In the last post, 4 Common Sense Tips for Creating Surveys that work, I gave 4 best practices for creating survey questions that all researchers must know.

They were: keep it simple, use scales whenever possible, keep coded values consistent, and explain why.

In this post I add 3 additional tips.

Remember, effective survey design and flow give power to your research. But great questions are the foundation for great research.

These 3 tips will help you create the most effective questions possible.

1. Speak Your Respondents’ Language

Asking about caloric content, bits, bytes, and other industry specific jargon and acronyms is confusing. Make sure your audience understands your language level and terminology and above all, that they understand what you are asking.

The best move is to write to your least-informed respondent. If a respondent won’t understand an acronym, either define it, or don’t put it in.

2. Follow a Logical Order

Make your survey easier for respondents by keeping questions in their logical order. Avoid changing topics unnecessarily.

Instead, use the funnel approach.

The funnel approach makes the respondent’s job easier.

  • Start with broad/general questions that qualify the respondent and introduce the topic
  • Move into more specific questions
  • Finish with general, easy-to-answer questions (like demographics)

This approach allows respondents to warm up with broad and general questions, work into more specific and in-depth questions, and cool down at the end.

This turns the survey into a smooth road for respondents, which decreases drop-out rates and may even increase the quality of answers you receive.

3. Take Your Survey for a Test Drive

Even the best researchers have the occasional typo, misdirected question, or unfamiliar buzz word in their surveys.

Finding these last little issues is a difficult process.

Fortunately, there is an easy solution — ask 5 people from your target demographic to take your survey. Once you’ve asked them to take your survey, ask them these specific question:

  • How long did it take? (be sure to keep it short.)
  • Which questions were confusing?
  • Were there any other problems while taking the survey?

This allows you to quickly correct lingering problems before distribution.


Like I’ve said before, survey building is as much an art as it is a science. It involves attention to detail in the design and flow of your survey.

Remember these 3 tips: speak your respondents’ language, follow a logical order, and take your survey for a test drive.

These simple tips will go a long way toward building a survey that will yield actionable insights.