Research & understanding

Survey

Colton Schweitzer
October 14, 2020

A survey is a list of questions that you use to collect responses from people in your target audience. Surveys are relatively quick and straightforward to build and help you gather data about your target audience. They’re great for quantitative data collection and the results are easy to analyze.

There are two types of questions in surveys: open and closed

Open questions invite a greater response than just a yes or no answer. They invite the user to answer a question how they’d like. Open questions are a great way to understand the underlying reasons why a user is making a decision. They come in the form of text boxes so respondents can write their answers. They will help you learn about your customer needs in a way that you can’t through closed questions.

In a survey, closed questions have a limited number of possible responses. The participant has no room to elaborate or tell you how they really feel. They give you results in the form of numbers. Closed questions typically come in the form of multiple-choice questions (multi-select or single select) or questions answered on a scale. 

Many surveys use a combination of open and closed questions. 

Important things to keep in mind about surveys

Longer surveys tend to decrease the number of responses you’ll collect. The more you include in your survey, the more survey fatigue participants will feel. When it comes to surveys, people tend to be lazy and don’t like to write everything out. 

Also, keep your survey as simple as possible. People only have so much motivation and goodwill towards your survey. Make it easy for respondents to finish your survey. There’s nothing worse than putting work into a survey only to get few or partial responses. 

Surveys are also not the best format to collect open-ended, qualitative responses. While surveys answer the “what,” they aren’t so good at answering the “why.”

With this in mind, asking a lot of open-ended questions will limit the number of responses you’ll get. 

On top of that, depending on the survey, how niche the target market is, and the timeline of the project, it can be challenging to get the right people to fill out your survey.

It’s also relatively easy to create bias within your survey, like selection bias, leading questions, or priming the pump (question order bias). 

Additionally, use simple, straightforward language in your survey. If you use complicated language, jargon, or anything advanced, people can get confused and misunderstand what you’re asking.

Before sending it out to participants, test your surveys with friends, family, or colleagues. Use their feedback to fine tune the survey so the participants will understand everything. 

Not every project needs to have a survey. Some projects require a large number of responses to validate specific types of research questions. Many other projects don’t need this kind of research to be successful. 

Free survey tools

TypeForm

Google Forms

SurveyMonkey

Why you would use use a survey:

To gather quantitative data in a relatively short amount of time.

If you need statistically significant data to validate your assumptions.

To determine the general direction to head in for a product. 

To learn from many different people.

To gather information from more than 10 people.

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