Getting more meaningful data from Surveys

Do make me think.

How to design better surveys.


image from Google

How can we design surveys that will get a good response and not just in terms of numbers of respondents but also in terms of quality of data we get back?

People generally don’t like to think when answering questions; and our goal is to make them engage with the survey- to make them think more about their responses.    This way,  we will get better answers and and more meaningful data.  Asking questions that have answers such as slightly agree, disagree etc.  gives us flat data and  we are in danger of getting  data pattern approaches which do not reflect participants’ actual opinions.  We want participants to give considered responses.

We also want to engage them.  Surveys, especially when delivered via email, are like advertising, we have to sell it to the participant so they want to continue participating.


How do we make questions and surveys more engaging?  (tips from MRS conference Jan 2013) 

  • Make it amore visually engaging survey- make the questions look nice (tools like Survey Gismo help with this)
  • Length is the biggest detriment to proper engagement – don’t ask questions you don’t need to (or have answer to). We need shorter, more efficient surveys.
  • Cut out unnecessary questions e.g Which brands are you aware of etc.? And go straight to – which 10 brands did you lately purchase?
  • Make it interesting to answer: tick a box, put a scale in that you have to slide, drag and drop, pull down.

example question

  • If you put sliders horizontally rather than vertically you will get better answers. have them chose answer from a scenario (MRS Conference).
  •  Have participants imagine what they would do – e.g Instead of What Olympic events do you like and why? Change to…  Imagine you are in charge of the Olympics for TV – which sports would you like to show and why? This makes people think more.
  • Don’t always give people answers – We have seen the questions – Why did you buy that brand? And the response would be something like -(chose 1)  a- modern, b – cheap etc.   Change to – ask them instead to think of three reasons why chose the last brand of toothpaste they bought (gets the cogs in the brains turning)

example question

  • Gamify Questions – E.g You have exactly 5 words to describe something, gets a much better response rate than open question than just describe something.  Or give time liimit on responding.   Give points towards each answer. Have participants vote on a question and see result. Have them design something.
  • Use Predictive questions – eg. Bet on whether you think this product will be successful this year? (instead of do you think you would buy this brand?) – people are more invested in answers.
  • Do not use – What are you willing to pay for this product X but rather How much do you think People are willing to pay for Product X.  Studies show that when we process this question looking at it from ‘we’ perspective we get better more honest results (MRS Conference).   A combination of both questions also works e.g what are you willing to pay and how much do you think people will pay






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