5 Techniques for Creating Effective Polls and Surveys with Web Forms

Sep 29, 2020 | Tips and Best Practices

This post is a guest contribution from Owen Jones, Senior Content Specialist at Zoomshift, an online schedule maker app. He is an experienced SaaS marketer, specializing in content marketing, CRO, and Facebook advertising.

If you use them properly, online polls and surveys can serve as a rich source of information for your business. Polls and surveys can be used to solicit customer feedback, gauge reactions to a new product or project, measure staff satisfaction, and more. With the right web form and data collection platform, you can create innovative surveys that provide helpful insight and a top-quality user experience.

While data analytics are a great strategy for measuring employee and customer satisfaction, survey questions provide an unbeatable method for gathering data. This is because you can tailor targeted questions to a specific audience and ask exactly what you want to know.

People take surveys for many different reasons. Whether you’re using an on-site survey or an email poll, the techniques below will help make your web forms and survey questions more effective.

1. Use language that your audience understands

When creating a poll or survey form, it’s important to consider how you phrase your questions and the type of language you use. It’s usually best to communicate in a straightforward, succinct way.

Think of your survey as a conversation. Your tone should match your audience. Avoid using abbreviations, acronyms, and jargon. Be friendly, but don’t sacrifice clarity.

If you’re unsure about the phrasing of your survey questions, ask a friend or colleague for feedback. Reading the questions aloud can determine if they sound too formal, informal, or just right. By keeping your questions simple and easy to understand, you can capture your audience’s sentiments accurately.

2. Create clarity with multiple choice questions

People can interpret things in different ways. When you create a survey form, your job is to make your questions clear and specific enough that each respondent understands the question in the same way.

For example, when you ask, “Do you use X product consistently?” you are assuming that every person has the same definition of “consistent.” An alternative would be to ask, “How often do you use X product?” and present a list of choices.

Similarly, if you ask a question like, “What’s your income?” people might be confused whether you mean their hourly pay, annual salary, or total household income. Different respondents will make different assumptions about your meaning, making it difficult to analyze incoming data.

A better phrasing of this question might be, “What was your personal income after taxes in 2019?” This version is a lot more specific and more likely to yield useful answers.

Being specific with your questions and your answer choices makes the difference between vague and actionable data.

3. Ask one question at a time

Don’t try to cover too much ground in one question. Each question should focus on just one concept. Imagine seeing this question in a survey:

During your tenure in Y Company, would you say that the workload was reasonable and you were paid well?

These are called “double-barreled questions.”

A double-barreled question allows just one response (usually answerable by “yes” or “no”) but asks two or more questions in a single sentence. In the example above, the respondent has no room to answer the two parts of the question differently. They might feel that the workload was excessive, but they also feel that they were compensated well. This question does not allow them to express that in a truthful way.

This mistake is common, even among professionals. To fix this issue, divide any double-barreled questions into two separate ones. The question above could instead become:

  • During your tenure in Y Corporation, would you say that the workload was reasonable?
  • During your tenure in Y Corporation, would you say that you were paid well?

This version allows the participant to answer each part separately, giving you two data points and a clearer picture of their tenure at your organization. Any time you catch yourself trying to ask two questions in one, go back and split that question into two. You’ll be surprised by how much it will improve your data and results.

4. Avoid leading questions

As the form creator, you have to throw your preconceptions out the window when you write your questions. If you don’t, you risk asking leading questions and compromising the survey results.

Leading questions are those designed to influence answers one way or another. They often reflect the survey creator’s bias. One example of a leading question might be, “Do you think we should halt the construction of a new library to improve campus security?” People might be in favor of the new library but still answer “yes,” because saying “no” implies that campus security is unimportant.

Here’s another example:

A respondent who was unfamiliar with TigerNewsTV might answer “yes” and continue with the rest of the survey. This is because the sentence before the question already firmly nudges the respondent in that direction. The above example would be a better question without the first sentence.

When you conduct a survey, only write what you need in order to get an informed answer from the participant. Anything more than that can be interpreted as an attempt to influence the results with your own opinions or preconceived ideas.

Leading questions undermine the purpose of your survey. They can be unethical and generally lead to results that do not reflect audience beliefs accurately. Don’t use them.

5. Give your participants more answer options

Yes and no questions can be helpful, but sometimes questions require a more nuanced approach. In these instances, two possible answers won’t be enough. A participant may agree with something, but only to a certain extent. There will also be times when respondents are on the fence or don’t have a very strong opinion about a particular topic. Your survey should account for these options.

Respondents get frustrated when a survey doesn’t give them the option to answer what they truly feel. This leads to survey abandonment or incorrect data caused by users clicking on random options just to complete the survey. Either way, your results will be inaccurate, and your survey won’t achieve its intended purpose.

To get around this, you can use a scale—either a scale of 1-10 or a scale of “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” This will allow respondents to give personalized, specific responses. You can also include N/A (not applicable) for those who feel that the question does not apply to their situation.

It’s also a good idea to add “other” as an answer option for certain questions, and to include a field where people can input their answers manually.

Using the information you gather from the “other” option, you can obtain a precise measure of audience preferences. You might find a recurring answer or theme that surprises you. This information allows you to make smarter business decisions and improve future surveys.

Optimize feedback for better business results

If you get them right, surveys can be immensely useful as part of your business strategy. You should expect to make continual adaptations over time. You’ll need to analyze your survey results and then tweak your questions regularly. Soliciting feedback via surveys and continually updating your questions will help you stay one step ahead of your competitors.

While carrying out surveys requires a lot of effort, keeping your finger on the pulse of what your audience wants will provide numerous benefits. After all, what better way to understand your customers’ views than to ask them directly?

For more insight on web form design and best practices, check out the FormAssembly eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Web Form Design.

Owen Jones is the Senior Content Marketer at Zoomshift, an online schedule maker app. He is an experienced SaaS marketer, specializing in content marketing, CRO, and FB advertising.

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