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Survey Tips

The Top 7 Survey Question Mistakes

Sending surveys is a great tool to help you gather feedback about your business, products or services and your staff.

With the availability of online software to send your surveys, it’s never been easier and more cost effective to gather data about your audience.

While you can create and distribute online surveys quite easily, you’ve got to put some thought into how you design and write a successful survey. It requires careful planning and thoughtfulness.

To help you create the most productive and data-rich surveys, we’ve put together the top 7 survey question mistakes to avoid.

#1: You Missed the Target

For the most accurate surveys, you want to select and sample the right target audience. If you don’t understand your target audience, it’s very hard to design an effective survey.

For example, let’s say your survey is about swimming lessons for children, and you randomly send the survey to your customers. You might hit childless people, the elderly or those whose kids are too old for swimming lessons.

You want to target the right audience, so you’d want to send the survey to people with young children. In other words, you need to send the survey to the decisions makers, otherwise the data you collect won’t mean much.

When you understand your target audience, you are more familiar with their basic attitudes and beliefs.  This can assist you in steering clear of offensive or even biased questions and help you pose the right ones.

Not only do you want to be cognizant of the data you are trying to collect, but you want to know enough to understand what information your respondents are capable of providing you.

#2: The Survey is Too Long

One study says humans have a shorter attention span than the common goldfish. While goldfish remain attentive for nine seconds, this study shows the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 to around eight seconds now.

Why? You can probably blame the mobile phone.

We tell you this to encourage you to keep your survey short. Consider the respondent completing your survey on his phone while checking his Facebook feed at the same time on his laptop.

You want to maximize your responses, so you want to get right to the point quickly and in as few steps as possible.

Know what you want to learn from your survey respondents and ask only the information you absolutely need and will definitely use. Try and keep your surveys to just about five minutes. If you go over that time-frame, think about offering an incentive or reward.

#3: The Survey Questions are Biased

A survey that contains bias is basically useless when it comes to analyzing data.

What are biased questions? These are questions that lead your respondents to a particular answer. Most often, survey creators don’t intend to write leading questions, and this is a quite common mistake.

Biased questions can even prompt an answer that doesn’t reflect your respondent’s true feelings or opinions. (tweet this) When you ask loaded questions, they can confuse the respondent and often cause them to abandon a survey because they don’t want to provide the answer for fear it will give away personal data.

Biased questions can also be found in the double-barreled question. This is when you force your respondent to answer two questions at once. You want to write survey questions that measure only one thing.

#4: You Included Too Many Demographics

Another mistake is to begin your survey with too many demographic questions such as age, sex, income, education, number of children, email address and more.

You only want to ask demographic questions if your survey depends on it. For example, as in the survey we mentioned above, it would be important to know if your respondents had children.

In addition, if you are using logic in your survey, you can pose multiple demographic questions because you’ll take respondents to other areas of the survey based on their answer, and they won’t have to answer all of them.

Just be sure, again, that you really need the information. For example, if someone answered “no” to the “Do you have children question,” you could take them to another question that asks if they “care” for children (such as a grandparent).

Too many intrusive demographic questions can make your respondents uncomfortable and cause survey drop-out. Try asking your questions at the end of the survey. They’ll be more likely to answer after they’ve spent the time completing your survey.

#5: The Questions Include Negative Wording

Avoid posing questions with the word “not” in them. Your respondents may have trouble knowing what to answer if you use negative wording.

For example, you ask this question: “Do you agree or disagree that swimming lessons are not important for children?” Your possible answers are: agree, disagree, don’t know.

This is a difficult question to answer because first, it can’t be answered quickly, and second, it’s confusing.

You’re better off posing a question like this: “Do you think swimming lessons are important for children? Possible answers: yes, no, don’t know.

This question is easier on the eye and easier for your respondents to answer quickly.

#6: You Ask Unnecessary Questions

It’s incredibly easy when designing a survey to throw in every question for which you think you might need an answer. This is a huge mistake.

For example, if you really only need to know if your respondents think swimming lessons are important, just ask that question or a few related to it.

This might be the case if you’re trying to gauge your target market for their willingness to support a new swimming facility in the area.

Pose only the questions from which you’ll use the data to make a decision or take an action. (tweet this) Don’t ask questions that you won’t act on or don’t have the ability to act on.

#7: You Offer Too Many Choices

While it’s good to offer choices when asking multiple choice questions, you want to keep the possible answers to a realistic number.

Too many choices will confuse your respondents and complicate your data analysis. Keep your list of choices short and succinct.

Plan on offering people the ability to check the Other, please specify box. You might also include the option of don’t know, uncertain, or not applicable. Offering these choices keeps your respondents from getting frustrated when they don’t see their response in the multiple choice list.

To Conclude

If you avoid the top 7 survey question mistakes mentioned here, you’ll design a better survey.

You will find that you’ll receive more accurate data. Plus, your respondents will walk away from your survey feeling good about helping you and your company. They won’t feel frustrated at a poorly-designed survey.

Your respondents will be glad they took the time to answer your survey properly.

Surveys help you make the best decisions for your business. Are you ready to get started with your free Survey Town trial? Start with your free account today, and you can upgrade at any time.

Image: Benjamin Child