Level Up Your DIY Survey Game: Part Two "Designing Better Questions"

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Posted Oct 07, 2021
Trevor Brown

Surveys are all about answers. But it’s the questions that compose them that are most critical. In part one of this series, we talked about “the big why,” a particularly important question—especially in the beginning stages of your survey. Picking up from where we left off, today we’ll talk in greater detail about optimizing each individual question in your survey—looking at the way we provide context, clarity, and consistency for our respondents. Are you ready? Let’s go!


Let’s begin with a big truth here: surveys should always be human-centric. It’s crucial to connect to humanity in your survey design, because not only will it make for a better respondent experience, it’ll also yield better results.  Consider the way your respondents might feel after a question. Give context to help signal what to focus on, how to respond, or where the survey is headed. These considerations may seem frivolous, but we know surveys that are thoughtfully designed tend to empower better responses. 

Let your thoughtfulness drive precision. Sometimes there’s more you can give your respondents to help them provide better answers. For example, answers that are given on a scale can often help guide more actionable feedback than leaving things open-ended. It also helps to consider how your respondents’ thoughts may linger on a previous question. You can quell these distractions by applying that understanding in your phrasing of the next question. You can also start your survey with a big-picture question and drill down to the details as the survey progresses.These exercises in empathy can make a huge difference—give it a shot!

Strive for Clarity and Consistency

This seems like a no-brainer, but every now and then clarity and consistency will elude us. Here, it helps to prioritize how you can put everything on an even playing field for your respondents. This can apply to the language you use for responses: do you use “none,” “N/A,” or “other?” It can apply to the way your scales are represented. And most commonly, it can apply to the stimuli you incorporate in your questions. 

Using clear, consistent stimuli for survey respondents can be a real challenge— sometimes you’re not the one creating the stimuli. But as you work to gather all the assets you’ll need for your survey, strive to reach for that “apples-to-apples” level of consistency. To do this, you’ll want to make sure the information is presented as evenly as possible—don’t use full video stimuli for one option and a napkin sketch for another. Work to ensure your illustrations and supporting visuals coincide with each other. Use the same fonts and sizes. Make sure the graphics aren’t grainy or distorted. Confirm that everything is legible. There you go, now we’re talkin’.

Be Exhaustive, Not Exhausting

This can seem like a fine line, but there are several things you can do to cover all your bases without building an overwhelming survey. Keep that balance by striving to be fully inclusive, yet reasonably brief in how you build response options. Well-constructed options can help your respondents find their place among the available choices. 

This is where thoughtfulness comes back into play. Companies generally think of direct competitors first, but often respondents will think of a challenger brand or a poetic outsider instead. Our suggestion? Don’t go to great lengths to list all of these. Instead give them a place to say, “I use something else,” and allow them to list that brand. There are also some great techniques about piping and show/hide logic that can make this easier for your respondents—we’ll cover those in part three! 

If you really want to stick the landing with your survey, pay close attention to how your individual questions end. Here’s a thought: when “none of the above'' is chosen on the aytm platform, all other choices become unclickable. Sometimes, there’s a strong, strategic advantage to using that versus another option, but when you’re asking respondents for items that aren’t on the list, you may want to reconsider using it. The bottom line? If you want your respondents to answer your survey questions with certainty, you gotta empower them to do so!

Any Questions?

In part 2 of this series, we dug into the details about how to optimize your survey questions. We highlighted the importance of empathy in survey design and outlined strategies for maintaining clarity and consistency throughout your survey. Finally, we discussed that fine line between survey structures that are exhaustive versus those that are exhausting.  But how about you? Do you have any questions? If so, just reach out! We’ll give you all the answers you need.

Interested in learning more about "The Big Why," go ahead and check out Level Up Your Survey Game: Part One of this four part series. Be sure to join us next time where we’ll look at how to create logical survey routes. We’ll focus on piping, show/hide logic, and overall plans to build powerful pathways that improve results and reduce bounce rates.

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