Survey Length: The Optimal Amount of Questions to Ask

If you’re at the point in your research process where you are probing your brain over the, ever so common, inquiry around how many questions need to be included in your questionnaire, the short answer is; as few as possible. Reducing the length of a survey to a reasonable completion time is crucial! Survey fatigue can be a real menace when attempting to develop a study that will result in the best, most accurate data.

A handful of well phrased, well-designed survey questions will usually relinquish any problems that may arise when respondents work to complete such a survey. Though once a survey starts to get bogged down with page after page of radio buttons, open-ended questions, and convoluted question phrasing, respondents either lose interest or become too frustrated to complete the rest of the survey. Truth be told, there isn’t a single correct response for the exact number of questions your survey should contain. But, there are a few variables you ought to consider prior to design and programming.

 

Set a Purpose

The best way you can get your survey to its ideal length is by setting a clear goal; a distinct purpose that meets your overall research objectives. Before you begin to design your questionnaire, make sure you have taken the time to define what your targets are. Recognizing what you need to accomplish prior to building and fielding a survey, combined with identifying the type of data you need to collect, will help keep you centered and your research project on track.

Setting goals and determining the type of data needed will help avoid asking pointless or insignificant questions. For instance, opposed to running a survey to see whether clients like your business, pick a more targeted goal. Such a goal could include, finding out the most dissatisfying features in your product or service, if your website is user-friendly, or if clients may be interested in the new product offering. It is important to set time aside for this type of planning as you don’t want to disappoint or disturb your respondents with a poorly written survey and have them exit the study before finishing it.

Avoid Confusing Questions

Survey questions shouldn’t be deceiving, befuddling, or contain any double negatives if you wish to produce a great outcome. More often than not, respondents are more willing to provide honest feedback in the event that they feel comfortable about the question they are being asked. If you want to optimize the number of questions that you want to ask without creating survey fatigue, just try to simplify the questions.

If your respondents have to spend too much time mulling over the phrasing of a question or sifting through complicated answer choices, it leads to time wasted and increased dropout rates. Thus, it is always sensible to keep the questions as simple as possible. There are situations when multiple questions fit into the similar format, you could consider grouping them together to facilitate speedy responses. For instance, rather than asking, “Are you happy with the services included on our website?” and “Are you happy with our customer benefit alternatives?” you could combine the inquires to a matrix question type that asks respondents, “Please rate your level of satisfaction with the different parts of our service.” Then give respondents a few unique angles to rate from most satisfied to least satisfied. This method will enable you to get similar data without constraining respondents to read through various distinctive questions.

Ideal Number of Survey Questions

To reiterate, there is no magic number for the number of questions that should be included in every survey across every audience. However, the rule of thumb for most survey types is to keep the survey completion time under 10 minutes. Furthermore, five-minute surveys will see even higher completion rates, especially with customer satisfaction and feedback surveys.

In a scenario where you’ve developed a questionnaire with heaps of inquiries, that surpasses a 10-minute completion time, it would be worthwhile to consider offering respondents greater motivation and reward them for their time and effort spent on your study.

The Takeaways

Remember, less is more in most cases. It is advisable to include the fewest amount of questions in your survey design, without sacrificing the main objective, to avoid fatiguing your respondents. It is important to make sure you’re balancing the number of questions once you build surveys to avoid respondent fall-out, and moreover let your survey participants know that you value their time!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ariel Hagaman
I was born and raised in New Jersey, and currently work for AYTM as Director of Client Services. I am a graduate of the University of Phoenix, and have always found that I am at my best when working with people. My favorite past-times are reading, skiing, and yoga!