and fruit juices to hot coffees and teas. In your survey design, you wish to find out what drinks would sell better during specific seasons. To do that, here’s how you can frame your question.

Then, you can show them images of all the beverages you sell and ask them to choose one or more.

Sounds fun, right? We think so!

4. Open-ended Questions

Finally, we’ve got the king of all survey questions, the open-ended ones. But fair warning! These questions come at a price.

Sure, they let you gather many long and thoughtful answers. However, they are also the most frustrating for your users. For one, they often need a lot of time to be answered. (You really don’t want them answering it all willy-nilly!)

And second, not everyone would have something in-depth to say. So, while you must give them such a question, make sure they’re also optional!

Now, here are some open-ended question examples:

  • What are your thoughts on our product XYZ?
  • How would you like us to improve?
  • Do you have any suggestions for us?  And so on.
Open-ended questions
Template from SurveySparrow

How to analyze Survey Design?

Whoo, success! You’ve now got your responses, and it’s time to analyze them. So what should you do next?

The first thing you must do is verify that the data is all good. So, this is where you’d weed out the false answers.

Next, sharpen your slice-and-dice skills because it’s time to chop up the data! Here, you must go through each answer and group them as needed. At the same time, you can find out things like how many users left the survey in the middle, how many were able to finish it, and so on.

And lastly, to complete your survey analysis, you must use the data you have to answer the questions you had in mind. Then, put these points into a neat report and call it a day!

SurveySparrow narrows down all these in an executive dashboard so that you check the necessary data in one go! We make your process simpler and easier. Interesting right? Try signing up with us for free!

Why Do You Even Need Survey Design Guidelines?

Let’s face it. We all dread filling out those old-school survey forms. They are often the worst offenders of the never-ending and dull styles of surveying. But fortunately for us, those days are now long gone!

And today, with a great many experts chiming in, we’ve got hundreds of ways to make these questionnaires more eye-catching. But eye-catching doesn’t necessarily mean better responses. That’s why you need guidelines.

Now, if you’re curious to know what these guidelines are, we get it! Here we go!

  1. Define Clear Objectives: Before you start, be clear about what you want to learn from the survey. This helps in creating focused and relevant questions.
  2. Keep Questions Simple and Clear: Use straightforward language and avoid jargon or complex terms. Each question should address only one idea to avoid confusion.
  3. Use a Logical Structure: Organize your questions in a logical order. Start with broad questions and gradually move to more specific ones. This helps respondents to warm up and engage with the survey.
  4. Balance Closed and Open-Ended Questions: Closed-ended questions (like multiple choice) are easier to analyze, but open-ended questions can provide richer data. Use a mix of both to get quantitative and qualitative insights.
  5. Avoid Leading or Biased Questions: Questions should be neutral and not suggest a particular answer. This ensures that the responses you get are genuine and not influenced by the wording of the question.
  6. Test Your Survey: Before distributing it widely, test your survey with a small group. This can help you identify confusing or irrelevant questions and check the overall flow of the survey.

And today, with companies like SurveySparrow, survey design is no longer a pipe dream. So, with the right expert by your side, say hello to fun chat surveys, cool templates, great analysis tools, and more!

Wrapping Up

Building an effective survey is nothing short of an art. And much like art, it’s also not an easy skill to master (but not impossible, mind you!). So, if you’re out there scrolling through countless guides like these, we understand! We’d like you to pat yourselves on the back for trying.

However, this is only the first step. So next, you need to learn and grow from your feedback. Here, pay close attention to what the data says about the company, its products, and your design. Then, you must work those into your future policies. And soon, you’ll get to spread your wings and fly!

But hold on. If you’re still out there wondering where to begin, there’s no need to panic. Instead, just take a deep breath, put your work cape on, and read these guidelines. And then again, and again, until you can sit back and watch the magic unfold!

Kate William

Content Marketer at SurveySparrow

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