You’re looking to make an important business decision, but you’re just not sure which direction to take. Which new product to offer? Where to open your next store? Which features or services to add? So many difficult questions but only one logical answer – do a survey.
Just put your questions together, ask your audience for their opinion, and voilà – you’ve taken most of the guesswork out of your next business steps. But first, you need to make sure you’re asking all the right types of survey questions.
How to Ask the Right Survey Questions
With so many different survey question options, how do you choose the right ones for your needs? Before you start creating those surveys, you need to ask yourself how you intend to use the results obtained in the survey. Deciding on the exact goals of your survey beforehand will make the choice of an adequate survey question type much easier.
Some of the factors that may determine the type of survey questions you’re going to use include:
- The type of information you need
- The depth of information you need
- The amount of time your respondents have available
Sometimes just slightly varying the types of survey questions and responses can have a significant impact on the value and quality of the results you obtain, as well as on the response rate. That’s why you need to pay special attention to the length of your survey and the number (not just the type) of questions included.
The Ideal Survey Length
Another important point to consider is the length and number of survey questions. Modern internet users, whose attention span has never been shorter, are exposed to ridiculous amounts of content every minute of every single day. In such circumstances, you wouldn’t expect them to sit through mind-numbingly long surveys or read ridiculously long questions.
With that in mind, the questions should be fairly short. One or two lines of text the most. When it comes to the number of questions, from our own experience, some of the best-performing surveys ever have had 8-10 questions.
8 Most Commonly Used Types of Survey Questions
Closed-ended questions are basically those questions that provide respondents with predefined answer options to choose from. Usually, those can be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, a predefined value on a fixed scale, or with a specific piece of information.
The most common types of closed-ended survey questions include different variations of categorical and interval/ratio questions. Opposite to closed-ended questions are open-ended questions, but we’ll explore those in more detail a bit later in the text.
Categorical or nominal survey questions are a perfect choice if you’re looking to get a simple, easy-to-analyze count, such as “85% of respondents said online quizzes are fun” or “48% of men and 63% of women have taken a quiz this year”.
There are several types of survey questions that fit this category, the most commonly used ones being:
- Dichotomous (‘Yes/No’) questions
- Multiple-choice questions
- Checkbox questions
As mentioned above, these types of survey questions enable different types of analyses (usually involving counts and percentages) and, as such, work very well for graphs and charts.
Let’s briefly examine each of the mentioned survey question types.
1. Dichotomous Questions
As the word ‘dichotomous’ adds a somewhat unnecessary sense of complexity to the issue, in the simplest of terms, these are what we generally call ‘yes/no’ questions – the types of survey questions that can be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
If you’re looking for an easy way to ‘screen out’ the people not relevant to your survey, dichotomous questions are as easy as it gets. They can also be used to segment the respondents into those ‘who have used’ and those who ‘have not yet used’ your services.
Tip – if the app you’re using to create your surveys does not support yes/no questions, you can simply create a multiple-choice question and offer ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ as the only answer options.
2. Multiple-Choice Questions
Multiple-choice survey questions usually offer three or more predetermined answer options, while they can allow for single or multiple answers (check the checkbox questions below).
For this type of survey questions, it may be wise to consider including the editable “other” category as one of the answer options if you think there’s a possibility that the respondent’s answer may differ from all of the given options.
3. Checkbox questions
Checkbox questions are multiple choice-type questions that add the flexibility of being able to choose more than one option. Add as many answers as you want, and respondents can pick as many answers to the question as you allow them to.
4. Rating Scale Questions
With rating scale survey questions, the respondents are asked to assess an issue on the basis of an already predetermined dimension. The question usually displays a range of answer options that can be on any scale you want (1 to 10, 0 to 100, and so on).
Since most of these scales use numbers as values, it’s important to clarify the gradation method and clearly explain those values. If the question is ‘How much do you like online quizzes?’ and you use a 1-10 scale, you need to explicitly state that, for example, 10 means that you just adore them, while 1 means that you’re not really a fan.
