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How to Create a Survey Online: Simple Guide

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Simon Deignan2022-05-18
Whether you are an HR specialist that needs to accurately gauge employee satisfaction, or a coach trying to see what activities to best engage your team, online surveys are the go-to tool for gathering and analyzing data.

However, unless you are vastly experienced in crafting thorough and detailed surveys, you may be wondering where exactly you should start and what else needs to be done. Well luckily we do have some experience in creating online surveys and we are more than happy to share all of our insights with you. 

What are the benefits of an online survey?

Some of you may still be on the fence, wondering whether or not a survey will be useful and if it’s worth the time and effort. If that happens to be the case we will quickly go through some of the benefits of conducting an online survey so you can easily decide for yourself if this is the right thing for you. 

Easy to share

If you have everyone’s email simply use those copy and paste shortcuts before hitting enter - job done. Maybe it’s more efficient to send a link into a Microsoft Teams chat or Whatsapp group? Some online survey tools will even let people even scan QR codes! Or fall back on old reliable and include links in a social media post. 

No matter how you choose to share your survey you definitely won’t be short on options. Being easy to share far and wide means you need not spend unnecessary time worrying about distribution and whether or not the right people will receive it. 

Faster and improved response rate 

Online surveys mean online responses. This in turn means anyone should be able to answer on their laptop, tablet, and most importantly, their smartphone. No matter how much we may argue to the contrary, our phones have become part of our arms and we are seldom without them. Combined with easy-to-follow links, everyone should be able to submit their responses wherever they may be with just a few taps and a little typing.

More honest answers 

The issue with running a traditional live or in-person survey means that people may be afraid to speak up or hesitant to express exactly how they really feel when all eyes are on them. Adding anonymity to the equation means that people can speak their minds freely and provide honest and truthful feedback. Online surveys provide respondents with this added layer of confidence as they can trust that many of these tools are 100% anonymous and their names and identities will be kept hidden. 

Easy to design and customize 

We will come back to how to pick the best survey tool for you later on but before we get to that, it's good to know that most survey tools will allow you to quickly design and customize the wording of questions and answers, their order, the type of question, and much more. We promise you will be spoiled for choice and there’s no need to worry that you won’t be able to do exactly what you want. 

Simple to read results 

Excel files, some data visualization software, PDFs, or Google Sheets, will likely be how you will receive your results. This means responses will be more digestible and will require little to no additional sorting and rearranging. Thus, you can dive in and draw insights without the hassle of combing through responses for hours and hours on end.  

Reuse and compare results 

Once your survey is created you can always go back, edit it, or reuse it in the future - this is especially useful for those that want to measure trends over time such as employee satisfaction or engagement. Even if you don’t plan on running the exact same survey in the future it can be handy to have a template from which to start, meaning you won’t need to go back to square one. 

How can I create a survey? 

Ok, so now we can focus on our easy-to-follow checklist that will help you get your survey up and running in the flash of an eye. Don’t worry we’re not going to bore you to death with a list as long as your arm or confuse you with niche and overly complex technicalities - we promise to keep it simple. 

So without further ado.

  1. Pick your survey tool
  2. Clarify your goal or goals
  3. Think about distribution/sharing
  4. Set a deadline
  5. Set some brief instructions
  6. Reflect before writing your questions
  7. Review your questions and answers
  8. Keep it anonymous 
  9. What survey tool should I use?

So first of all, let’s look at where exactly you can go to create your online survey. Some of you will have access to certain software and tools at work while others will be on the hunt for something that suits their needs. Head over to our other blog post where we examine all of the best online survey tools

There are endless online resources that will help you create, edit, and craft your survey to meet your exact needs. 

1) Clarify your goal or goals

What exactly are you trying to achieve with this survey? If you need to understand how everyone in your department felt about this quarter's performance then you will probably be looking to achieve a 100% response rate. If you need to gather useful insights from your colleagues, then you probably want to want people to give detailed answers to your open-ended questions. 

Deciding on a goal or goals should help you craft a better more relevant survey for everyone.

2) Think about distribution/sharing

We mentioned it above but it bears repeating. Take time to think about how you are going to send this survey to all relevant parties. If you think emailing it would be best then be sure to go and gather those addresses beforehand. Perhaps you think social media will be the best place to send the link, perfect but make sure every party that needs to respond actually follows you. 

