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How to Build Better Online Surveys

Good survey scripting is a science that can involve lots of training in how to ask questions in an unbiased way that give reliable data to analyse.

Your objectives in designing good online surveys are to get high response levels (i.e. maximum number of respondents submitting a survey) and reliable and accurate data. For the first, you need to give respondents a good reason to complete the survey and submit the data – these can be such things as incentives like prize draws, getting access to the results or other defined benefits, being part of a trusted panel, or making a donation to a specified charity for each response given.

The possibilities of the online environment can also assist survey designers to build surveys that are much more interactive and interesting to complete, which paper and telephone surveys cannot match. You can use images, multimedia (audio and video), ranking questions, dynamic answer lists in matrixes, and sliders to make the survey visually interesting. You must also be very conscious that good data comes only through well thought-out questions.

If questions are compulsory and the respondent doesn't have an opinion or answer at hand, they will become frustrated and either drop out or give you incorrect data. Missing an option on a commonly used list (e.g. leaving out a region in a location question) can unsettle respondents and undermine confidence in the veracity of the data set. Demographix allows you to create commonly used lists that can be quickly inserted into a new question.

Perhaps the best piece of advice we can give for building online surveys is to preview and check your survey as you build it. Get others to check it for literal mistakes, such as grammar and spelling, and also for simple common sense – for instance, is there an obvious answer missing?

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