Survey Question Best Practices

13 Survey Design Best Practices to Boost Conversions

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WPForms is a popular choice for creating surveys.

As a result, customers often ask us for tips on how they can design survey forms more effectively to boost participation.

I’ve personally taken a look at some of our customer’s survey forms that weren’t converting too well and I noticed a few common patterns in surveys that have high participation versus those that are abandoned more frequently.

In this article, I’ll share my tips for creating more effective survey forms that lead to higher engagement and participation.

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Effective Survey Design Best Practices

Here’s a table of contents if you’d like to jump ahead:

Understanding and using survey design best practices is the key factor to making an effective survey.

Here are some of the top survey tips and techniques to try:

1. Make Your Questions Simple and Clear

When writing good survey questions, avoid using jargon, even if it relates to your industry.

The goal is to keep your wording clear and straightforward. If you can imagine an absolute beginner applying mental effort to properly understand your question, you should probably consider rephrasing it.

For instance, I’ve noticed many websites make the mistake of writing long-winded questions like this:

Long-wided survey question

Instead, make it simpler to understand, like this:

Clearly worded survey question

The key is to make the questions conversational and casual.

And most importantly, make sure the questions are direct and to the point. Vague or poorly worded questions will confuse site visitors.

The more effort it takes a visitor to understand and answer your questions, the higher the chance that they might abandon your survey.

2. Keep Survey Length Short and Sweet

Just like your questions, try to keep the length of your entire survey form as short as possible.

Survey length best practices tell us that people get tired of surveys at around 5 minutes or 15 questions.

survey fatigue

If you’re trying to improve your contact form conversions, don’t expect respondents to answer insanely long surveys.  People start to spend less time on each question the farther a survey drags on.

For example, if you have 5 questions on your survey, respondents will give each question more focus than if you have 30 questions. If you’re following survey best practices, number of questions is an important factor to pay attention to.

3. Avoid Leading Questions

Survey responses are only meaningful if they’re honest and impartial. But if you aren’t careful, you can phrase questions in a way that’s likely to influence the respondent’s answer.

An example of this is a question that already assumes a conclusion that’s favorable to the organization running the survey:

Example of a leading survey question

You’ll notice that the phrasing of the question above suggests that the company thinks its new system is an improvement.

This isn’t good practice because it undermines the integrity of the survey responses. It pays to strive to use neutral language in your question so they’re not inclined towards any specific conclusion.

Here’s a good example of the same question phrased in a neutral and unbiased tone:

Neutral question in a survey example

I doubt that leading questions are used deliberately by companies to influence the outcome of a survey. It’s just something that can very easily occur subconsciously because we’re all naturally inclined to think from our perspective.

Most of these mistakes can be resolved if you try to read your own survey from a neutral perspective before launching it publically.

4. Plan Ahead for Survey Fatigue

Let’s face it. Form abandonment is a reality that we have to live with. You can’t make everyone happy, and even the most well-designed surveys will always seem boring to some people.

What you CAN do is make your survey easy to digest, so the average respondent is likely to stay around longer before they start losing focus.

If your survey form has to be long, here are some tips you can consider:

5. Start With an Outline

Create an outline of your survey structure first.

From a scientific standpoint, Survey Design Methodology tells you to craft your survey logically.

That includes putting some thought into the overall structure, the number of questions, the order you ask them, and the flow of the topics.

It’s a good idea to avoid jumping all over the place with your questions and to stick with a survey design that flows well.

Survey form

💡 Pro tip: You can use our survey form template to get started immediately. It serves as an excellent starting point even if you need to make adjustments to the survey later (which I totally recommend because surveys should always be tailored to your business objectives and audience).

It helps to think about the journey of the respondent when structuring your survey. For example, if you’re creating a patient satisfaction survey for a medical practice, start your survey from the beginning of the respondent’s experience (booking appointments) and add each subsequent question by keeping the patient’s journey through your practice in mind.

These principles are also useful for making an impactful survey results report.

6. Options and Scale Lengths

For fields that require the respondent to give a rating on a scale, it’s important to consider how long the scale should be.

Unfortunately, there’s no universally ideal scale length.

I hate to give a “it depends” answer to this question, but let me try helping you determine what should be the ideal length of a scale, such as Likert scale for your survey:

  • 1-3 scale: Use this when you want people to give a binary response with three options such as “disagree”, “neutral”, and “agree”. It’s easy for people to understand but it doesn’t allow a lot of room for measuring how strongly a respondent agrees or disagrees with your statement beyond just a binary distinction.
  • 1-5 scale: This is the most common choice for a Likert scale. It allows a wider range of expression to the respondent, while it’s also fairly easy to comprehend. As a result, you can gauge nuances in agreement levels of a respondent with greater precision as compared to a simpler 1-3 scale.
  • 1-9 scale: It’s a bit more complex than shorter scales, but it allows you to measure responses with a high level of distinction. At the same time, these scale lengths can require respondents to think harder, often without much clarity about the differences between levels in the scale. For this reason, the risk of abandonment is higher.

