Five Guiding Principles of Good Survey Design

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I’m back with some accepted best practices that I promised from my article Surveys for Fun or Profit? You may have already seen the Top Ten Survey Best Practices list that Christian Vanek and I delivered at a free Alchemer Webinar at the end of September. If not, I encourage you to check it out.

In this article I present five guiding principles of good survey design that provide a foundation for the top ten list referenced above.

The Top Five Principles of Good Survey Design

1. Focus

The first principle for good survey design is FOCUS. Only by having specific objectives ahead of time, can you expect to obtain usable information from a survey. Those objectives drive the questions. In fact, every question should tie back to a specific objective.

2. Connection

The second principle for good survey design is CONNECTION. The quality of the information you get from your survey depends how well you connect with your respondents.

You can connect with your respondent by learning about those who will be taking your survey, by viewing each question from their perspective and even by talking to some potential respondents ahead of time!

3. Respect

The third principle for good survey design is RESPECT. Your survey should show respect for your respondent’s time.

If you are trying to do too much, it shows and it will turn off your respondent. Make sure that you ask only relevant questions (the powerful features Alchemer has for hiding and skipping questions are great!) and never ask for information you already know.

4. Action

The fourth principle for good survey design is ACTION. The only reason to do a survey is because you want to take some kind of action. That action usually means making a decision.

It may be a decision to change the services you offer, build a park, not build a park or even start a company, but if you can’t touch on some action you don’t need to do a survey.

5. Engagement

The fifth principle for good survey design is ENGAGEMENT. This principle sums up the other four. If you follow the first four principles the result will be an engaged respondent and that will mean better response rates and better information.

You can further engage your respondents by offering to share a summary of your results with them and let them know what was done with the information they provided. That will keep them engaged and ready for your next survey!

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