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When it comes to producing an online survey that captures your audience, it is a difficult task that requires you to stand out from the hundreds, if not thousands, of other companies trying to do the same thing as you. Asking someone to participate in a survey requires them sacrificing time for the sake of helping your business or organization. In this scenario, you have very little time to make a good first impression, before a respondent decides it’s not worth the effort.

They key to executing a successful survey campaign is to design questions that engage with your audience and caters towards the demographic you’re targeting. A survey that produces a positive response from the participant is more likely to results in higher quality answers, as opposed to someone who is disinterested or rushing to finish it. This article will discuss how to take advantage of different questions types and presenting them in a manner that will resonate with your target market.

Add variety to your survey with engaging question types

Types of questions explained

This first aspect involves outlining the types of questions you can ask in your survey, which are as follows:

  • Multiple Choice– This gives respondents a range of answers to choose from. Survey creators can allow respondents to make one choice, or let them select multiple answers at once.
  • Scale-Based Questions– Radio style buttons are commonly used in a Likert scale, where participants choose from options such as ‘favorably’ or ‘unfavorably’ with each answer representing a certain numerical value. Other variations that ask you to rate based on a scale, include ratio scale questions (eg age, income, hours), ordinal (eg hierarchy based on importance from 1 – 5) and interval scale questions (eg rate from ‘extremely likely’ to ‘unlikely’. Can also be represented as a side-by-side matrix or grid).
  • Numerical Questions– A numerical question is a special text box that only accepts numerical values as a response.
  • Short and Long Answer Questions– Both of these questions allow respondents to freely reply to a question, the main difference between the two is the limitation of text imposed on them (short answer responses will generally have less space or a limit on characters used) and the content of the question itself (long answer questions can be more involved and complex than shorter ones.
Types of questions explained

How to decide which question type to use

Choosing question types that will produce the most accurate answers depends on the topic itself and what kind of answers you’re looking for. Thankfully, there are some common instances of each variety where they’re most suitable. For example, questions regarding age, income, location or marital status, are most often asked as multiple choice or on a provided ratio scale. An interval scale type question will often be used when asking about the level of customer satisfaction, while an ordinal scale may be used to ask you a question based on level of preference to specific items.

Long and short answer questions are commonly used either as a follow-up to a previous question (eg if you chose ‘no,’ explain your reason behind this choice) or to ask an in-depth question that’s irrespective of previous answers given. Be mindful of implementing long answer questions as they require more time and resources to analyze, so don’t put in too many. Avoid placing them near the beginning of the survey too, because respondents may feel uncomfortable with sharing detailed information before becoming accustomed to the survey itself.

Keep your survey fresh and interesting

When establishing structure and flow for your survey, be sure to have the right balance between different types of questions. A survey that mulls over the same format can get repetitive and exhausting for participants, which can lead to early dropouts or inaccurate data. Incomplete surveys or poor answers result in wasted time and effort for the research team, so make sure to test and review your survey before releasing it to the public.

Keep your survey fresh and interesting

Other varieties of question types

With the advent of online surveys, more and more interesting forms of question asking have begun to appear in surveys. This aims to deliver a more optimized and unique experience for participants, by encouraging increased interaction between the respondent and computer. Here are some examples of question types that can add some originality to your survey:

  • Sliders– A slider gives participants the ability to click and drag an icon directly to its desired position. This is a more advanced variation on scale type questions, as they can be implemented to replace the traditional radio or check box format. Answers can be given in numbers, percentile values or level of satisfaction.
  • Maps– This is becoming more prevalent in regards to answering location based questions. An interactive map can be implemented into a survey, which allows respondents the select locations based on the question being asked. An example of this could be when searching for your nearest retail store.
  • Multi-Tier Tables– In most surveys, a dropdown box may be used when selecting your country of birth or current location. A more advanced variation on this standard is the multi-tier dropdown list, where selecting one option will produce another list of choices, based on what the first response was. An example of this could include selecting your country of residence, along with the state you live in.

As new methods of survey responses continue to thrive, it is important to keep your survey accessible and easy to navigate. Having too many unfamiliar methods for giving answers can polarize participants and result in confusion or early dropouts.

If you choose to adapt to new methods of answering questions, be sure you understand how you’re going to collect that data and categorize it. For example, this can be particularly problematic if you adopt a slider representing percentile values, as this would require breaking up the responses into sub-categories (eg 11-20%, 21-30%).


Creating a survey can be a difficult and time consuming process, however, don’t make the mistake of having your participants go through the same experience as well. By creating a survey that’s sympathetic towards your audience, you’ll deliver an experience that is both engaging and satisfying for all participants involved.

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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