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How to Write Fabulous Online Survey Questions

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3 min read

Well, really, this blog post should be titled "What Not to Do if You Want Fabulous Survey Questions" because we're tackling the "don'ts" rather than the "do's." However, by understanding the "don'ts," you'll learn what to avoid and how to ensure that your next online survey is a complete success.

By spotting these "don'ts," you'll save yourself countless hours of writing drudgery and crappy questions offered by companies aimed at overworked marketers. Sadly, most of the culprits of these "don'ts" are the variety of survey templates available across the web. Also, for those intrepid marketers keen on constructing their own online surveys, these "don'ts" offer a guide to ensure that their next questionnaire is a complete and utter success.

Bad questions always lead to bad data. And, with bad data, how is that helping you?

Don't Hold Their Hands

One of the easiest mistakes to make is to ask leading questions. Typically these questions are structured so that they're biased and directing the surveyor to answer in the way that's expected. Essentially, any data collected from leading questions is tainted and inaccurate and often pats the company's back. Rather than learning from honest responses that may actually lead to improvement, those that partake in asking biased questions are not learning a single thing.

To ensure that you're not asking these types of questions on your next online survey, send your questionnaire to a select group of recipients to read over. It's easy to spot biased questions that you may have unintentionally overlooked.

Don't Ask Multiple Questions At Once

First, by asking more than one question at a time confuses your data. How can you expect to receive accurate data when you're questions are unclear and point to several different possible answers?

For example, instead of asking "Do you receive our current email newsletter, and if you don't, would you like to sign up?" try separating the questions into two. This ensures that you're not only getting the correct answers, but also making it easier for your customers to answer in an honest way.

Don't Use Jargon or Technical Terms

By using jargon in your survey, you're ensuring that you're alienating a large portion of your customers. Chances are, they have no idea what you're talking about and even if you defined the term, you're risking wasting valuable space and their time. Jargon turns off people immediately, and if it's included in your survey, your customers will become frustrated and decide not to even attempt to answer your questions.

Sure, you may think that you're insider terms are commonplace because you use them day-in and day-out in the office, but those terms are unique to your industry.

Don't Construct Overly Complicated Questions

One of the traps of survey writing is trying to explain exactly what you're asking in detail. With all good intentions, you want to make sure your customer understands completely what you're asking.

Remember, everyone has a short attention span. And, remember your customers are doing you a service by filling out your questionnaire. Why would you want to make it challenging, cumbersome and tedious to fill out?

Keep your questions short, and limiting them to one sentence maximum. However, there are some cases in which further explanation is necessary and do require more than one sentence. Regardless, keep your question short and to the point.

Remember that your survey isn't the SAT, and if you need an entire paragraph to explain yourself, then you need to consider that your question isn't entirely thought out.

Don't Write Above Your Pay-Grade

Though it sounds rather demeaning, write your survey as if each customer has an education level no greater than the 8th grade. Why?

First, this practice ensures that your survey is easily understandable and quick to fill out. Also, you're not bogging your questions down with words or phrases that require a dictionary, thesaurus and Wikipedia to answer. If your customers don't immediately understand what you're asking, then you're going to lose them, and in turn, lose precious data.

Again, by spotting these "don'ts," when it comes to online surveys, you'll save yourself countless hours of writing questions that in the end don't deliver the data you want.

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