How to Write a Survey: 5 Best Practices
On the web, there are two kinds of surveys: The awesome ones that generate many responses and insights — and the terrible ones that don’t get utilized.
Don’t let your survey fall into that dreaded second category of doom.
Here’s the good news: It’s easy to write good surveys that inspire people to respond. If you’re wondering how to write a survey, check out these 5 best practices:
1. Keep the survey brief
The other day, I stumbled across a survey on one of my favorite websites. It was a popup that said something to the effect of, “Care to take a quick survey to help us improve?” So, being the regular that I am, I thought it would be no problem and was happy to spend a few minutes to help out.
And anyway, it was just a quick survey, right? I surely had the time to answer a few questions.
The survey was anything but brief. All in all, it contained around 10 pages and took up about 20 minutes of my time.
And to make things even worse, the progress bar was inaccurate.
I doubt many people finished that survey. Don’t make the same mistake that company made: Remember that when you create a survey, you’re asking someone to take time out of their busy day to help you out for free.
Here’s a question for you: Would you help a friend out for free?
You’re probably rolling your eyes and thinking to yourself, “Of course. Who wouldn’t?”
Let me ask you this: Would you help a stranger out for free?
Well, that would probably depend on a number of factors: What do they need help with? How much time do you have to spare? Who are they?
But what if that stranger was super friendly, gracious, and clearly respected your time?
When people are awesome and show respect for our time, we tend to listen and be more receptive overall.
I don’t know about you, but I get tons of sales emails every week and about 99% of those get deleted. Most of them come across as extremely spammy, and the salespeople (completely strangers) write long emails and then ask me to take time out of my day to meet.
The truth is that this mentality of respecting someone’s time can be applied to almost anything — and surveys are no exception.
2. Choose straightforward questions
Make sure your questions are direct. Avoid vague questions that may potentially confuse respondents. Don’t use fancy words or cryptic phrases — say it well, and say it in a way that anyone could understand. In other words, don’t make people guess.
Only include words that are absolutely essential.
Check out this example comparison of two possible questions:
- Version #1: What would enhance your experience as a user?
- Version #2: In your opinion, what makes the user experience in the app illustrious and what should we be dedicated to improving? What could be added to make it better?
So, which one did you think was best? Let me guess: Did you prefer the first question? That’s probably because the question was condensed in a simple, easy-to-understand way, making it much easier to understand.
Oh, and you probably also noticed that the second version was much longer. According to a study by Oracle, respondents are put off by lengthy questions. Shorter questions are much less of a hassle, as far as respondents are concerned.
Free your form of arbitrary details and watch it soar! After all, sometimes the smallest changes make the biggest impact.
3. Don’t make every field required
Nobody likes error messages, and poorly-built forms can be breeding grounds for errors. And we all knows that errors lead to frustration and, in the worst cases, abandonment.
Here’s the thing: They don’t have to be. People often run into errors due to not filling out all the required information. This happens when people are moving quickly and don’t see all the fields, or the required fields aren’t well-marked.
The more fields your survey has, the less likely folks will finish.
So, ask yourself this: Would you rather have fewer responses, with every questioned answered — or many more responses with a few unanswered questions?
You can even get creative by adding fields that aren’t marked as required or optional. Every field could be optional, but there won’t be any clunky “optional” or “required” text next to the fields.
4. Use conditional logic
Since the last thing you want is a bloated survey, save some space by implementing conditional logic. It may sound intimidating, but it’s really not.
Here’s an example use case: if you’re hosting a potluck, you might create a question like: “What will you be bringing?” with a drop-down list of choices. If someone chooses “Drinks”, then another option would appear with a separate selection of different types of drinks.
This will give your questionnaire a clean, user-friendly look that people will feel more inspired by (rather than feeling overwhelmed by the amount of questions).
Conditional logic is the future — it’s like the secret sauce for web forms. Not everyone is doing it yet, mainly because it’s annoying to code and not always offered in form builders. So, it’s time to flex those form superpowers and create an amazing experience for your respondents! Hint: Just in case you didn’t know, FormAssembly’s form builder has magical conditional logic abilities!
5. Don’t skimp on design
Design matters. A lot. Even if you crafted the best survey questions in the world, poor design could potentially kill your chances of getting any responses.
Just as you’d dress up to go to a top-notch (and super fancy) business event, it’s important to also dress up your form to give it a more professional and awesome feel. Challenge yourself to go all out: Add your logo, company branding, and personality. Make the survey a lovely experience curated by your company.
You put sweat and blood into writing those questions, so give it the design it needs to really shine. Send your newborn survey out into the real world, prepared and ready for anything!
Surveys are incredibly helpful to businesses and individuals for a number of reasons: They provide a wonderful way to collect feedback from customers, organize events, get anonymous opinions, and much more — which is why it’s so important to put your best foot forward by creating a survey that is well-written and user-friendly.
By following the five web survey best practices we mentioned above, you will create awesome forms that’ll inspire more responses.
So, what do you think?
Over to you: Do you have any tips to add? We’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts with us in the comments, or tweet with us @FormAssembly.