What is a survey? A survey is an examination, especially an official examination, of a particular group of items, to ascertain the condition, quantity, or quality. So basically a survey seeks to study and understand some phenomena. In business and entrepreneurship, this is an important exercise that must be regularly done. The core reason why surveys are pivotal here is that they enable you to gather objective data which then informs your strategies and decisions. Remember I always emphasise the indispensable of customer feedback in successfully running any entity. In this article, I share with you how you can design good surveys.

First Things First – Goal Setting

You can examine or study what you do not know. There must be clarity and specificity in what you want to examine. This is crucial because that is what will inform the kind of questions you will ask. This will even determine the title of your survey which also plays a key role in drawing attention. So for starters, let your survey goal be simple, clear, and specific.

Your Opening Is Crucial

Before a participant even goes through the survey they must know what they are getting into. Provide a brief introduction outlining the why and how of the survey. Highlight duration of the survey – which under normal circumstances should be short. You also have to ensure that the participants are eligible for the survey. It would be a waste to have participants not be relevant to your survey. To ascertain eligibility you can start by asking certain questions. These can be about the participant’s age, location, sex, and so on. You also have to give assurances related to ethics such as data privacy, anonymity, and the like.

Sweet and Short – Less Is More

The last thing anyone would want is to spend a long time participating in a survey. People are generally busy nowadays and there is so much jostling for their attention. People’s attention spans are much lower which is something you must factor in. A survey must not be too long lest it becomes boring. In fact, you typically have to highlight at the beginning how long it will take. Be honest and do not lie. If it is too long you might be forced to lie and participants might abort along the way. It is recommended that a good survey should not exceed 10 minutes – beyond that is too long. Actually, if it can take less than 10 minutes that would even be best. Typically an average of 10 questions would be good to keep it sweet and short.

What Is In It For The Participants?

It is a given that you can get people to participate for free i.e. without having to give them something. However, this might be a gamble since participation might not turn out as you would want. The best way to ensure there is a substantial guarantee of participation is to incentivise. Often the rewards for people to participate in a survey are not that costly. It can be very simple and inexpensive things. People just love being rewarded for doing something so this can be a strategic psychological hack.

Be Wary About The Nature Of Your Questions

There is so much you can get wrong on the type of questions you ask if you are not careful. For example, asking open-ended is usually not smart because it will be difficult to aggregate that data. This is because the data becomes qualitative in nature. Participants might not have the time to fill out huge chunks of data. Plus analysing that data will be hectic on your part. An example of an open-ended question is, “How would you describe your experience with our sales staff?

Rather it is wiser to ask close-ended questions which culminate in quantitative data. Quantitative data is much easier to process and analyse. That same question I used as an example can become close-ended if you provide multiple choices to choose from. In fact, it is highly recommended in survey design to use response scales. You should use response scales with even as many as 7 choices to pick from. For example, what might seem like a simple Yes or No question can be expanded into 7 different choices. An example is Agree, Somewhat Agree, Strongly Agree, Disagree, Somewhat Disagree, and Strongly Disagree.

The other thing is to desist from asking leading questions. You want to collect objective data and that will not happen if you somewhat guide participants on what to say. An example of a leading question would be, “On a scale of 0 to 10, how would rate our great products?” Saying ‘great’ there is influencing participants to respond in line with your products being great (yet they might not be).

You must also make sure your questions individually focus on just one thing. The moment you introduce several variables in one question it compromises data quality. For example, “How would you rate our marketing campaigns and customer service?” That question is has two separate variables yet you are asking it as one question. See to it that you do not ask questions like this.

Mind Your Language – Write Like You Are Writing To An 8-Year-Old

Inputting together a survey, be very simple in your use of language. Desist from using jargon that participants might not understand. Use short and easy to understand sentences. If the inclusion of some jargon is inevitable, clarify their meaning. Make sure there are no ambiguities in your questions as this can compromise the quality of your data. Simplicity is always the ultimate sophistication so do not use big words and complex sentences.

These are some of the things you must adhere to design good surveys. There are numerous free platforms through which you can conduct surveys online. You can use platforms such as Google Forms and Survey Monkey – two of the most commonly used. Of course, you can conduct surveys offline e.g. in-store but online nowadays is more effective.