8 Survey Mistakes To Avoid

Online survey software has made the process of creating and distributing surveys easier and faster than ever, but it isn’t completely foolproof. Designing a successful survey still requires careful planning and design.

We’ve outlined 8 common mistakes to avoid when creating your survey to assure success!

1. Skipping the Introduction

Too many times a respondent opens up a survey and isn’t told what it’s about, or why they should complete it. While the title can give the person a basic idea, more detail can go a long way.

If a respondent is made aware of the purpose of the survey, one which they value and find enticing, they’ll be far more likely to take the time to complete it. They’ll also be able to determine whether their participation would be helpful or not, assuring that you get relevant information.

Make sure to also thank the participant for their time and to let them know how valuable their contribution would be before they start. Courtesy and politeness can go a long way, even in online channels.

2. Leading with Demographics

Survey creators typically start off their surveys with a series of demographic questions (age, sex, education, income, email, etc), but unless the rest of your survey depends on these answers (you have logic implemented that will take respondents to different sections based on their demographics), it’s better to leave this set of questions to the end.

Respondents can often find questions of this type to be intrusive and aren’t always comfortable answering them on a whim at the beginning of a survey, especially if they’re unsure that they’ll complete the entire thing. They’re more likely to volunteer this information once they’ve seen that the survey is legitimate and have taken the time to fill it out completely.

Furthermore, demographic questions are rather boring. A better route is to start your survey off with more interesting questions that capture your respondent’s attention and entice them to move forward.

3. Marathon Surveys

In general, people have short attention spans, and they’re even shorter on the internet. To maximize responses, surveys should get straight to the point and be as short and succinct as possible. Avoid the thinking, “Well we’re doing a survey, so we might as well ask them about everything.” Only include necessary and relevant questions, and try and keep the required time to 5 minutes. If it’s over that amount, a reward or incentive would be recommended.

4. Choices, Choices, Choices, Choices and Choices

Providing respondents with a variety of choices for a particular question is a good idea, but it’s important to keep it within reason. Too many choices can confuse individuals and only complicate the post-survey analysis. A simple question becomes cluttered and hard to answer with an overabundance of choices.

Keep it short and sweet, and if there are a lot of possible answers, it’s always a good idea to make use of an “Other, please specify” choice.

5. Too Many Open Ended Questions

Open ended questions can serve a valuable purpose as they allow respondents much more freedom in answering and can bring forth ideas that were completely unknown to the survey creator. However, there are also downfalls, as they’re more likely to yield vague and brief responses or perhaps no responses at all.

It’s best to use open ended questions sparingly and strategically. For example, first focus the respondent on a particular issue by using a Yes/No or multiple choice question, and then ask them to follow-up with an open ended question. Make sure that the respondent doesn’t feel like they’re writing an essay, as this could discourage them from finishing.

6. Sloppiness

It’s important to take the time and pay attention to all of the seemingly small details in your survey. For example, are there any grammatical or spelling errors which could appear as unprofessional? Have you included “N/A” options so respondents aren’t forced to submit answers to questions that don’t apply to them?  Have you included “Other, please specify” options so respondents aren’t limited in their answers? Have you included validation for e-mails or telephone numbers to make sure you collect valid data? All of these issues need to be taken into consideration.

7. Not Testing

A survey can often take a lot of time and effort to design, so it’s understandable for the creators to want to start collecting data and reaping the rewards of their hard work as soon as possible. However, bypassing the final step of testing could lead to disaster. Having a group of individuals test your survey can bring errors that you may have missed to light, help you make the survey easier to take, assure that you’re survey logic is functioning properly, etc. Once your survey is live, you don’t want to be making changes and possibly affecting your responses, so going through a testing phase beforehand is crucial.

8. Sending to Everyone

It’s common for survey creators to want as many responses as possible, and this is understandable. A large sample size can make sure your data is thorough and representative. However, you also have to make sure that the respondents to your survey are relevant. For example, if you’re conducting a survey for a baby store, you might not want individuals without children answering, as it could skew your results.  Target the correct individuals with your invite, and don’t seek responses for the sake of responses. Make sure they’re value adding responses.

All in all, online surveys can be a great tool to help you gather feedback! By avoiding these mistakes, you can put your survey on the path to success!

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