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In today’s climate of busy schedules, such as meetings, deadlines and managing time for friends and family, persuading people into completing a survey is a difficult task. Producing a survey that is short, concise and accessible can be challenging, especially if you’re trying to satisfy numerous aspects or departments, along with achieving the business goals you’ve established. Statistics show that unnecessarily long surveys produce the highest rate of dropouts, inaccurate results and low respondent rates. Below are some important factors to consider when creating a short and concise survey:

  • Keep in mind the business goals and ask questions that are relevant to that goal. Try not to stray too far from the objectives that need to be met.
  • Use simple language when asking questions. Avoid technical or industry-specific terms that may confuse your respondents.
  • Consider the rate at which you or your company/organization produces and distributes these surveys. Annually? Bi-annually? This will help dictate how long your survey should be.
  • Optimize your survey for mobile devices and desktop systems. For example, having single questions for each screen may be ideal for smart phones, but are typically unnecessary for personal computers that have the screen capacity to display multiple questions.
  • Experiment with artificial limits (eg. a limit of 5 questions for each survey) in order to condense and optimize the survey.
  • Be careful when offering incentives for your respondents. This may result in low-quality answers and oversaturated data, due to participants who simply want the incentive and have no interest in the survey itself.
  • Test and review the survey on yourselves and participants who weren’t involved in the survey creation process.

This article will take you through aspects related to survey length, so as to help you produce a survey that resonates best with your target market.

Ask questions that relate to the business goals

Ask questions that relate to the business goals

The first step to creating an effective survey is to establish your business goals. What kind of answers are you looking for? What questions do you need to ask in order to get those answers? Are they long term or short term goals? Going through this process first will greatly influence the questions you ask in your survey. It will also help keep your survey going in the right direction, without straying off into areas that aren’t relevant to the business goals.

If your survey relates to several departments within a large company or organization, then produce individual surveys that relate to the needs of each department. Trying to condense too many requirements into a single survey will overwhelm respondents and result in potential early dropouts, or inaccurate data.

Use simple language and condense your questions

Optimizing your survey doesn’t just correlate to the amount of questions asked. Consider how you ask each question and decide whether you can rephrase them in a simpler way. Be sure to stick to one concept for each question you ask. Presenting too many variables within the one question can confuse respondents and result in inaccurate or biased answers, as each variable may not apply to the respondent (eg. presenting a limited range of transport options that don’t apply to everyone).

Avoid using technical or industry-specific terms, so as to make your survey accessible to all your participants. Coincidentally, this may result in having to make questions longer for the sake of using simple language. However, the trade-off means that respondents will be less confused and be able to give you better answers.

Optimize your survey for multiple devices

This means testing and reviewing your survey on several devices, including smart phones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers. Each device should be optimized according to their technical limitations and functionality. Avoid crossing over features or concepts that don’t apply to each device, such as reducing each question to a single page. This is typically not ideal for desktop computers or laptops, since they have the screen capacity to manage more information than mobile devices.

Implementing features that are relevant to mobile devices is important to consider. This includes swiping between pages, zooming in and out, fitting each question on a single screen and more. Test your survey on all devices to ensure each one functions according to their technology and how people use them.

Experiment with artificial limits

Try imposing a limit on the amount of questions you ask and see if it enables you to more effectively optimize them. Is it possible to derive the same answers you need by asking less questions? This will help keep your survey focused, without straying into potentially irrelevant data.

Be careful to avoid implementing multiple concepts into one question for the sake of satisfying your artificial limit. If this occurs, then it is probably best to expand your artificial limit for the sake of producing a simpler and more optimized survey.

Apply logic skip rules and filters

Logic skip rules allow you to filter out and prioritize questions, according to the answers given by the respondent. For example, if a respondent says they prefer eating apples over bananas, then the survey may produce a follow-up question that’s relevant only to those who responded with the answer ‘apples.’ This allows for more detailed responses, because it lets people justify why they chose that particular answer, which can provide invaluable information for your findings.

Test and review your survey

Once you’ve produced a survey that satisfies all of the main criteria’s, test the survey out on yourself or your team, along with participants who were not involved in creating the survey. Have each respondent take the survey, uninterrupted, as if the survey was final. Give them a platform to provide feedback and then act upon their feedback.

When you have revised any errors related to your survey, repeat the process and present it again to your participants, allow them to give any further feedback. Continue the review process and finalize the project once each respondent has expressed a consistent level of satisfaction for your survey.

By following these simple steps, you’ll be able to deliver a survey that will be easily accessible to your participants. Avoid the pitfalls of an unnecessarily long and time consuming survey through simple language, optimizing for multiple devices and keeping track of your desired business goals.

Øyvind's avatar
Øyvind Forsbak
As CTO and co-founder of Orient Software, Øyvind Forsbak oversees all of our organization’s technical matters. Since Orient Software's founding in 2005, Øyvind has guided the company's choices of technology to become a world class developer in .NET and modern JavaScript frameworks.
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