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How to write, design and distribute a survey

As important as a pleasing visual design is, an effective online survey needs to consider much more than colour palette, font selection and page layout. The structure and flow of the questionnaire, the use of smart features such as logic and piping to ensure relevant and frictionless questions, and an understanding of how best to distribute and disseminate the survey, are all important considerations.

If you are new to running surveys, or if your experience is largely limited to using paper-based offline methods, these can be daunting concepts to absorb. So if you want to research and understand your customers, employees, or any other audience, but are unsure where to start, this 10-part guide from SmartSurvey will teach you to structure, enhance, distribute and use online surveys.

You can jump in at any stage - all 10 lessons are listed below - but we recommend beginning with class 1 and working forward. And if you're still unsure how to get started we are here to help; consider using a survey template or simply get in touch.

What You'll Learn in This Series

  • 1. Survey Basics and Common Pitfalls

    Getting started with online surveys can be a daunting process if you're starting from scratch. While it can be tempting to just get stuck in and learn on the go, it's a good idea to run over some basic principles of good practice and common pitfalls before you commit to collecting data.

    Go to Class 1
  • 2. Creating a Simple Survey

    With the basics established, we move on to putting them into practice. We talk about setting up a simple survey, going through the process of defining the goal for the survey, and using that to define what the questions should be.

    Go to Class 2
  • 3. Data Protection for Beginners

    In the last class we saw how surveys can involve collecting personal information. Because of this, we need to take a short detour into the land of data protection legislation. Don't worry, it's not as scary as it sounds. We hope you'll see that the requirements really aren't all that bad, and basically come down to openness and honesty.

    Go to Class 3
  • 4. Multipage Surveys and Logic

    Having considered privacy we move back to the main business of survey creation and talk about some more advanced features you can use to make your surveys personalised and responsive. The capabilities of skip logic are enormous, and is revisited in later classes to see how it can be combined with other features to achieve more complex results.

    Go to Class 4
  • 5. Contact Lists and Invitations

    In this class we discuss contact lists and email distribution, one of the most powerful and widely-used features of online surveys, using details you've already collected about your respondents to associate those details with their survey responses, whilst reducing the friction or effort required to get from invitation to survey.

    Go to Class 5
  • 6. Piping and Custom Variables

    Piping allows you to add simple dynamic elements to the text parts of a survey, similar to how a merge field works in email. Unlike skip logic, where respondents are shown different pages based on their answers, piping can be used on totally linear surveys to insert content such as answers from previous pages into the survey.

    Go to Class 6
  • 7. Default Answers

    Now you're getting some ideas how survey features such as skip logic and piping can be applied to your own projects, we look at a related feature that's incredibly useful. Using default answers is a really a powerful technique to have the capability to move variables around in the background of a survey, and can be used to drive a huge variety of outcomes.

    Go to Class 7
  • 8. Reporting and Exporting

    The whole point of going to the effort of creating online surveys is to collect data that you can then interpret into some form of insight, intelligence, or information that's then used to inform the decisions you need to make. So, in this masterclass, we explore some of your options for viewing, exporting, and sharing the data you gather.

    Go to Class 8
  • 9. Team Working

    Some of the reporting and analysis features we looked at in class 8 are of most use for people working in large organisations with multiple stakeholders. This leads us on naturally to features that support team working.

    Go to Class 9
  • 10. Integration and Automation

    Up to now, this series of articles has focused on the traditional model of a user, sat at a computer (or using a mobile device) doing the work of creating online surveys, sending them out, and doing reports. However, organisations with large-scale and complex requirements can build bespoke integrations with SmartSurvey by using the API and Webhooks.

    Go to Class 10

Create an Online Survey

With the right tools, creating an online survey is easy. You can begin your research project right now, with our fully customisable online survey templates. Simply customise one of our easy to use templates with your own questions and then start sending it out to potential respondents.

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