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Survey Design Tips: Establish Your Goals Ahead of Time

Survey Design Tips: Establish Your Goals Ahead of Time

Yep, the first month of 2013 is nearly finished, folks! Not too long ago, we asked you in our 2013 New Year’s Survey what your survey resolutions would be:

The winner? A whopping 40% have vowed so far to establish their survey’s goals before adding questions:

Since we all like to be helpful monkeys around here we’re gonna pass along some of our survey wisdom tips to you. Our goal is to help you reach yours, especially when it comes to making awesome surveys!

1) Do I know why I’m asking these questions?

You want to be sure you know why you’re asking what you’re asking. It’s a good idea to write down the answers to these questions beforehand:

  • What is the purpose of my survey?
  • Why am I making this survey?
  • What do I hope to accomplish?
  • How do I plan on using the data that I collect?
  • How will the data influence my decisions?

Although these all may seem kinda obvious, we’ve seen lots of surveys go out that could’ve definitely benefited from just a little bit more attention and some planning ahead by the survey creator(s). This can mean the difference between receiving quality responses vs. sloppy responses that won’t help you solve anything.

2) Slow down. Plan ahead.

Let’s take a look at Restaurant X. They wanted to figure out what part of the dining experience was most important to customers. Their survey asked, “How can we improve our restaurant?” The answers they received ranged from “Make your food taste better” to “Change the style of servers’ uniforms”. Even though those are interesting pieces of information, these types of responses didn’t make it easy for the restaurant manager to make an organized list of specific customer feedback to bring to the rest of the restaurant’s management team.

Taking more time to zero in on their survey’s goal could have helped the creators determine whether they should try to understand their customers’ overall perceptions of the restaurant or if focusing on specific improvements– food choices, price, décor– would be more useful to know. For more specific enhancements, it would have been better asking respondents to rank from 1-5 the importance of lowering menu prices.

3) Keep it fuss-free. Keep it simple.

You also want to make sure you’re writing straightforward, easy to read questions using language that your audience will understand. Avoid extra words or using lots of jargon whenever possible.

Example: How useful do you find SurveyMonkey’s Help Center Topics and the email support center?

This is an example of how not to keep questions simple for your respondents. Instead of squeezing two questions into one (asking about our Help Center topics and the email support center), stick to asking just one.

Try this instead: How useful do you find SurveyMonkey’s Help Center Topics?

Be sure to include a range of answer choices too. Example:

  • Extremely useful
  • Very useful
  • Moderately useful
  • Slightly useful
  • Not at all useful

There you have it, survey fans! We hope these three easy to remember tips will help you keep your 2013 survey resolutions.

Looking for even more ideas before creating your survey? Don’t forget to check out our best practices webinar or visit our Help Center.

Questions, need more advice? Let us know in the Comments section below!

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11 thoughts on “Survey Design Tips: Establish Your Goals Ahead of Time

  1. Bob LeBailly says:

    One thing I always suggest is to pretend that the survey responses are in and ask them to imagine what claims they would like to make if supported by the data. This often allows people to clarify the wording so that they now have a testable hypothesis.

  2. Donna Maurillo says:

    I like to include an “other” response in case I haven’t covered all the bases with a particular question. Invariably, someone will insert a good point or idea that I hadn’t thought of.

    And with multiple choice, always include “None of the above” or “Not interested” or another way to let respondents tell you that none of the answers fit. Don’t force them to make a choice they may not want to make. I respond to surveys all the time, and I am frustrated when I am forced to choose an inappropriate response just so I can move forward.

    1. Kayte K says:

      Absolutely excellent insights, Donna. We completely agree!

  3. prethaos banu says:

    It is very useful and realy great to have interesting thing to know.we completely agree!!!

  4. Helen Strong says:

    I successfully conducted my survey monkey for one department and I was happy with the graphs produced and how the information was displayed. However on my second department they have an upgraded Professional version. I cannot see the graphs adequately; the figures do not show together with the graphs; I cannot transfer the survey to my old system; I cannot print what I want.

    I would be grateful for assistance and advise on my concerns as this is most frustrating and is impeaching on my deadline.

    Many thanks, Helen

    1. Kayte K says:

      Hi Helen! We certainly want to help you out. Email is our quickest form of support, if you would kindly send a note to and include the email address connected to your account, we’ll take care of you! Thanks. :)

  5. Rick Tufts says:

    I would like to develoop a questionnaire to determine the viability of a natural approach to solving a specific health condition. It should be targeted to people on the basis of how often they experience the problem (ie.1-2, 2-3,3-4,4-5 times) per week. The approach has 3 primary components. I would like to offer the program via consultations on a combination of Skype, e-mail & telephone. I would include a question on a proposed pricing structure

    My question is this: Do you feel that one of your surveys could generate useable info on a concept of this nature?

    Thanks for your help.


    1. Kayte K says:

      Hi Rick, thanks for the question and we’d like to help if we can. If you’re looking for a target audience to send your surveys to, we’d recommend trying out our SurveyMonkey Audience feature. Check out our resource page here:

      Let us know if that helps!

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