3 Survey Design Mistakes That Are Impacting Your Results—And How to Fix Them

Survey design is both an art and a science. From identifying the right respondents to crafting questions that truly capture your research objectives, there’s a myriad of factors that contribute to the success of a survey. Common mistakes can sneak into the process, undermining the validity and effectiveness of your data.

In this article, we’ll cover three of the most common issues and provide practical solutions not only to fix them, but also to ensure your survey yields the results you need.

When it comes to survey design, a critical thing to remember is that your respondent’s attention is a precious resource, and you’ve got to respect its limitations. The average attention span of an adult is now one second shorter than that of a goldfish! That means even high-achieving executives will lose focus without the right framework. How do you account for that in your survey design?

If you make people work too hard to understand the question you’re asking, they’ll put less effort into their responses. So make sure your questions aren’t overly long or complex.

Instead, keep questions laser focused and make sure they directly relate to the respondents’ own experience. A few best practices to keep in mind:

  • Keep questions short and to-the-point.
  • Don’t distract people with convoluted hypotheticals like how they might approach a purchase that they’ve said they’ll never make.
  • Sign-post any words that might be misunderstood using clear definitions or examples.
  • Use plain, simple English—questions are best understood when they sound like natural conversation.

There’s nothing more disheartening than to start a “short” survey and realize that there are, in fact, an enormous number of questions that will take a long time to answer.

B2B research respondents expect surveys to take more than five minutes, especially if they are being compensated for their time. But it’s still critical to be efficient with the length of your questionnaire and focus on the questions that are essential to your research objective.

It’s not (just) about respecting their time. It’s about maintaining the quality of your results—because respondents who face too many questions tend to either answer hastily or stop answering altogether.

Though there’s no definitive rule of thumb when it comes to the “right” number of questions on a survey, Azurite’s research reveals that when a survey asks a respondent more than 50 questions have a substantially higher drop-off rate.

[Sidebar: Breakdown of number of questions versus number of minutes to answer the questions.]

Memory is notoriously unreliable, which is a challenge when you want to see how often people engage in a type of behavior or use a product or service. People have difficulty estimating what goes on during an “average” day or week. They may have changed jobs; they may have used much different versions of the tools that are currently on the market. They may simply not recall.

Instead, it’s best to ask about specific, recent timelines if you can—and enable people to provide a range rather than exact numbers. A few additional best practices include:

  • Don’t put these types of questions at the end of your survey, when respondents’ attention spans may be exhausted.
  • Don’t ask respondents to speculate about potential future behavior.
  • Make sure to account for any factors that might cause them to over- or under-estimate (for instance, people might want to believe that they spend less time checking email, or more time researching purchases, than they actually do).

If you want to extract maximum insight from your respondents, you’ve got to respect their time and attention. We’ve all experienced the frustrations involved with poorly worded questions and surveys that seem to go on forever. It’s up to us to internalize those lessons—and know how to spot research providers who won’t perpetuate the problem.

There’s no single, simple formula for effective survey design. Choosing the right partner has a significant effect on your research outcomes. That’s why Fortune 500 companies and top Private Equity firms choose Azurite as their exclusive B2B research partner. Azurite has surveyed thousands of respondents to help companies turn subjective opinions into actionable business intelligence.

Are you ready to reimagine research?

The top Private Equity, Hedge Funds, Consulting Firms and Enterprise leaders have already seen the difference Azurite can make on their business. Contact Azurite to learn more about how we can take your B2B research to the next level.

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