Key Steps in Designing an Online Questionnaire

Step 1: Have a Survey Plan
It sounds obvious, but if you rush into a questionnaire without taking the time to think about the wider aspects of the survey objectives and how to implement it, there is a greater chance the end result will not work as well as it could, or in extreme cases, will be a failure.

Be clear about the survey objectives, the sample size, sample source, sample quotas, screening and targeting respondents (and on what criteria), key information objectives, and analysis considerations.
Step 2: Plan the Questionnaire
Just as it is recommended to have a Survey Plan (even if it is a basic outline), it is also recommended that you plan out your questionnaire (Questionnaire Plan) before committing to design the questionnaire. What information are you looking to get back from the survey? What types of question and question answer is appropriate to meet those objectives?

Next, map out the subject areas or possible sub sections within the questionnaire, and prioritise key information to avoid asking "nice to know" or time wasting questions.

Lastly, map out the rough order of questions and overall flow of the questionnaire. Much of this is about logic and common sense. For example, if an important element of the survey objectives is to measure unprompted awareness, make sure the respondents see unprompted questions in the question sequence before prompted lists of brands. Screening questions should come early in the questionnaire, and sensitive questions should be positioned later in the survey, although it is also reasonable to warn respondents that some of the subject matter is sensitive before starting the survey. Demographic questions should go at the front of the questionnaire, particularly if they form part of the screeners or quotas (see article on Quota Controls).
Step 3: Review and Select Question Types
There are many types of questions which can be asked with online surveys. Ideally you should be aware of the full range of question types provided in a survey package. Surveygoo offers ready-to-go questionnaire templates, which can be useful for getting an idea of how different question types can used in a specific context. For example, knowing when to use open ended questions, ranking questions, grid and multiple choice questions. It is usually a good idea to have this in mind before desiging the questionnaire. Read our Quick Guide to Surveygoo Question Types for an overview of current question types available in Surveygoo.
Step 4: Writing the Questionnaire
Once you are clear about the objectives, topics, audience, targeting, overall flow of the questionnaire, and question types you should be ready to start designing the questionnaire. A key issue is whether you should design the survey in a word processor first, or jump in and start scripting the survey directly in the survey tool. Part of the answer is how confident you are working straight in the tool, and the complexity of the questionnaire. If there are complex routings and piping to consider, it is probably recommended that the survey is written in a word processor first, so that you can ensure the question logic is clear, play with wording and order of questions before finalising it.

On a broader level we need to be mindful of a consistent approach to questionnaire design. Key issues include using the right tone of language, using the right answer codes in questions, avoiding bias, a consistent approach to question scales, keeping the questionnaire to an acceptable length, and being aware of appealing design.

For more tips on questionnaire design, see our article, The Dos and Dont's of Good Questionnaire Design.
Step 5: Review, Test and Pilot the Questionnaire
Spend as much time as possible to check the questionnaire before attempting to script or launch the survey. In most cases the first draft will have a few errors and often final reviews of the questions will yield last minute ideas and improvements. As you script (programme) the questionnaire in the survey tool, you can preview the questionnaire to make sure visually it is looking as it should. It is often a good idea to share the survey test link with others, or launching a test survey first, before launching the final survey, depending on how much time you have.

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