Tip and tricks for writing great questions for online questionnaires
So you've decided that you need a better understanding of the characteristics of people who visit your website, or of some other business-related question. Developing a focused and effective questionnaire will help you to efficiently and accurately pinpoint the information that will help you make more informed decisions.
Developing a questionnaire is as much an art as it is a science. And just as an artist has a variety of different colors to choose from in the palette, you have a variety of different question formats with which to question an accurate picture of your customers, clients and issues that are important to them.
The Dichotomous Question
The dichotomous question is generally a "yes/no" question. An example of the dichotomous question is:
Have you ever purchased a product or service from our website?
If you want information only about product users, you may want to ask this type of question to "screen out" those who haven't purchased your products or services. Researchers use "screening" questions to make sure that only those people they are interested in participate in the survey.
You may also want to use yes/no questions to separate people or branch into groups of those who "have purchased" and those who "have not yet purchased" your products or services. Once separated, different questions can be asked of each of these groups.
You may want to ask the "have purchased" group how satisfied they are with your products and services, and you may want to ask the "have not purchased" group what the primary reasons are for not purchasing. In essence, your questionnaire branches to become two different sets of questions.
The Multiple Choice Questions
The multiple-choice question consists of three or more exhaustive, mutually exclusive categories. Multiple choice questions can ask for single or multiple answers. In the following example, we could ask the respondent to select exactly one answer from the 7 possible, exactly 3 of the 7, or as many of the 7 (1, 2, or 3 answers can be selected).
Example: multiple-choice question to find out how a person first heard about your website is:
How did you first hear about our web site?
For this type of question it is important to consider including an "other" category because there may be other avenues by which the person first heard about your site that you might have overlooked.
Rank Order Scaling
Rank order scaling questions allow a certain set of brands or products to be ranked based upon a specific attribute or characteristic. Perhaps we know that Toyota, Honda, Mazda, and Ford are most likely to be purchased. You may request that the options be ranked based upon a particular attribute. Ties may or may not be allowed. If you allow ties, several options will have the same scores.
Based upon what you have seen, heard, and experienced, please rank the following brands according to their reliability. Place a "1" next to the brand that is most reliable, a "2" next to the brand that is next most reliable, and so on. Remember, no two cars can have the same ranking.
The Rating Scale
A rating scale question requires a person to rate a product or brand along a well-defined, evenly spaced continuum. Rating scales are often used to measure the direction and intensity of attitudes. The following is an example of a comparative rating scale question:
Which of the following categories best describes
your last experience purchasing a product or service on our website? Would
you say that your experience was:
The Semantic Differential Scale
The semantic differential scale asks a person to rate a product, brand, or company based upon a seven-point rating scale that has two bi-polar adjectives at each end. The following is an example of a semantic differential scale question.
Notice that unlike the rating scale, the semantic differential scale does not have a neutral or middle selection. A person must choose, to a certain extent, one or the other adjective.
The Stapel Scale
The staple scale asks a person to rate a brand, product, or service according to a certain characteristic on a scale from +5 to -5, indicating how well the characteristic describes the product or service. The following is an example of a staple scale question:
When thinking about Data Mining Technologies, Inc. (DMT), do you believe that the word "innovative" aptly describes or poorly describes the company? On a scale of +5 to -5 with +5 being "very good description of DMT" and -5 being "poor description of DMT," how do you rank DMT according to the word "innovative"?
The Constant Sum Question
A constant sum question permits collection of "ratio" data, meaning that the data is able to express the relative value or importance of the options (option A is twice as important as option B)
The following question asks you to divide 100 points between a set of options to show the value or importance you place on each option. Distribute the 100 points giving the more important reasons a greater number of points. The computer will prompt you if your total does not equal exactly 100 points.
When thinking about the reasons you purchased our TargetFind data mining software, please rate the following reasons according to their relative importance.
Seamless integration with other software
User friendliness of software __________
Ability to manipulate algorithms __________
Level of pre- and post-purchase service __________
Level of value for the price __________
Convenience of purchase/quick delivery __________
Total 100 points
The Open-Ended Question
The open-ended question seeks to explore the qualitative, in-depth aspects of a particular topic or issue. It gives a person the chance to respond in detail. Although open-ended questions are important, they are time-consuming and should not be over-used. An example of an open-ended question might be:
(If the respondent indicates they did not find what they were looking for...)
What products of services were you looking for
that were not found on our website?
If you want to add an "Other" answer to a multiple choice question, you would use branching instructions to come to an open ended question to find out What Other....
The Demographic Question
Demographic questions are an integral part of any questionnaire. They are used to identify characteristics such as age, gender, income, race, geographic place of residence, number of children, and so forth. For example demographic questions will help you to classify the difference between product users and non-users. Perhaps most of your customers come from the Northeast, are between the ages of 50 and 65, and have incomes between $50,000 and $75,000.
Demographic data helps you paint a more accurate picture of the group
of persons you are trying to understand. And by better understanding the
type of people who use or are likely to use your product, you can
allocate promotional resources to reach these people, in a more cost
Psycho-graphic or life style questions are also included in the template files. These questions provide an in-depth psychological profile and look at activities, interests and opinions of respondents.