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8 ways to make your online surveys more effective (01 Feb 15)

A leading software commentator gives you practical suggestions to ensure you get more from them

Tim Macer is probably the UK’s most respected commentator on survey software and hardware.

This might seem a pretty odd thing to be an expert in, but if you are in any way familiar with surveys you will know that how you collect data and then analyse it is absolutely vital.

In fact Tim has a whole website dedicated to reviews of new software and hardware. So if you want some sound, independent advice on whether you should go for SNAP, SPSS or some other survey package his website is well worth a few minutes of your time.

Why not visit it the minute you finish reading this article? You’ll find the address at the end of this article.

You are no doubt aware that online surveys are increasingly common. This is because they can be a highly efficient and reliable way to carry out consultation and to research your customers.

I asked Tim for his thoughts on how you can get the best results from your online surveys. Here are his tips.

  1. Try to keep your survey short as you are more likely to get people to complete it. Tell your participants in the survey invitation and on the introductory screen how long the survey is likely to take. Do be honest and realistic in the time you give.
  2. Pay particular attention to the wording of the invitation, which may be an email invitation, or it could be a pop-up screen from your website. You will get higher response rates if your respondents feel that the survey is relevant to them. Make sure they know what you intend to do as a result of their participation. Stress that individual answers will be kept confidential.
  3. Start with simple, easy to answer questions, so that more difficult questions come near the end, when you have established trust and rapport. In particular, leave personal questions to the end.
  4. Limit the number of open-ended questions. Not only are they more difficult for you to process, but they are much harder for participants to complete. They will extend the length of the interview and you will find that you will lose some respondents at that point.
  5. The web is an increasingly visual medium. Make sure that your survey looks good. If necessary, get a professional designer to create a look-and-feel template you can use for your organisation with your web survey software.
  6. Include pictures in your questions, either as a header image, or as tiles for each response, as this will make the survey much more engaging. Studies have shown that respondents will spend longer and provide fuller answers when there are pictures

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