10 Tips: Create a Great Survey

Simple suggestions for engaging surveys.

  1. Make it look good

    Keep your audience, and their taste in mind when you design a form or survey. Are they young, hip, older, conservative? Choose a look and feel that matches their aesthetic.

    Not confident in your design skills? Don't worry, Adobe FormsCentral provides an array of ready-to-use template designs, great for any audience. Simply choose a template and add your text. Or, if you're feeling creative, design your own form or survey from scratch by using the drag-and-drop editor.

  2. Be clear and concise

    Establish a specific goal for your form or survey, and then keep that goal as a single focus when designing the template and questions.

    Aim for a survey that takes 5-8 minutes. Studies have shown that the more questions a survey contains, the less thought goes into a respondent's answers—and the higher the abandonment rate. So keep it short and sweet.

    Let respondents know your survey objectives from the start and indicate how long it will take to complete the survey.

  3. Work backwards

    One way to design questions based on your focused survey goal is to work backwards from the answer you seek. For example, if your goal is to gauge customer service, list out all the aspects you want to measure (cleanliness, friendliness, etc.). Then design a question about each one.

  4. Use Simple questions
  5. Your respondents don't want to waste precious time trying to figure out what a question means. Keep things simple and clear—avoid jargon, nicknames, and acronyms. Also, keep questions short.

    Questions neutral in tone and language get the most honest answers. Avoid leading questions. For example, instead of asking, "Do you think the new cafeteria lunch menu offers a better variety of healthy foods than the old one?" You should ask, "How do you feel about the new cafeteria menu compared to the old one?"

  6. Ask closed-ended questions

    Closed-ended questions are simply ones that provide specific answers, such as multiple-choice options, a rating scale, or Yes/No answers. These types of questions have shown to be easier to understand, and thus produce a better response rate.

  7. Lead with easy questions

    Employ strategies to keep respondents engaged. For example, sandwich more challenging topics between easier ones. To do so, start off with interesting and easy questions, then, move on to more poignant and specific ones.

  8. Tailor questions

    Help people complete the survey in less time (and make data easier to analyze) by using the skip logic feature. This directs respondents past questions that don't apply and straight to those that are relevant to them.


  10. Make it private

    It's important for respondents to know how their responses will be viewed and stored. Let them know upfront if the survey is anonymous or confidential. In general, anonymous surveys deliver more open and honest feedback.

  11. Test your survey

    Be sure to have a fresh set of eyes proofread your form or survey for errors. Next, test your email message and form to determine whether or not you are asking the right questions to meet your objectives.

    Send out your form or survey to a sizeable group in your organization, or to a small sample of your target group. Based on responses, fine-tune your questions.

  12. Create an effective invitation

    Getting respondents to open your survey invitation email is your first objective. Be sure to craft a message heading that includes your organization's name and identify the email's purpose. For example, "Small Press Coffeehouse values your input."

    In the body of the email let contacts know why they have been selected to take the survey. Explain the survey's purpose, how long it will take to complete, and if there are any incentives. Then create urgency by stating a deadline.

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