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									Designing Effective Online Surveys: What Everyone Needs to Know

Greenfield Online, Inc. 21 River Road Wilton, CT 06897 tel: 203.834.8585 toll free: 888.291.9997 fax: 203.834.8686

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Designing Effective Online Surveys: What Everyone Needs to Know
Over the past ten years, we have built our business on three things: having a large, robust online panel, delivering quality programming and hosting services, and providing a high level of customer service. In the past year alone, we managed over 4000 projects for the top 450 research companies in the world.

We know what works and doesn’t work in designing surveys for the online environment. Recently we compiled our Top Ten List for Designing Better Online Surveys and presented these at our popular Executive Briefing Series.

The efforts we—and you—can put in on the development of any online research project invariably payout with improved speed and efficiencies, better cooperation rates and better research results overall.

1. Ask yourself: would you enjoy taking this survey?
Remember, the Internet is a self-administered environment. Unlike a telephone survey, online respondents are required to read survey instructions and answer questions themselves. To avoid confusion and frustration, make sure that questions are logical and consistent. Can technology applications be included that enhance the overall experience? Have you over-engineered the study design?

Here are some ways of enhancing questionnaire design:
I Place

screening and quota management questions up front. No one likes to answer 25 questions only to find

out they don't qualify for a study.
I Use I To

drop-down lists and numeric open-ends sparingly—they take longer to answer.

minimize respondent fatigue, host at least three or four questions on a page. maximum number of product or service attributes shouldn't exceed 20 at any one time. have clear directions on how to answer the question, i.e., “select one,” “select all that apply.” an escape—offer a “don’t know” or “prefer not to answer” option.

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I Always I Provide

21 River Road • Wilton, CT 06897 • tel: 203.834.8585 • toll free: 888.291.9997 • fax: 203.834.8686 • •

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2. Remember: the respondent is working for you!
Respondents have busy lives. Before they even receive an invitation to take your survey, they're responding to emails, phone calls and handling a myriad of daily chores. Taking surveys should be enjoyable. Make things easy for them with clear, explicit instructions and useful, comprehensible error messages.

3. Design attribute ratings for visual ease of use.
Attribute ratings scales should appear once per page, usually along the top or left-hand margin of the survey. If the respondent must scroll down to answer all questions, keep the scale visible on screen.

4. Beware of long surveys.
A lengthy survey is a daunting task for anyone—no matter how interested they are in the subject matter. The average respondent begins to tire after 10-15 minutes. The longer the respondent participates, the more likely they are to terminate before completion. Consider which questions are the most critical and look for ways to enhance the survey with gaming exercises or visuals. Provide rest stops in the text and allow for transitions from one question set to another.

5. Pay attention to specific methods and audiences.
Many targeted audiences require extra attention, whether you are working with a difficult sample, or need a longterm commitment from the respondent. For example:

Teen Studies: Be mindful of the need for exciting, appealing graphics. Ask relevant questions—queries about
income or life insurance don't belong.

B2B Studies: These are busy people. Stick to the relevant topic and offer creative incentives for study cooperation.

Product Placement Studies: Respondents like these types of studies. When mailing, always remember to include all
components and provide clear instructions on product usage.

6. Use flash technology to enhance certain exercises.
Online surveys have never been more exciting! Technology continues to evolve and participating in surveys becomes more and more enjoyable. When you design your study, consider taking advantage of the interactivity of

21 River Road • Wilton, CT 06897 • tel: 203.834.8585 • toll free: 888.291.9997 • fax: 203.834.8686 • •


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the Internet to help maximize respondent enjoyment and obtain new marketing insights. See on latest technologies available to researchers. Offer a link.

7. Be honest about sensitive information.
Provide respondents with a factual privacy policy, informing them as to how the information they provide will be used. When asking respondents to provide sensitive information, tell them why you need it; this increases the likelihood that they will share this type of information.

Finally, don't ask irrelevant questions. Ask only what you need to know.

8. Incentives—picking the appropriate incentive for the right audience.
Greenfield Online conducts thousands of studies each year, and we have developed metrics that help us to measure the effectiveness of incentives. Realize that lower-incidence groups and lengthy surveys require more generous incentives—especially if quick turnaround is required.

9. Avoid drop-out triggers.
Open-ended or sensitive questions asked at the beginning of the survey can be jarring to the participant and increase the likelihood of drop-out. These types of questions are better placed towards the end of the survey. Ultimately, consider providing the respondent with an option not to answer.

To further avoid drop-outs, ask only relevant questions of the target group. Respondents can tell within 5 to 10 questions if the survey applies to them, and if the first few questions are vague, or irrelevant, you may increase the drop-out rate.

Finally, be straightforward about survey length and provide a progress meter; they’re both appreciated. If you tell a respondent that they will be participating for 5 minutes and your survey runs 8, you increase respondent frustration and encourage drop-out.

21 River Road • Wilton, CT 06897 • tel: 203.834.8585 • toll free: 888.291.9997 • fax: 203.834.8686 • •


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10. Mix methodologies to reach respondents.
Email is a fast and cost-effective means of inviting survey participants; however, sometimes it makes sense to use other data collection methods, such as telephone or interactive voice response along with emailed invitations, increasing the number of touch points and ensuring survey participation.

Help us maintain the integrity of online surveys!
Greenfield Online has been conducting online surveys since 1994, and we pride ourselves on building and maintaining an active and engaged panel of survey respondents. We encourage our clients to work with us to maximize respondent participation and effectiveness. By providing our respondents with relevant and engaging surveys, we are helping to retain the integrity of the methodology, and ultimately provide our clients with better data.

21 River Road • Wilton, CT 06897 • tel: 203.834.8585 • toll free: 888.291.9997 • fax: 203.834.8686 • •


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