Questionnaire Design 101: Tips for maximizing your online survey

Perhaps one of the most challenging parts of conducting market research is the questionnaire design. Indeed, a well-designed questionnaire can bring the best data for making data-driven decisions. Nevertheless, “How to create a successful format for the study?” is always a frequent question from many people when they start a project. Professional researchers might spend years learning how to build a logical questionnaire system; however, with our guide below, you can grasp the basics needed to get you going.

Table of Contents

  1. Initial Process
    • Identify your objectives
    • Decide the mode of your research
  2. Questionnaire Design Process
    • Keep your questionnaire concise and logical
    • Use the right question types
    • Speak the respondents’ language
  3. Pre-launch Process
    • Pilot your survey
  4. Sampling process with SynoTool and SynoAnswers
    • Use advanced software tools like SynoTool for better results
    • Choose SynoAnswers as a cost effective global research solution

1. Initial process

Identify your objectives

There are several steps involved in the process of carrying research. One of the very first steps is to define the research objectives. Start by asking, “Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.” This will help you decide who your target respondents are, which information you would like to obtain, which country you would like to sample in, and how that information can improve your later work. Creating good objectives can lead you to a good questionnaire design, as well as a good source for data collecting.

Decide the mode of your research

Nowadays, you can choose to launch your project in many ways. With advances in technology, online survey are a cost-effective and less time-consuming solution. When conducting online research, you need to pay attention to how the questions are displayed and to any respondent manipulation. Make sure you always have a clean template and a user-friendly platform.

2. Questionnaire design process

Keep your questionnaire concise and logical

As a researcher conducting the survey, you might understand the questions clearly. However, your respondents might not be able to do the same. Each question should play an important role in helping you get closer to the research goals. In order to do so, the questions need to be direct, concise, and well-ordered. With a logical flow, respondents will clearly understand the survey and will complete the survey with better data. Moreover, respondents are less likely to answer long surveys, so the LOI (length of interview) should be actively considered while designing a questionnaire. If you do this, the IR (incidence rate) can be improved and the sampling period can be shortened.

Use the right question types

Do not put your questionnaire in a straitjacket. You can choose between open-ended and closed-ended questions for your questionnaire. Open-ended questions require respondents to give their answers in their own words, while closed-ended questions are usually displayed in a single-answer or multiple-answer form.

For open ended questions, make sure you have a clear and concise question or even guide the respondent using an answer template. This type of question can bring the greatest variety of responses. However, the analysis process might take more time than other types.

An open-ended question

On the other hand, closed-ended questions, with fixed answer options, ensure the data has coherence between respondents and saves a lot of time in the data analyzing process—especially when the survey is done online.

A closed-ended question

Another useful tip when using closed-ended questions, such as rating scales or attitude questions, is to make sure you are asking it in an unbiased way. Biased information will affect the respondent’s thought process, which results in false feedback data. For example:

Questionnaire Design - A biased question
A Biased Question
Questionnaire Design - An Unbiased Question
An Unbiased Question


Speak the respondent’s language

According to Chase Harrison (2017), a Senior Research in Survey Research at Harvard University, an ideal question meets three requirements if it:

  • measures the research objectives
  • doesn’t measure other concepts
  • conveys the same meaning to all respondents

First, you should avoid using terminology and complex sentences in your questions. The question needs to be simple and easy to understand for everyone.

Second, reference frames should be added appropriately to make sure that every respondent gives a qualified answer. For example, if you ask, “What is your income?”, some respondents will respond with their income before tax, while others will respond with the amount after tax. In order to get accurate data, you might want to ask, “What was your personal income after tax last month?”. Furthermore, if the survey is sampled in many different countries, you should prepare versions using different currencies for questions related to money in general.

Third, You should be careful that all answer choices are different and that there is no overlap in numbering. Are you answer choices really unique? Especially after translation, concepts or words that may seem different in your language can mean the same thing in other languages. Ensure that all possible responses are available and expressed in a unique way.

Last but not least, it is important to randomize answer options if there is a series of similar questions in your study. This can often be done automatically in the software, and will ensure the data validity.


3. Pre-launch process

Pilot your survey

Before releasing your survey to the world, it is important to pre-launch, or soft launch, to test the data. This will help you to detect questionnaire design errors at an early stage when you have time to fix them. If you are doing your research online, it is easy to do a soft launch. The whole process of sampling and checking data can be done within an hour, so there is no serious postponement even when there are errors detected.


4. Sampling process with SynoTool and SynoAnswers

Use advanced software tools like SynoTool for better results

For online surveys, after the questionnaire is perfectly designed, the next step is to find a good platform to convert the questionnaire to an online form. Our SynoTool software allows you to create surveys with sophisticated logic and complex conditions in as many languages as you need. Moreover, SynoTool also offers customized data reports. You can see the data being collected in real time and can visualize it using a variety of dashboards.

Choose SynoAnswers as a cost-effective global research solution

If you are looking for a smart and cost-effective solution for your global research project, SynoAnswers is your best choice. SynoAnswers allows you to conduct national census-weighted surveys in countries around the world, on a bi-weekly schedule. We combine questions from multiple clients into one “omnibus” survey and sample it to 1,000 qualified panelists. Furthermore, we can also cover the translation and reporting service for you.

If you’d like to learn more about SynoTool, SynoAnswers, or any of the products or services we offer, please feel free to contact us.