Tips for Testing Your Online Survey

The design and programming phase of your research project is complete, so what’s next? To some, thorough testing on a survey prior to launch is a daunting task. It is not uncommon for mistakes to blend into the background after repeatedly reading the same survey text an excessive amount of times; it is natural for the mind to focus on other elements such as structure and syntax.

In such occurrences, it is important to incorporate different techniques when testing a survey before it is sent to respondents. The steps below are crucial quality assurance methods that will allow you to successfully evaluate your survey’s effectiveness.

Step 1: Plan Ahead

Your research plan may be encumbered with multiple tasks in any given moment, so it is absolutely essential to schedule time for trial runs and fixing any discovered errors. If and when changes are made to the survey, it is important to test again to ensure the survey has improved enough to attain the desired results. Survey testing can be a lengthy process in itself, so it is advisable to start as soon as the questionnaire is programmed; even before adding logic to the questions. When it comes to market research time is of the essence, arranging for ample time to test your survey will protect you from potential data errors and missed deadlines.

Check out 5 more ways to get your survey ready for take-off:

Test and Re-test: 5 Ways to Pre-Flight Your Survey

Step 2: QA Before & After Logic

There is no such thing as testing a survey too many times! Initial testing is best to do right after designing and programming the basic questions, prior to attaching any logic to the survey. The biggest upside to previewing a survey, before implementing logic, lies in the convenience of being able to move questions and sections around without it affecting any logic structure. Once the primary questions have been methodically tested, the required logic can be added and the survey should be tested again. Outside of the basic questionnaire structure, it is vital to ensure that the logic is functioning properly and respondents are sent down the intended survey paths.

Step 3: Test Across Multiple Browsers & Devices

In some scenarios, it is possible to control the devices or browsers that your respondents use to participate in your survey. However, it is not advisable to make assumptions in regard to the device or browser that respondents might be using. Rather than speculating or testing on your most used device or browser, it is recommended to test the survey across as many browsers and devices as possible. For instance, your survey should be compatible with all the major browsers such as Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, etc. Because a vast amount of surveys are now taken on mobile devices, it is highly important to make sure your survey is operational on such devices. You can learn more about conducting surveys on mobile devices here.

Step 4: Engage Multiple Audiences for Testing

When applicable, it is always worthwhile to test your survey by asking random people to participate. It is not necessary for this audience to be included in your target market; they can be your friends, colleagues, or even family members. The goal is to collect valuable feedback on the craft and convenience of taking your survey. For example, you can count on your friends to give you advice on how to improve the wording or question flow. They can also pinpoint any issues that might occur while taking it on various browsers or on their mobile devices.

By the time you finalize the questionnaire design, add logic, test on a random audience, etc. your stakeholders are probably eager to know when they will be able to view the survey results. During this state of enthusiasm, take the opportunity to contact any stakeholders and ask them to preview the survey and engage as a respondent. On survey platforms like AYTM, it is as simple as dispersing a share link directly from the Survey Editor page, which can be easily retrieved by stakeholders via email to conduct their portion of testing. It is important to note if the stakeholders reply with suggestions in regard to survey design or structure, only incorporate those that align with the survey objectives.

Step 5: Soft Launch

This step is optional, but can also be considered the most fundamental. Once you have carefully followed through with all of the previously mentioned tips, you may decide to launch your survey to the entire target audience. Though, if you are looking for absolute satisfaction before you reap the benefits of your hard work, it is wise to conduct this one final step to guarantee your survey is a complete success. Take a portion of your target audience, typically 10% of the total sample size, and collect feedback from that group of respondents only. This method will allow you to dive into actual respondent data and confirm that the output is exactly what you expected. If there are no major changes or issues, you can proceed with fielding the survey to your remaining sample set.

The Takeaways

There are various strategies and methodologies that help surveyors and researchers alike to design and develop the most effective questionnaire possible. These methods and strategies are unique to the overall research objectives, but the drill remains the same. To assure the collection of quality data, all surveys must be meticulously tested before they are distributed among respondents!

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!