No two respondents are exactly alike. In fact, the differences in how your respondents experience your survey may be having a bigger impact on your data than you realize.


When you are designing your survey it is important to think about the your questions from your respondents’ perspective. Would you take this survey yourself? Why or why not? Are your questions too broad or too specific? Will your survey make some respondents interested and excited while boring others? How do you expect this to affect the data that you collect?


Focusing on the respondent experience during survey design can help you collect better data and keep your respondents from losing motivation or opting out of your surveys. Today, we’ll focus on four questions you should ask about your respondents before you ever send them a survey:


Question #1


How interested will your survey respondents be in your survey topic? All else being equal, respondents that find a survey topic interesting will stay more engaged and are likely to provide more valid and reliable data.


Question #2


How much do your respondents know about the subject of your survey before they begin? If respondents are very familiar with your subject then it will likely be easier for them to provide responses to your questions.


Question #3


How often are your respondents exposed to information about the topic of the survey? For example, if you are doing a political survey in October during an election year, there is a good chance that your respondents are getting a lot of exposure to political information, even if they are not political news junkies. This exposure can have a big impact on how they respond to your survey.


Question #4


How much behavioral experience do your respondents have with your survey topic? For example, an avid cyclist would be a much different respondent for a bike manufacturer’s survey than someone who had never learned to ride a bike. If your survey relates to something that your respondents have direct experience with then it is likely that they will have an easier time providing valid and reliable data.


Thinking through these questions for each survey will help improve your respondents experiences and help you collect more reliable information.

eBook: Handbook of Survey Question Design