An online survey is a necessary part of any entrepreneur’s journey. Whether you’re launching a product, testing a new idea, or figuring out how to optimize your marketing copy, market studies are a requirement for understanding where to go and how to get there. And good luck raising funds without conducting your own studies. It’s no longer enough to cherry pick a few too-good-to-be-true stats to seduce investors, they want to see hard feedback from a wide enough audience to draw confident conclusions.
Creating a survey is easy right? Just load up a few questions in Google Forms and share it to your social networks. But there are so many ways to screw up a survey to the point where it becomes entirely ineffective. A poorly written survey can even provide you with false results that might give you a signal which purely doesn’t exist. Imagine basing a serious business decision on the wrong information!
Here is a comprehensive list of the most common mistakes when it comes to building surveys. Hopefully by the end of this list you will be able to avoid critical errors and succeed in clearly understanding your audience or target market.
1 It’s difficult to read
If Google Forms isn’t your thing and you want to make your survey look more stylish, be very careful. Using unusual fonts or colors might make it look prettier, but you might actually be spending time making it harder for people to respond. Not everyone sees the same way. Never use a font size smaller than 10 pixels. Try to avoid white text on a dark background. Stick to the good old fashioned basics.
2 There are no sections or themes within the survey
A survey should be like a song, it should be structured with questions that revolve around the same concept in each section. Don’t randomly ask questions like “How old are you?” in the section about how you use energy at home. Create a section about personal information, a section about what you’re looking for, and another section for product satisfaction. Don’t intermingle questions.
3 There are no numbers on the questions
Is this really necessary? Yes, it is necessary because it helps people to know that they’ve answered all of the questions on the page and haven’t skipped any by accident.
4 There are random page breaks
The page breaks in a longer survey should follow the sections. Don’t interrupt someone when they are in a train of thought.
5 The survey starts with a complex question
People need to warm up to answering longer questions. Avoid asking someone a longer, open, satisfaction-type question at the very beginning. You risk turning people away immediately.
6 The required questions are not indicated
Nothing frustrates someone who is giving you their time than not telling them exactly what to do!
7 There is an overlap in values
Example: “Choose your age group:” 15-25 years old, 25-35 years old, 35-45 years old, for people who are 35 years old, which one do they choose?
8 There are difficult words or odd abbreviations
If you’re focusing on the public at large, a good rule is to explain everything that might be hard to understand.
9 There is a drop-down menu for a closed question
If the answer is yes or no, just give an option to click yes or no, don’t put that in a drop down menu, that requires multiple clicks and it can be very frustrating
10 100% of the questions are required
You will quickly find that not many people will complete the survey all the way. For the less important questions, leave a choice. Generally speaking, making 20% of your questions required is a good maximum.
11 There are too many open questions
Continuing with the 20% rule, don’t have more than 20% of open questions in your survey. People get tired of writing and having a few of those questions in a row might compromise the quality of the answers that you’re looking for.
12 There are more than 7 possible answers for a multiple choice question
If you’re requesting only one answer, keep the list at seven questions or shorter. After seven questions people tend to spend too much time evaluating the options which slows down their survey.
13 You don’t pre-test
When you’re looking to head out into the world to get definitive results for your project, you have one shot. Completing a pre-test ensures that any unforeseen problems can be identified and fixed before they can poison the results of your survey.
14 You lie about how long the survey takes
“Hey, come take my survey, it will take you 30 seconds!” We’ve all heard something like this before, but then the survey drags on and on, and according to the status bar, we’re only half of the way there! This is a recipe for abandonment. Don’t lie about how long it takes to complete your survey. If you’re worried that your survey is too long and the proposed time will turn people away, test it first as is. If it really is too long, cut out some questions to make it shorter.
15 There is no status bar
This is really important since it gives people an idea of how long they will be taking the survey. Most survey companies offer this option. Use it.
Hopefully your survey efforts will be more fruitful since a real-world survey can be a powerful mechanism to justify the launch of new products and services. If you make sure that you don’t make any of these mistakes, you’re a lot closer to your destination!