3) Set a deadline

It’s not just college assignments that get left to the very last minute so set the deadline and communicate it clearly. Write it in the instructions, include it in the email, and add it to the social post. Copy and paste it everywhere and don’t be afraid to bombard people with this fact, it’s important to remind them that the clock is ticking if they want to have their say. 

4) Set some brief instructions

Let everyone know how long this survey should take, how many questions there are, and why exactly you are running it. The more context you provide the more likely people are to give solid and thoughtful answers and not to just rush through and get it finished as quickly as possible. 

If your survey has multiple sections, deals with hypotheticals, or has some complex ideas, you'd better explain things as best as you can beforehand. The last thing you want is for people to be confused and give up halfway through. 

5) Reflect before writing your questions

Naturally, you probably just want to dive right in and type your questions and get this over and done with. Fine, but the problem with that is the series of questions you have in your head may not work well when typed out, or perhaps they are too intricate. 

Keep relevancy in mind. Go back and look at the goals you set and map out your questions accordingly. Also, remember who the target audience is - Will you have to word things in a specific way? Has this group filled out a similar survey before? These are just some of the questions you can ask yourself before you begin typing. 

6) Review your questions and answers

Now let’s jump ahead a bit and look at what you should do once you have written all of your questions. Obviously checking your grammar, spelling, and syntax issues should be your first port of call. After that try read through the survey from the perspective of a respondent and ask yourself a few questions along the way. 

  • Is it clear? 
  • Is it overwhelming? If so, how can you cut some things down?
  • Were the points during it that you felt your concentration wane?
  • Did you notice any leading questions? 
  • Were the options provided satisfactory or were they too limited?
  • Are there too many yes or no questions?
  • Did you feel you could fully express your opinion?

Now there are just some of the things you can ask yourself but if you want more tips on how to formulate your questions, then we have a section for that coming up. 

7) Keep it anonymous - If you can

We have also mentioned this before but I’m going to repeat it until the cows come home. By making a survey anonymous, and by highlighting that fact, you will get more honest and in-depth answers. The last you want to do is for people not to provide you with important insights as they are afraid to do so. Once again this comes back to the idea of establishing goals for a survey. You will achieve better insights if you can offer people an anonymous way of submitting their feedback. 

So there you have it, eight tips on how you can go a create a successful survey. Now for those of you that may be wondering about those vital questions and answers, then we can dive into that here. 

What are good survey questions?

Well, this is a pretty broad question but it is still something we can tackle here. Again, like the way, we addressed the ‘How can I create a survey?’ issue above, we have a series of points you can use as guidance. So here we go. 

We also have an even more in-depth look at the best survey questions with some examples you can use.

Use clear language 

If you can write it simply, then write it simply. The aim of your survey shouldn’t be to dazzle everyone with your mastery of the English language, it should be to ensure everything you write is as easy as can be to understand. 

Additionally, try to avoid double negatives, roundabout questions, and longwinded hypotheticals. Remember the KISS principle - Keep It Simple, Sunshine (you thought I was going to type stupid didn’t you… never!) Speaking of keeping things simple…

Keep it relevant and brief

Only ask relevant questions and don’t ask more questions than you need to. The last thing you want to do is repeat yourself and end up with a survey of 100+ questions when you could have condensed the same information into 20. Less is oftentimes more, and this is certainly the case with survey questions. 

Once again, rereading your survey once you are done will help you edit things and remove any unnecessary filler you may find. A question to keep in mind while evaluating the length of your survey is ‘Will the responses here provide me with insightful feedback?’ If not, then perhaps it can be cut. 

Avoid leading questions

If you happen to be a Law & Order fan then you will be familiar with leading questions, if not then put simply, leading questions are those that suggest or hint at what the answer should be. In other words, the question basically tells the person what you want the answer to be and you are, essentially, putting words in their mouth. 

A common example would be - How satisfied are you with our service? This should be phrased as ‘Are you satisfied with our service?’ Be sure to reread your questions as well as your answers and keep this example in mind.

Mix up the question types 

The benefits of mixing up your question types are two-fold. Firstly, think of what it’s like to fill out a survey where everything is a yes or no question. What happens? Does your mind wander? Do you stop caring pretty quickly? Exactly. 

What happens if every answer is on a scale of ‘Strongly disagree’ to ‘Strongly agree’? Do questions just blur into one another, do you being doubting the answers you’re providing? Do you just start clicking the middle option just to finish quicker? Exactly.

Mix things up so that respondents don’t lose interest, don’t get overwhelmed, and don’t X out of their browser. Mixing up question types can be a good way to create more natural sections in longer surveys, or to highlight areas where you want additional input. 

