How to Create a Questionnaire
Nowadays, target audiences are surveyed not only by sociologists but also by a variety of specialists without relevant education: product managers, business analysts, HR managers, etc. Yet, few look into how to create a good questionnaire. The process seems deceptively intuitive at first.
However, you have to bear in mind that the quality of the questionnaire will largely determine the reliability of collected data. Even the same questions can produce different results when asked in a different order. Let’s explore the key principles that will turn your survey into a dependable research tool.
What is a Questionnaire
A questionnaire is a research tool that consists of a number of questions with answer options aimed at collecting information from respondents in a personal interview or through independent survey completion.
10 Steps of Designing a Good Questionnaire
Define Research Goals and Objectives
Before working on the questionnaire itself, you need to establish your goals and objectives. The goal is the main question the research is meant to answer. And each question in the questionnaire should bring you closer to reaching the goal.
The golden rule to be followed when creating a questionnaire is “one goal — one questionnaire.” Researchers often try to cut corners and use one questionnaire for several goals to save money. But the only result they get is unreliable data.
Survey Target Audience
Another important aspect of any research project is selection of the survey target audience. Target audience is usually defined based on its socio-demographic (gender, age, place of residence), psychographic (lifestyle, dreams and fears), and behavioral (shopping frequency) characteristics. When it comes to surveys, your target audience can be the visitors on your website, loyalty program members, or potential consumers of your goods or services.
Choice of Question Types
Use different types of questions that vary both in form and substance to match your research objectives. The ratio of closed-ended and open-ended questions should be 70/30. Quantitative surveys mostly consist of closed-ended questions. Go easy on open-ended questions, as they make the respondents’ job harder and, consequently, decrease the completion rate.
A questionnaire should start with a welcome page that briefly describes the topic of the research, how the respondents’ answers will be processed and used, and what reward (if any) the respondents will get for completing the survey.
The first questions should be simple to earn the respondents’ trust and facilitate the interaction. Place the most difficult questions in the middle of the survey. Save personal profiling questions (gender, age, marital status, educational background) for the end. Such questions in the very beginning of a questionnaire may put the respondents on guard and deter them.
The core part of the questionnaire should start with general questions that apply to all respondents. Then move on to questions that address specific segments of the target audience. Content-wise, questions should be placed in the following order: first questions about knowledge and awareness, then about experience, after that — about motives and relationships, and, finally, intentions.
Before releasing a finished questionnaire “into the wild,” you need to test it. Read it several times to check for ambiguous wording, broken question logic, and incomplete options selection. Then ask your friends or colleagues for help. 10–15 interviews with representatives of the target audience will be enough to detect 90% of issues.
Questionnaire Question Types
The process of surveying using a pre-designed questionnaire is an artificially created communicative situation between two people (the survey creator and the respondent). For the questionnaire to be more exciting and the whole experience to feel more natural, different types of questions should be used.
Based on Answer Types
- Closed-ended questions (selection of answer options from a closed-ended list).
- Partially closed-ended questions (selection of answer options from a closed-ended list + Other option).
- Open-ended questions (a respondent is free to give any answer).
Based on the Question Role
To Optimize Survey Logic
- Contact question (to establish contact with the respondents).
- Question to relieve tension.
- Buffer question (to neutralize the impact of answers to previous questions).
- Filter questions (for conditional branching).
- Have you attended this event before? Questions 13–15 are shown only to those who have previously attended the event.
- Trick questions (to control the integrity of answers). Have you read a book by [a made-up author]? Yes | No
To Obtain Information
- Factual questions. How long have you been using this product?
- Awareness-gauging questions.
- Questions on motives, opinions, and assessment.
Based on Question Directness
- Direct questions. How satisfied are you with our product overall?
- Indirect questions. Would you recommend this product to your friends and colleagues?
- Projective questions. If you were the product manager of our service, what would you change about it?
Based on Respondent Information
- Personal questions (about the respondent).
- Impersonal questions (a suggestion to join a group of people who share a particular socially approved opinion or stereotype).
