Post by Laura Parden, Adam's Research Intern at the time, supporting the day-to-day running of projects.

I have now completed the first month of my internship and have already learnt so much. Although I have experience of doing research through my degree, I hadn’t spent much time setting up surveys from scratch. Having now been thrown into the survey deep end, there are a few things I’ve learnt along the way.

So here are my top 10 beginner’s tips for getting to grips with online surveys.

1. Watch online video tutorials 

It is virtually guaranteed there will be online video tutorials on how to get the most out of the survey software you're using. By watching these, you’ll not only pick up tips before you have a go at setting your first survey up but they’re also useful to refer back to if you get stuck at any point.  

2. Set up a dummy survey 

This will help you get used to the software ‘hands on’ without the pressure of knowing your survey will be going ‘live’. You can use your dummy survey to learn how to input the questions, get your head around the various answer options and question types, where to put page breaks, how logic and piping work (more on this later) and how to organise the survey layout and design (e.g. fonts, colour scheme, logos etc).

3. Find the right questions

Once you are ready to start setting your own survey up, you’ll want your questions to be as robust as possible. We cover some common survey question pitfalls in this blog:

Ask a stupid question

4. Think about order and flow

A well-structured survey can make all the difference for the user’s experience. Break your questions up into sections and think about how they should flow. Most survey platforms have a drag-and-drop tool so you can easily move these about until you find the right fit.

5. Keep answer options consistent

"Consistency is key" as they say. Using the same response options across your surveys will save you time and improve your analysis. One way to do this is using question banks and libraries to save common questions which can be easily used again and again.

6. Use logic

The last thing you want to do is make someone answer questions they don't need to or that aren't relevant to them. Fortunately, you can apply logic and routing in most survey platforms to make sure this doesn't happen. Not sure what we mean? Take these examples:

Routing: This is where you can skip questions that are irrelevant to a particular respondent. For example, if you are surveying employees and ask them whether or not they read their company’s blog and they select no, you can set up logic to ensure that the survey skips the next set of questions that relate to the blog.

Piping: This is where you funnel related questions into one another. For example, if you have asked people to select 5 out of 10 options for a previous question, the next set of questions will only refer to the 5 options they selected.

7. Find the right look and feel

People are more likely to have confidence in a survey with a consistent look and feel. Most online survey platforms include the option to set up custom design templates which can be used to incorporate your branding. Not only is this a huge time-saver but it also ensures your future surveys have the same visual consistency which is likely to positively impact response rates.

8. Be mindful over length

The internet is a minefield of competing demands. Keeping your survey as short as possible is therefore key to keeping people’s attention and maximising response rates. The good news is that many software platforms will provide feedback on the ‘fatigue-score’ of your survey after you have set it up. This includes automatically measuring how long the survey might take someone to complete and flagging up questions which could be difficult to answer.

9. Make it accessible

Consider who your survey is for and what their accessibility needs may be. For example, if there is a large demographic in your sample for whom English is not a first language, you could include a translation of your survey so that these voices are not excluded. There are also other built-in accessibility features such as 'low vision mode', so people are able to adapt the survey to suit their needs.

10. Test, test, test 

There's nothing worse than spending time designing a survey, putting it out there and then someone spotting a problem. Make sure you test it, and get some help from people who haven't been involved in the design. Most platforms have test features, such as preview mode and the ability to generate test data. The software we use allows our clients to make comments and suggested changes straight into the system, simplifying and speeding up the amendment process for all concerned.

I’ve found that designing an online survey is an iterative process. It’s unlikely you’ll get it right first time. But that’s fine. As they say, practice makes perfect. And for me personally, I have a feeling I will be getting a lot of practice over the next 12 months!

Want to read more about online surveys?

Online surveys need time 

Planning market research

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