Here are 7 steps to keep in mind for a great online survey:
1: Be brief
Most people are stressed and have many things taking up their attention. A survey should ideally be 3-6 minutes; even a 7-9 minute length harms the quality of responses and representativeness of the respondents taking part.
2: Make it easy
When writing a questionnaire it's easy to forget that as an expert on the topic, or at least someone who works with it, you usually would have a different understanding than the person responding. To get good results, the questions need to be formulated in a way that is clear and simple enough for everyone to understand. Once you formulate your questionnaire, a good idea can be to ask colleagues or friends to check the questionnaire and see if it makes sense for them.
3: Be kind
Since you want people to take their time and honestly share their opinions to help you make decisions, we need to respect the respondents. If it's clear that you don’t trust and respect them, if you ask a lot of obvious trick questions, etc., then people will be even less inclined to help you. Think about how you treat a friend you ask for help.
4: Explanation is the key
If it is unclear what the topic and purpose of the survey are and what the results will be used for, participants will also be less motivated to put in extra effort. This is especially important if you have to answer more than a few simple questions or if the topic is not particularly interesting for the respondents.
5: Be fair with rewards
When rewarding users for participating in surveys, the rewards must convey the feeling that your time and effort as a respondent are appreciated. If the reward is high, it can motivate people to speed up surveys and cheat to collect rewards. However, if it is unreasonably low, it shows that you do not value their efforts, so why should they do their best? Similarly, if participants are rejected after answering multiple questions in the survey, they are unlikely to respond again.
6: Mobile first
Smartphones dominate our digital lives, and we always have them with us. Similar to online shopping, online research today is mainly based on smartphones, especially if you are not just asking retirees. Around 60% of responses are obtained from users on mobile devices, and for younger people - it's almost 100%. So always consider whether the questions work on mobile devices and test all surveys in the mobile view before you launch them.
7: Obtaining respondents:
Think about how you can best recruit participants for your topic. This will vary depending on the topic: for some topics, small groups of participants in a more qualitative setting (such as online focus groups) are best; for other groups, email registers (customers, users of certain niche services, etc.); for some groups, general online panels (broader consumer groups).
An additional aspect to consider with online research panels is the fact that the management and quality of panels vary widely - from lists of professional respondents conducting multiple surveys per day to well-managed curated communities with loyal users conducting a few surveys per month.
As a buyer with insights into panel recruitment, maintenance, compensation, etc., it's easier to distinguish well-managed panels from poorly treated ones. So when sourcing respondents from online panel providers, always question the sourcing and try to use partners you feel you can trust.