Five Common Mistakes to Avoid When Designing a Written Questionnaire
Questionnaires are an invaluable market research device for learning more about your readers, customers, or membership base. Thanks to the proliferation of free, web-based survey tools, performing survey research is easier than ever. Despite these tools’ incredible ease of use, creating an effective survey still requires careful, considered thought. Mistakes often arise when a questionnaire is drafted too quickly. Before sending out a survey, make sure to check it against these common mistakes to ensure that your market research will generate actionable data.
1. Including Too Many Questions
Many questionnaires include too many questions. The longer a survey becomes, the less likely a reader is to reach the end. If you ask too many questions, a reader may get bored and give up only halfway through completing the questionnaire.
The best way to prevent this is to read carefully through your survey and look for any questions that aren’t truly necessary. For each question, ask yourself whether the information it’s gathering will help you to make decisions about your company. If the questions don’t generate actionable data, then they aren’t worth including.
2. Using The Wrong Question Types
Another common mistake in survey design is to use the wrong question type. Make sure that the question and answer types are always appropriate for the information you are asking. If the reader could only have one possible answer to your question, use “chose one” radio buttons. These question types often work well for demographic data, such as age and income level. If, on the other hand, the reader could have multiple possible answers to a question, be sure to use a “check all that apply” checkboxes.
Another common question type to consider is “fill in the blank.” These question types are often avoided because their results cannot easily be tabulated. With that said, they are useful for giving the survey reader room to add important information that they could not otherwise convey through the questionnaire.
3. Offering Overlapping Answer Choices
Some design mistakes can even invalidate the results of a question. One such common mistake is offering overlapping answer choices. An example is to ask for a reader’s age, and have one answer ranging from “20 to 30” and one answer ranging from “30 to 40.” A reader who is exactly 30 years old would not know which of the answer choices to select. Fortunately, you can easily catch these mistakes through careful proofreading of your questionnaire.
4. Providing Underinclusive Answer Choices
The flip side of overlapping answer choices is providing underinclusive answer choices. Sometimes your multiple choice answers don’t cover all of the options that a person may select. There are two primary ways to fix this problem. One is to add additional answer choices so that all of the reader’s possible responses are covered. The other fix is to add a catch-all “other” option. These options often included a “fill in the blank” box where the reader can add their custom answer.
5. Using Confusing Wording
Finally, be sure that your questionnaire is free from confusing wording. Sometimes what the reader thinks you are asking is different from what you meant to ask. The best way to avoid confusing wording is to have someone unfamiliar with the survey read through it and explain back to you what they believe each question is asking. By having a second set of eyes, you’ll find opportunities to improve the wording of your questionnaire.
Questionnaires are easier than ever to create, but it’s also easier than ever to make mistakes when designing them. Too often, market research data is tainted by poor question design. By carefully writing your survey to avoid these common mistakes, you can ensure that you get high quality, actionable information from your research.