How to Create a Successful Survey

Survey writing simplified

Deciding to survey people is easy. But creating a survey can seem hard. Here at SurveyMonkey, we help make it simple. After all, surveys are an art and a science – but they’re hardly rocket science!

The first, most important step is to know your objective. Why are you surveying? What insights are you hoping to gain? What data do you need? Make sure you’re clear about the purpose of your survey – and your survey is sure to be a success!

The Nuts and Bolts of Survey Construction

There are a lot of choices to make when you’re writing a survey, but following some basic rules can help you make the right choices every time. Here are 10 great tips for creating a survey that provides you with the answers you need.

  1. Use formatting. Group similar questions to keep your survey logical and focused. Page breaks, page titles and instructions help people understand what you’re asking and why.
  2. Ask often. Using the same question in a series of surveys, or even using the same survey over time, is a good way to build a baseline and measure changes in respondents’ attitudes.
  3. Be brief. Keep questions and surveys as short as possible to keep respondents interested and motivated to complete your survey.
  4. Ease into it. Asking personal or sensitive questions at the beginning can scare people away. Save those questions – if they’re absolutely necessary – for the end.
  5. Stick to specifics. Create survey questions that explore one idea at a time to make sure your respondents can understand what you’re asking. Vague, general, multi-part questions can be confusing and tricky to answer.
  6. Clarify, clarify, clarify. Spell out everything that could be interpreted in more than one way. Do you want to know if someone is conservative in your political survey? Then make sure you specify whether you’re talking about the way they dress, their politics, their preference in music or cuisine or their approach to life (to give just a few examples!).
  7. Keep it relevant. Make sure that respondents stay focused by only showing them those questions that apply to them. A great way to do this is by using skip logic to eliminate irrelevant questions.
  8. Avoid yes/no questions. Yes/no questions don’t capture people who are on the fence or nuances in people’s opinions – in other words, yes/no questions can’t give you the information you need!
  9. Avoid the matrix. Presented with a matrix, respondents will typically focus on filling in the grid rather than paying careful attention to each question – and that will impair the quality of your data.
  10. Use words rather than numbers. When designing answer choices, use phrases such as “slightly likely” or “extremely likely” rather than numbers such as “2” or “4” to indicate the degree of preference. These answer choices are easier for people to understand.

Are you ready to start? Here are the steps about how to conduct a survey. For even more tips and tricks about creating great surveys, check out the survey methodology posts on the SurveyMonkey blog.

Additional Survey Design Resources

Take advantage of these great SurveyMonkey resources and begin surveying in no time!

  • Easy question creation. With 15 question types, including rating scales, multiple choice and more, it’s easy to create online surveys from scratch. Alternatively, choose certified questions from Question Bank, our library of question templates.
  • Custom branding. Customise the look and feel of your surveys. Add your logo, company name, colours and images. Create your own survey URL and send respondents to a promotional landing page upon survey completion.
  • Advanced features.Obtain the data you need with required questions and response validation. Eliminate bias with random assignment (A/B testing) and randomisation. Create interactive surveys with skip logic and question piping. (We promise, it’s easier than it sounds!)

Survey Design Services

If you’re ever stuck for time or you’re just not sure where to begin, let us design your survey for you! This service is available to all professional plan customers for just $15 per question (with a $500 project minimum) and includes custom formatting, editing and organising question flow, as well as expert guidance every step of the way.

Are you not sure how to reach the right people? SurveyMonkey Audience gives you access to millions of respondents who are ready to provide the answers you need to make critical decisions.

Are you looking for more survey types and survey examples?

Why Do 20+ Million People Use SurveyMonkey?

  • Free
    Send an unlimited number of surveys and polls with our FREE plan.
  • Easy to Use
    Create and monitor your survey directly over the Internet – we’ve made it easy to get started, learn and use.
  • Intuitive Design
    There’s no need to be a programmer or engineer – if you can check email or use Facebook, then you can use SurveyMonkey.
  • Real-Time Results
    You can view your data as it comes in, keeping it to yourself or allowing others to see it.
  • Trustworthy and Experienced
    SurveyMonkey has helped over 20 million satisfied customers gather information online.
  • Expands with Your Needs
    SurveyMonkey PRO plans enhance your ability to gather and interpret information with advanced analytics and more.