Questionnaire design is more important than you think and here’s why

Survey research is an essential tool for the leadership of any organization to assess its success and chart an effective strategy for the future. Whether you are non-profit evaluating fundraising strategies or an automotive plant tracking employee engagement, surveys provide valuable insights that can lead to meaningful successes.

Developing, distributing, and analyzing data is built on good questionnaire design. Without it, your future costs and efforts may be tainted or even wasted by poor data. Even basic questionnaire design requires a careful balance to deliver the highest quality responses and should be written by an experienced hand.

Questionnaire & survey design is critical to the success of your insights

QuestionPro offers end-to-end research services, including consultation and questionnaire design with support from our team of experts. To help you get started, here are five important principles of questionnaire development.

Keep it focused

Identify a clear survey objective and limit the scope of the survey to that alone. Typically, surveys should take no more than 10 minutes to complete. While there is some debate about it, longer surveys can often benefit from utilizing a progress bar to help people stay focused on reaching the end. Even the most willing survey respondents will lose interest if they feel the survey is dragging on.

Ask important questions first

‘Satisficing’ refers to respondents simply clicking any response to reach the end of a survey. When it happens, it is always towards the end of the survey as respondent attention waivers. So, to receive the best responses to the most critical questions, place these questions at the start of your questionnaire.

Keep it simple

Keeping surveys short and focused keeps questions simple and helps maintain respondents’ interest. Focus on keeping questions clear and concise to obtain the most reliable data. When respondents struggle to interpret a question or have to re-read it, they are more likely to settle for an answer without thinking it through. You should also avoid asking two questions in one, for example, asking about their satisfaction with services and prices in one question.  

Consider removing ‘don’t know’ or ‘no opinion’ options

While there is a case for including these options in some surveys, they can also degrade data quality. Including a ‘don’t know’ or ‘no opinion’ option provides respondents with an easy answer that does not require any thought. Unless it is crucial to identify people who respond with one of these options, it’s best not to offer them. Compelling respondents to choose the answer that fits most closely will result in better data.

Maximize the value of qualitative feedback

Open comment boxes and other qualitative feedback questions can provide some of the most valuable insights. When placed correctly, they can encourage a deeper exploration of ‘what’ questions and offer many practical ‘why’ answers. However, they also ask the most time and effort of respondents. Used too often or set incorrectly, they can drive respondent fatigue and too wide a range of responses. 

Our expert research services team at QuestionPro can help design your questionnaire to run like a well-oiled machine. Minor improvements in questionnaire design can lead to significant results, but unfortunately, they are often overlooked until late in the reporting process. This leads to iterative revisions that make it difficult to compare with past results and accurately identify important trends. Reach out to our team today to discuss how QuestionPro research services can help your organization.