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When it comes to gathering feedback and information about your product or service, it’s important to know which tools to use. The questionnaire is a long-time staple in this field. It’s a classic for a reason: it’s familiar to customers, easy to implement, and it can generate powerful information for your company or brand.

Which begs the question: how do you get the most out of your questionnaire? There are several important questionnaire design tips that will steer you in the right direction.

Questionnaire vs Survey

But first, it’s helpful to know the difference between a questionnaire and a survey. The terms are often used interchangeably. Indeed, they both serve a similar purpose: to gather feedback and information. However, there are some distinctions worth bearing in mind, which will determine the best option for you.

A survey is defined as “an overall view or examination of a person, group or object”. It is generally closed-ended, focused on a specific group of people, and used to gather information or opinions about a certain topic. The classic example of when to use a survey is in obtaining customer feedback directly after an experience.

In contrast, a questionnaire contains a series of questions designed to gather information to provide a bigger picture. It can employ a range of question styles, such as open-ended, yes or no, and multiple choice. A common example of a questionnaire is when you join a gym and, as part of a health check, they ask you to answer specific questions about your medical history.

If you’ve determined that a questionnaire is the best approach for the kind of information you hope to gather, there are several design tips to help keep you on track.

Question Style

As with survey design, it’s wise to use a mixture of open and closed-ended questions when constructing your questionnaire. Knowing exactly when either type is the best fit can be a bit of an artform. However, a basic rule of thumb is: use closed-ended questions as the standard format, and use open-ended questions sparingly.

Since they require in-depth responses, open-ended questions can be time consuming. You don’t want to overwhelm your respondents, and end up with half-finished questionnaires because they were too demanding or tiring. So aim to keep things simple, and save the open-ended questions for the areas of feedback you are most interested in getting in-depth, subjective responses about.

Leading the Witness

When formulating your questionnaire, it’s important to avoid leading questions. This is where your question includes or implies a desired answer. Here are two examples:

• “I saw you were having difficulty with the navigation. What happened?”
• “Why did you have difficulty with the navigation?”

And here is how to phrase it so it’s not a leading question:

• “What was easy or difficult about getting to the content you wanted?”

Can you see the difference? In the first two instances, the questions make fixed assumptions about the customer’s experience. They presume to know in advance what happened. In addition, they have a negative vibe that is likely to be off-putting or even insulting to the respondent.

In contrast, the third example is phrased in an open, positive, non-leading manner. It doesn’t presume to know what the respondent’s experience was. This is going to make the respondent feel more empowered, and therefore, more likely to offer an authentic, engaged response.

Sample Size

A fundamental question to ask is: should I send my questionnaire to everyone or just a segment of my audience?

Whilst it might be technically possible nowadays to reach out to every single user or customer, it’s not always the best fit. It can be highly useful when you need to know some general feedback about a product or service, and it’s important to get the largest possible number of respondents.

However, there is a lot to be said for segmenting your audience. So long as it’s done intelligently.

Segmenting your audience can be a powerful aid in working out who your users are. You can break them down into distinct categories that tell you much about their lifestyle habits, age, gender, disposable income, and a host of other attributes.

This information can be of enormous value when considering your marketing and product development directions.

Segmenting your audience can also allow you to create more targeted questionnaires, and hone in on particular users. You are then free to use this information to make targeted decisions in product development and marketing. Or, of course, you can generalize the sample out to get an overall picture.

Questionnaire Platforms

Nowadays, there is a multitude of ways to reach out to your audience. Modern companies have a presence across a number of online platforms, which means there several ways to run your questionnaire.

Some of the more popular options include via direct email, through your website, or via an app. You can even send it as a link to your social media followers. Gone are the days of pen and paper questionnaires sent through the post!

Survicate is the leading experts in questionnaire design and implementation. They have the experience and the software to help make feedback gathering a breeze. As well as loads of helpful articles about the ins and outs of survey and questionnaire design and analysis.

Questionnaires can be powerful aids for any company interested in knowing their audience better and improving their product or service. If you keep in mind the above advice when designing your questionnaire, you’ll avoid any pitfalls and get the most bang for your buck.


Anna Rubkiewicz

Content Specialist @ Survicate. Hopeless animal lover & avid (albeit amateur) singer.