Writing good survey questions is not an easy task. How you write them can make the difference between getting the answers you want and the opposite. Luckily, you’ll find plenty of tips below on how to write good survey questions and what to consider.
Gathering feedback from your customers and users is essential for your business. Listening to what they say gives you honest information about what they think about your product or service and lets you know how satisfied and loyal they are.
Surveys can help you gain these insights, but before you start writing your survey questions, you first need to know what information you want to gather – this is important so you can write relevant questions in your survey.
Have a goal with your survey
As mentioned earlier, you first need to consider what information you want to gather with your survey. With a pre-determined goal, it will be much easier to write relevant survey questions for that specific goal and make it easier for respondents to understand your survey and give you the answers you seek.
Example of objective goals:
- You want to know what new products your target audience wants in your product range.
- You want to know what your customers want you to develop in your digital software.
- You want to identify why customers are dissatisfied with your product or service and how you can solve their problems.
Explain why you are conducting your survey
By explaining the purpose of your survey, you increase your chances of respondents completing your survey. The reason is that respondents can see value in completing the survey and benefit from it in the future.
When respondents answer your questions, they know you will use this information when, for example, making a product better or planning how to develop your software.
You get a better product or service yourself, and the respondents benefit from that – both you and your customers win.
Keep the survey questions simple
Your main task when writing survey questions is to ensure all respondents can easily understand them without any worries. Therefore, make the questions short, direct, and clear with easy-to-understand language.
As you increase the length of your questions, the chance of respondents misunderstanding or not understanding them at all increases. That will make them bored, frustrated, annoyed, and unlikely to complete the survey.
For example, a scenario could be that a company plans a webinar and wants to conduct a survey afterward on how the participants experienced it.
An example of an unclear question could be:
What did you like about the webinar, and what can we do better?
It is unclear what the company is asking for and opens the door to respondents having to figure it out by themself, which can go in many directions. Does the question refer to what respondents thought of the speaker, what they thought of the hosted platform, or whether the webinar was engaging and informative?
The question also contains two completely different questions, which makes it unclear what answers you are seeking and will confuse the respondents. If you are unclear about what you are asking for, you will most likely get unclear answers back and struggle to get the information to good use.
An example of a better and more specific question:
What did you think of the content shown in the webinar?
The question is more straightforward, clear, and specific enough for respondents to understand what answer you are seeking and contains only one question. It is also an open question that allows respondents to answer freely about the content.
If you want a yes or no answer instead, you can ask:
“Did you find the content in the webinar easy to understand?” and then follow up with another question like “If you answered no, how can we improve the content to make it better meet your expectations?” to find out what you can do better next time.
Put your questions in a logical order
Breaking down your survey questions into a logical order will make it easier for respondents to engage with your survey and complete it.
It is beneficial to start with broader, easy-to-answer questions to get the respondent started and warmed up on the survey. Then follow up with the more specific questions that may take a little longer to answer in the middle. Finally, end the survey with questions that are once again easy to answer.
Here is an example of how to arrange survey questions in a logical order following the example above:
- What did you think of the webinar in general?
- Did the course meet your expectations?
- If you answered no, in what way did the webinar not meet your expectations?
- What did you like the most about the webinar?
- Was there anything you didn’t like about the webinar?
- Did you find the content of the webinar informative?
- Do you have any suggestions to help us make the webinar even better?
Learn about the benefits of using online surveys
7 tips on how to improve your survey questions
1. Write for your target audience
When writing questions and designing your survey, you should always keep your target audience in mind. If you know your target audience, you can communicate better with them, and using the same language as them will probably result in more responses.
Who your target audience is, of course, is up to you and can be as broad or narrow as you choose. The important thing here is that you continue to be direct and clear in your questions and use language that everyone in the target audience can easily understand.
It can also be a good idea to avoid jargon and difficult word choices when writing your questions, as it is not certain that everyone in your target audience will understand what you are talking about. If they don’t understand, you won’t get any responses from these respondents.
2. Do not ask two questions at once
Each question needs to focus on getting information about a specific issue. Asking two questions in the same question will require two completely different answers and confuse the respondents, who will have to choose which question to answer.
If you want answers to both questions, it is no more difficult than splitting them into two separate questions. That makes it easier for respondents to understand what you are asking for and give you better answers.
An example consisting of two questions in the same question:
- What did you like about the webinar, and what can we do better?
Instead, you can split this question into two separate questions and make them both easier to understand:
- What did you think of the webinar overall?
- Do you have any suggestions to help us make the webinar even better?
3. Allowing respondents to answer freely
Respondents may not know the answers to all your questions, and there may be some questions that they do not feel entirely comfortable answering. With this in mind, you need to consider the sensitivity of your questions, and this sensitivity threshold will vary from person to person. Therefore, think twice before sending out surveys about whether a question might make your respondents uncomfortable.
If you still need to ask uncomfortable questions, it is good to communicate and tell them why you need to collect these answers and how they will come to use.
When using multiple response options, it is good to allow respondents to opt out of the question if they are uncomfortable answering, if none of their answers fit, or if they don’t just know.
For sensitive questions, you can include an option like “I prefer not to answer”, and for respondents who do not have a suitable answer or do not know, you can give a response option like “None of the above” or “I don’t know”. You can also offer a response option like “other” where the respondent can give an open answer in their own words.
4. Use neutral questions
You want to write survey questions in a neutral way to avoid influencing respondents with your question, thus giving you an answer that may not correspond to reality.
How dissatisfied are you with the course?
This wording could be perceived as everyone is dissatisfied with the course. Instead, you can formulate it in a more neutral way like:
What did you think about the course?
The new wording is not associated with anything negative as the word dissatisfied can reflect, and the respondent avoids being influenced by it.
Another example could be:
Do you use [our product] every day?
This question only allows for a strict yes or no answer and does not always reflect the whole picture. Instead, you can write it more neutrally: How often do you use [our product]?
The new wording allows for more response options and gives you a deeper insight into how often your respondents use your product.
5. Offer response options for everyone
If respondents find that no answer options work for them, it will cause frustration and give unreliable results. So make sure you offer enough options so that most respondents can give you an honest and reliable answer.
For example, if you want to find out whether participants thought the course was good or less good, you need to offer options that cover answers that work for everyone:
- Very good
- Fairly good
- Less good
- Not good at all
Avoid using negative language when writing your response options.
A less good example could be:
- Very good
- Fairly good
- Very bad
In comparing the two examples above, the last example contains a more negative tone. You want to avoid being associated with negative language at all costs, as it may influence how your respondents might answer the question.
6. Be clear about what you are asking about
Respondents may not always be familiar with the product or event you are asking about. Therefore, describe the product or event so they know what you are looking for with your question.
A less good example:
What did you think of [the event]?
A better example:
What did you think of [this year’s edition of the business convention]?
7. Ask for feedback before sending surveys
If you’re unsure whether your survey questions are unclear or oddly worded, have a couple of colleagues or friends conduct the survey and provide feedback.
Ask them to point out anything they don’t understand or experience a bit unclear so you can adjust these questions to make the survey is as good as possible for when it time for you to send it out.
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