How to Create a Successful Survey

Survey writing simplified

Deciding to survey people is easy. But creating a survey can seem hard. Here at SurveyMonkey, we help make it simple. After all, surveys are an art and a science—but they’re not rocket science!

The first, most important step is to know your objective. Why are you surveying? What insights are you hoping to gain? What data do you need? Make sure you’re clear on the purpose of your survey—and your survey is sure to be a success!

The Nuts and Bolts of Survey Construction

There are a lot of choices to make when you’re writing a survey, but following some basic rules can help you make the right choices every time. Here are 10 great tips for creating a survey that gets you the answers you need.

  1. Use formatting. Group similar questions to keep your survey logical and focused. Page breaks, page titles, and instructions help people understand what you’re asking and why.
  2. Ask often. Using the same question in a series of surveys or even using the same survey over time is a good way to build a baseline and measure changes in respondents’ attitudes.
  3. Be brief. Keep questions and surveys as short as possible to keep respondents interested and motivated to complete your survey.
  4. Ease into it. Asking personal or sensitive questions at the beginning can scare people away. Save those questions—if they’re truly necessary—for the end.
  5. Stick to specifics. Create survey questions that explore one idea at a time to make sure your respondents can understand what you’re asking. Vague, general, multi-part questions can be confusing and tough to answer.
  6. Clarify, clarify, clarify. Spell out everything that could be interpreted in more than one way. Want to know if someone is conservative in your political survey? Make sure you specify whether you’re talking about the way they dress, their politics, their preference in music or cuisine or their approach to life (as just a few examples!).
  7. Keep it relevant. Make sure that respondents stay focused by showing them only those questions that apply to them. A great way to do this is by using skip logic to eliminate irrelevant questions.
  8. Avoid yes/no questions. Yes/no questions don’t capture people who are on the fence or nuances of people’s opinions – in other words, yes/no questions can’t give you the information you need!
  9. Avoid the matrix. Presented with a matrix, respondents will typically focus on filling out the grid rather than paying careful attention to each question—and that will damage your data quality.
  10. Use words, not numbers. When designing answer choices, use phrases such as “slightly likely” or “extremely likely,” not numbers like “2” or “4”to indicate degree of preference. These answer choices are easier for people to understand.

Ready to start? Here are the steps on how to conduct a survey. For even more tips and tricks on creating great surveys, check out the survey methodology posts on the SurveyMonkey blog.

Additional Survey Design Resources

Take advantage of these great SurveyMonkey resources, and get up and surveying in no time!

  • Easy question creation. With 15 question types, including rating scales, multiple choice, and more, it’s easy to create online surveys from scratch. Or, choose certified questions from Question Bank, our library of question templates.
  • Custom branding. Customize the look and feel of your surveys. Add your logo, company name, colors, and images. Create your own survey URL and send respondents to a promotional landing page upon survey completion.
  • Advanced features. Get the data you need with required questions and response validation. Eliminate bias with random assignment (A/B testing) and randomization. Create interactive surveys with skip logic and question piping. (We promise, it’s easier than it sounds!)

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