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 Good Survey Questions
With so many different survey question options, how do you choose the right ones for your needs? Before being able to build an effective survey, 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. For example, your question choice and response options are likely to differ depending on whether you’re looking to measure customer satisfaction, calculate your net promoter score (NPS), or conduct market research.
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 answer choices 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 customer satisfaction surveys or read ridiculously long questions.
With that in mind, 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 a predefined list of answer options to choose from. Usually, those can be answered with a simple yes or no, a predefined value on a fixed point 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 close-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 surveys are fun” or “48% of men and 63% of women have taken a survey 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 specific 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 ranking 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 loyalty, a recent development at the company, the success of a big 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 in the provided text box. 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 survey responses is more difficult than with closed-ended questions.
8. Demographic Questions
Demographic survey questions are particularly useful if you’re looking to gather 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, making it easier for marketers to be certain that they are targeting the right people.
Other Specific Survey Question Examples
Do people qualify for your surveys?
Making sure you ask the right questions is important. It is equally important to ensure you’re surveying the right people. Screening questions are used at the beginning of surveys to qualify or disqualify respondents from taking a survey.
Sample screening question:
Attention Check Questions
Are your respondents completely invested or are they just clicking random answer options only to finish the survey as quickly as possible?
An easy way to check could be to include an attention check question somewhere in your survey. The thing with attention questions is that they often seem very easy to answer. Too easy, in fact – there’s usually a catch that can be overlooked if someone is not paying attention.
Sample attention check question:
Double Barreled Questions
Whether on purpose or as a result of carelessness, badly formulated questions can lead to invalid survey results.
One of the most common types of survey fallacy are double barreled questions. Such questions ask about two or more topics but leave room for a single answer. Similarly to double-barreled, you should avoid other kinds of confusing, ambiguous, and leading questions.
Sample double barreled question:
Should the government create more jobs and ban guns?
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. Plus, you need to be extra careful with different kinds of sensitive questions.
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 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 valuable data. Different survey question types are suitable for getting different pieces of information from your respondents.
If you’re looking to create a survey, feel free to check out these pre-designed survey templates that would allow you to focus all your attention on creating great questions!