Edit the available answers

So the question is just the beginning and the first thing you should look to edit and proofread. The second thing should be the set answers you provide. We mentioned before about not overloading people with yes or no options and avoiding leading questions. 

Something else you should bear in mind is to limit the number of times you provide ‘I don’t know’ (or some similar alternative) as a choice. For many, this will simply be the go-to response if they begin to lose interest and don’t really want to think about an honest answer. Obviously, you don’t want to force people into an opinion but providing too many opportunities for people to sit on the fence may skew your end results. 

Make use of open-ended questions

No matter if it’s a scale, a multiple-choice question, or some form of rankings, there are times that someone will have something else to add. Open-ended questions can be a great way to easily elicit more detailed and thoughtful responses - this will be particularly useful if there is something that can’t be pinpointed with a given response. 

Some other questions you may have

Is a questionnaire the same as a survey?

Without getting too into the weeds here, questionnaires are a set of questions given to individuals or groups to answer. A questionnaire will likely be part of a survey.

Surveys, on the other hand, constitute the entire process of asking, analyzing, and interpreting the responses that you gather. This is a broader and more data-driven project than a questionnaire. 

Do I have to start from scratch?

Absolutely not! You’re in luck if you need a survey but are still struggling to get started - We have a wide range of survey templates you can download and edit in an instant. 

How long should a survey be? How many questions should I include?

There is actually quite a bit of research on this particular topic and it makes for interesting reading. Versta Research has a number of insights on how long it takes to answer questions, how you can estimate the length of your survey, and more. 

They conclude that any survey over 20 minutes will result in lower quality data. People’s concentration levels and enthusiasm will undoubtedly wain from that moment onwards so best keep it between 15 and 20 minutes in their view.  

When should I send my survey? 

Does it matter what time and what day you send your surrey? Well, there seems to be a wide variety of research on this exact topic. The issue is they all say different things - Some conclude that Tuesday is the most optimal day while others believe their findings show it to be Thursdays. 

When all is said and done, HubSpot probably has the best advice, concluding that “it's best to send a survey on a weekday during a low-peak time of day for professionals.” Other than that there probably isn’t any real need to obsess and worry about the exact moment you send out your survey. 

When should I send a follow-up survey?

This depends on the type of survey you are sending but most companies will operate in quarters, thirds, or bi-annual periods. The important thing with sending a follow-up is that you need to have ample time to analyze the results from the initial survey, plan follow-up actions, implement these plans, and monitor the results. 

If you haven’t had time to take action on your initial survey, be it on employee engagement, satisfaction, or something else, then it really makes little sense to run another. 

How do I share survey results?

Now that the vast majority of the work is done, we have arrived at the final step of sharing the results with everyone in an easy-to-understand and digestible manner. The best online tools should automatically generate a series of charts and graphs that will make it easy for anyone to read and comprehend the responses, trends, data, and metrics. 

Sharing a web link in a group forum like in Slack or Microsoft Teams for everyone to see can be one ideal method, as can infographics on social media. Much like a distribution plan fo the survey itself, make sure that everyone who needs to see the results can see the results.

How long should you leave a survey running?

Too long and you’re losing valuable time analyzing the results. Too short and you people will undoubtedly miss the deadline and you lose valuable input. So what is the optimum length of time to run a survey before you close the voting polls? 

When doing some research online we see that some industry experts say you are likely to receive about 80% of responses within a week, while others say it will likely take three weeks. We recommend setting a hard deadline, something we spoke about before, around the 10 and 14-day marker. Be sure to monitor the response rate over the first 7-10 days and send reminders when you see this rate has stalled. 

How can you improve survey response rate?

100% might be the goal but it may also be a forlorn hope. Response rate will vary wildly depending on who you send your survey to and what it focuses on. As we have mentioned earlier, optimizing both your questions and the length of the survey will have positive effects on the response rate but there are other things that can be done to give it a boost. 

If sending a survey to customers or users, consider offering incentives in return. This could be an upgraded account, online gift vouchers, or something more personal. If you are sending it to your employees consider gamifying the experience.

Survey Participation

Here is something our team recently sent into our Slack channel to prompt us all into action - Needless to say we quickly rushed to get answering. 

Plenty of survey related tips

There we have it! Everything we at Mentimeter have to offer about creating surveys. We hope you found this helpful and we hope that your next survey is filled with insightful and actionable responses.

If you are looking for a tool to create your next survey then look no further.

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