When creating a rating scale survey questions, a good idea would be to use the same rating scales for all questions, as only this way it’ll be possible to compare the ratings directly with each other (obviously, a value of 3 doesn’t have the same strength on a scale of 5 as on a scale of 10).
5. Likert Scale Questions
Remember that last time when you were taking a survey and ‘neither agreed nor disagreed’ or ‘completely agreed/disagreed’ with a question? You may not have known it at the time, but those questions were based on what’s called a Likert scale.
It’s one of the most popular and reliable ways of measuring perceptions, attitudes, and opinions. Likert scale survey questions are characterized by a wide range of answer options to choose from, usually ranging from one extreme (e.g. ‘strongly agree’) to another (e.g. ‘strongly disagree’).
Likert scale questions are especially suitable if you want to question your audience on a new product release, customer service experience, a recent development at the company, the success of an event, and so on.
Even though Likert scale questionnaires, in theory, can have an unlimited number of questions and answers, the two most common ones are the 5-point and 7-point Likert scales. You can also decide to use even-numbered answer options, but keep in mind that such a scale eliminates the possibility of a neutral answer.
6. Matrix Questions
Matrix survey questions are perfect if you’re looking to ask several questions in a row that contain the same answer options. Basically, a matrix question is a series of rating scale or Likert scale questions.
Matrix questions can significantly simplify large-scale surveys, but at the same time they can be confusing to some respondents and are also not always the best choice for mobile devices.
7. Open-Ended Questions
Open-ended survey questions enable respondents to supply their own answers. This means that there are no predefined answers and respondents have the freedom to express their opinion in the wording of their choice. It also gives them the chance to respond in more detail.
When creating a survey, you need to gauge the optimal number of open-ended questions carefully. As answering these questions can be demanding and time-consuming, you don’t want to overwhelm your users. In addition, since there are no uniform answer options, compiling and analyzing the results is more difficult than with closed-ended questions.
8. Demographic Questions
Demographic survey questions are particularly useful if you’re looking to gather some background information about your user. If used properly, these enable you to learn more about your target audience. They are often used to segment audiences on the basis of who they are and what they do, thus making it easier for you to be certain you’re targeting the right people.
4 Tips for Writing Top-Notch Survey Questions
They say a survey is as good as its questions (the same goes for online quizzes). So, how to make sure the survey questions you create are nothing short of top-notch?
Be precise, specific, and focus on one topic. In order to get as accurate survey results as possible, you should be as precise as possible when phrasing your questions and answers. Also, you should aim to narrow down the topic of your survey and be specific about the desired outcomes.
Avoid using vague words or expressions. We already mentioned that you need to be precise when phrasing your questions, but we have to repeat it once again – it is that important. The takers need to comprehend exactly what you mean in order to supply you with an accurate answer.
This is also important with rating scales and similar types of survey questions, where you need to clearly specify the value of each answer. In other words, you should do your best to make deciding on the gradation of answers a no-brainer for the questionnaire takers.
Structure it as a question rather than a statement. Due to the acquiescence response bias, a phenomenon inherent in the human nature, regardless of the content of the survey, its respondents tend to agree with statements more often than disagree.
This is why it’s always more beneficial to ask questions than to supply the respondents with a ready-made statement and ask them to agree or disagree. At least if you’re looking to get accurate results. So, try to avoid ‘leading’ questions that can cause bias.
Determine the ideal number of answer options. Generally, you want to keep your surveys short and sweet. As already mentioned, 8-10 questions should be optimal.
Once you find your way around different types of survey questions, you’ll quickly realize the full potential of online surveys and learn how to use them to obtain invaluable data. Different survey question types are suitable for getting different pieces of information from your respondents. Learning to choose the right type of survey questions to use helps you focus on obtaining the most relevant information for your specific needs.
In addition to being able to choose an adequate type of survey questions, you also need to make sure you use the right tool that will enable you to create actionable surveys with ease.