5 Tips For An Effective Online Questionnaire

Philip Cleave
March 1, 2017

The benefits of an effective online questionnaire are far reaching. They are cost-efficient, have a wide reach and can offer fast results. And, with current advanced reporting tools, you can quickly spot trends in the market and develop a business strategy in line with your research. But, questionnaires are only as effective as the questions asked, so it is important to spend some time designing the right type of surveys…

In light of the proven importance of an effective online questionnaire for many companies, it is especially crucial to observe tips by experts in the field. When questionnaires, delivered to specific respondents, are appropriate in length, wording, and choice of questions, their usefulness is truly invaluable. We have put together some of our top tips to help you get started…

Tip #1 – Make the questions count

The first tip, usually offered by the experts with respect to an effective online questionnaire, is the length. The optimal length is usually around 10 minutes, according to many respondents when asked for their opinion on the best length for a survey. However, when the question topic is relevant, respondents would not pose a maximum length limit.

At the draft stage of the questionnaire, whoever is creating the survey should assess;

  1. What would be of significance for them to learn
  2. What would be simply useful
  3. What would be unnecessary

The essential part should make up the majority of the questionnaire, the simply useful part should be minimal, and the questions that would elicit unnecessary information should be discarded.

Tip #2 – Keep it simple

The wording of questions is the next crucial factor. Questions should be short and ask for information in a straightforward manner. To achieve well-worded questions, authors of an online questionnaire should invest time in writing and then editing questions, to achieve effective final results.

Tip #3 – Make it interesting

To ensure that the attention of respondents is captured and maintained, it is a good policy to start with interesting questions. More difficult questions should be placed in the second half of the questionnaire. Asking questions in the third person is more relaxing for respondents, so interesting questions should take that rule into account. It can be easier to ask questions and get more honest answers by using a more indirect route.

Tip #4 – Follow the rules

The questions themselves should comply with specific rules in order to contribute to the effectiveness of the online questionnaire;

  • The questions should follow in a logical order, start with general questions then proceed to more specific ones
  • There should be no leading questions that demand a specific response, related to dates, days of the month, etc.
  • To ensure clarity, there should be no double negatives
  • With questions inviting respondents to use rating scales, balancing of scales and providing room for both extremes are necessary
  • With multiple choice questions, the list of possible answers should not be too long
  • Close ended questions are more preferable than open-ended questions, as respondents see clearly the questions’ purpose and can conveniently choose the answer. In comparison, open-ended questions require respondents to write responses themselves, and that can reduce their attention and discourage them from continuing.

Tip #5 – Pilot test your survey

Finally, before an online questionnaire is offered to the specific focus group, it should be pre-tested by a small group of that target demographic. By pre-testing the questionnaire, authors can see if there is a problem that can be eliminated before the online survey is officially launched. The respondents testing the survey can share problems they have experienced when answering the questions so that they can be identified and eliminated.

Effective online questionnaire templates

Online questionnaires are simple to put together and the benefits of carrying out research this way will more than likely outweigh the drawbacks, particularly if you are conducting short, simple surveys.

If you want to get started quickly and would like a little help, there are a selection of questionnaire templates you can use to get you started.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in June 2012 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.


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