12 Tips on How to Develop the Question Wording
- Try to phrase questions and answer options as simply and clearly as possible.
- Avoid specific terminology, abbreviations, acronyms, and slang.
- Don’t combine two questions into one.
- Check for spelling and punctuation mistakes.
- Don’t include too many open-ended questions.
- Offer an exhaustive list of answer options and include an Other option, if necessary.
- Make sure that the number of options doesn’t exceed 7±2.
- Avoid leading questions.
- Avoid abstract concepts.
- Check the reliability of answers with control questions.
- Make sure that questions do not threaten respondents’ honor and dignity.
- Use mutually exclusive answer options in alternative questions.
Types of Questionnaires
Depending on the survey objectives, there are different types of questionnaires that require specific approaches to their design.
- When you send a survey to the existing email database, you are addressing the clients on behalf of the company. That means you need to pay special attention to the questionnaire’s formatting.
- Before sending the survey, check it for spelling mistakes and typos, blurry images and broken links.
- Add the company logo and use the corporate color scheme.
- The questionnaire should be short. It’s in your best interest that the respondents don’t associate your brand with a long, boring survey.
- Offer a reward: a discount promo code, extra services, access to an exclusive collection, etc. This way you will kill two birds with one stone: you will motivate the respondents to complete the survey and advertise your product.
Examples of questions for embedded website survey:
- How did you learn about our product/website?
- Will you recommend our product/website to your friends or colleagues?
- What other options did you consider before choosing us?
The main challenge with anonymous surveys is convincing respondents that their identity is safe and cannot be disclosed. This nuance can jeopardize the entire research. Anonymous surveys are often used to assess staff engagement and loyalty, since employees may feel risk of losing their job or trust of the management when expressing their opinion openly.
Recommendations on how to create an anonymous questionnaire:
- In the invitation to the survey, clarify the goal of the research, the measures taken to guarantee respondent anonymity, how the collected data will be used and stored, who will have access to the data and who will be authorized to analyze them, what actions might be taken following the results of the survey.
- The link to the survey must be identical for all respondents and not include any superfluous parameters.
- Check for question combinations that can indirectly help identify a person.
- Word the questions with regard to how they can be answered. Some questions may require the respondent to describe a specific situation, which can make it easy to identify those involved.
- If you already have an idea of the socio-demographic composition of the respondents, keep that in mind when phrasing personal questions. For instance, if you are asking respondents to indicate how long they have been with the company while knowing that less than 5% of your employees have been working there for more than 10 years, that significantly compromises anonymity of this cohort.
Website questionnaire is a quick and easy way to get feedback. It can help you collect information about the users and the purpose of their visit, as well as do an express audit of the website usability. The questionnaire may be embedded into a section of the website, open as a pop-up window, or displayed in a side widget.
Where to place a survey on the website:
- Home page
- Landing page
- Payment confirmation page
- Product catalog page
- Pages with high reject rates
- Subscription canceling/changing page
- Blog articles
The main issue with employee surveys is a low response rate. Here are some tips on how to motivate your employees to complete a survey.
A good way to motivate the personnel is to offer them feedback after survey completion. Mention it in the invitation to the survey and make sure to keep this promise. If you are conducting employee assessment, send them individual reports. If you are asking them to evaluate the company, share the results and follow-up decisions. All employees value their time and want to see the results of their actions. Prove to them that their opinion is taken into account in decision-making. This will improve the response rate, as well as the overall approach to answering the questions and respondents’ sincerity.
Employees see surveys as something outside of their immediate duties.That’s why a questionnaire should be as short as possible.
If the survey is not anonymous, don’t include questions about job title, department, and years with the company; add it on your side from the internal database.
If the questionnaire is longer than 10–12 questions, mix things up by adding images, star or emoji rating points, and progress bar.
Set a time frame for survey completion. Even the most engaged employees may forget about the survey when working on urgent tasks. At the same time, don’t draw thing out — set the deadline for the evening of the same day. That will reduce the risk of employees putting it off and forgetting about it.