5 Simple Ways to Write Better Surveys

Tomorrow is my birthday!! Instead of asking for presents, I’m going to give you all one: 5 ways to make your surveys better.

5. Keep the big picture in mind. Why are you doing this survey? Too often, people include a lot of “nice to knows” in their questionnaires. If you want to know what people thought about your event, ask about that. It might be nice to know what other events they’ve been to, what their goals are, and what they had for lunch– but that’s going to make your survey long, annoy your respondents, and muddy the waters when you’re trying to figure out what actions to take.

4. Ask about things you can really do. Speaking of actions, what actions can you realistically take based on your survey results? I’ve done a lot of employee surveys where clients want to ask very broad questions like “What’s one thing your dream workplace would have?” When they get responses like “hot air balloon rides to work,” “caviar in the cafeteria,” or “double my current salary,” they’re usually disappointed because these are things they can never provide. Why not ask how interested people are in a few things you can really implement?

3. Beware the mismatch! Question: What percent of the time do I see people make this error? Response options: Always, sometimes, rarely, never.

Wait, what? When my brain sees “what percent,” I think I’m going to answer with a number. But when I see these response options, I have to switch gears to pick one. That’s a mismatch, and it’s one of the most common mistakes I see people make when writing surveys– as well as one of the most jarring things for respondents.

2. Should I use yes/ no questions? No. Well, almost never. I don’t like to back people into a corner with just two choices like yes/no or agree/disagree. I’d almost always rather give them an option to say “somewhat” or “strongly” agree or “maybe” rather than just “yes or no.”

1. Take my online Questionnaire Design Boot Camp class! It takes less than an hour and will give you an overview of the most important things to keep in mind if you’re writing a survey. Click here to check it out.

If you need a little more help writing your own surveys, contact me!

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