Likert scale question

If you know that your audience is likely to feel burdened with a 1-9 scale and you don’t intend to perform complex statistical analysis with the survey results, you should go for a balanced approach by using the 1-5 scale.

The 1-5 scale works fairly well in the vast majority of cases. But all scale lengths are perfectly viable. It’s only a matter of thinking about how finely you want to distinguish the levels of satisfaction in a customer survey and balance it with considerations of respondent fatigue.

7. Randomize Your Survey Questions

Studies have shown that people tend to pick the first choice available when answers are narrowed down to 2, no matter how they might really feel.

To avoid this order bias, you can randomize any multiple choice survey questions you have on your form.

randomize choices

This way, any time someone visits your site the answers they can choose from will appear in a different order. This reduces any bias and gives you more accurate data to work with.

8. Use a Mix of Open-Ended and Close-Ended Questions

Both open-ended and close-ended questions have a place in a survey form. It’s usually a good idea to use both, but it’s important to be strategic about it.

For one, aim to maintain a much higher ratio of close-ended questions compared to open-ended ones. An 80/20 ratio is a good general rule to follow here.

Open-ended questions give you the benefit of collecting deeper insights from respondents, but if you have too many of these, you run the risk of burning people out.

Survey form

It’s a wise practice to limit the open-ended questions to the final section of your form. But if it feels necessary to use open-ended questions throughout different sections of the survey, you can take advantage of WPForms’ conditional logic feature.

This will allow you to display certain questions only when previous answers match certain criteria, such as when you need a respondent to expand on their answer if their selected answer to a close-ended question is indefinite.

9. Ask Personal Questions Later

One of the best practices to follow when writing survey questions is to treat your surveys like a conversation.

Ease into asking personal questions and demographic questions and add these at the end of your survey. Using  conversational forms is a powerful way of keeping your visitors engaged until the end.

10. Don’t Ask Double-Barreled Questions

Double-barreled questions are when you write a survey question that’s asking for feedback on 2 things at once.

For instance, “How would you rate the customer service of our in-person team and our phone support?” is a double-barreled question.

double barreled questions best practices in surveys

When building your survey, always keep in mind that survey writing best practices tell you to avoid double-barreled questions.

It’s for good reason, too — people tend to skip these confusing questions or can be prompted to leave your survey altogether.

The easiest way to fix double-barreled questions is to remove one option and create a separate question. Just make sure you’re still following best practices for survey length.

11. Offer an Incentive

A smart way to get more people to complete your survey is to offer something in return. For example, you could add a poll or survey to a giveaway with a plugin like RafflePress.

rafflepress surveys and polls

With RafflePress, you can just type in your question and add the answers. Then, you can customize the giveaway to give people more entries for filling out your survey.

12. Tell Respondents It’s for Them

If you choose to invite your participants via email, one of the best practices for survey emails is to use that email to emphasize that you’re collecting the data for the benefit of the respondents.

This will give them an incentive to click on the link to your survey.

best practices for survey emails opening email click

Another one of the best practices for survey emails is to send a follow-up thank you to respondents via email.

This can be used for anyone who completes your survey, not just people who were invited through email. Check out how to send confirmation emails to users after a form submission to learn more.

Don’t have a big subscriber list to send your survey to yet? Check out our sibling website’s article on super effective lead magnets to grow your email list.

13. Preview Your Survey

Editing sounds like an obvious survey best practice, but can you imagine if you sent out your survey and noticed a typo or a missed question?

You’d surely end up frustrated and the data might come back incorrect. So, before you send out your survey, make sure you get multiple eyes on it.

Preview it yourself and send it to others to test. Make sure you ask for their feedback, too.

Best Way to Conduct a Survey

Picking the right online survey tool is important when creating a survey that lets you follow survey best practices and gets you those much needed survey completions.

The WPForms Surveys and Polls Addon makes it easy to create a customizable survey that fits your needs and gives you valuable insight into what your respondents are thinking.

Check out our step by step guide on how to create a survey form to get your survey up and running in no time.

And it’s super easy to follow survey analysis best practices with WPForms. Viewing your survey data is simple and beautiful with the built-in visual dashboard.

survey reports dashboard experience

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That’s it! We hope this list of survey best practices helped you learn how to design a survey that will skyrocket your conversions.

Next, Learn What Customers Think About You

If you’re using surveys to find out the overall image of your brand, you’ll want to check out our post on how to create a Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey.

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