10 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Crafting Online Surveys

10 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Crafting Online Surveys

Crafting an high quality online survey is more complex than it initially may look. It takes time and effort, and it involves several considerations for you to be able to reap relevant and unbiased results.

While it’s true that creating and administering surveys has become so much easier now with the availability of free online tools, it’s extremely important to ensure that your online surveys are carefully planned and well-designed. The following are some of the common mistakes survey creators make, and ones you best avoid.

Common Mistake #1: Failing To Define Your Objectives

Before setting out to plan survey questions, you need to have a clear set of objectives, which shoud be specific and be aligned with every single question you’ll be including in the survey. Do you want to get a pulse on how customers see your current product or service? Would you like to know what features you should roll out next? It’s best to keep everything focused on a single objective rather than gunning for too many objectives in one survey.

Common Mistake #2: Weak Introduction

Don’t take the introduction part for granted. If possible, let your customers know in advance that you will be conducting a survey and invite them to participate. Tell them about your objectives, how long the survey will take to answer, and how valuable it would be if they take part. Be as sincere as possible and thank them in advance. You’re more likely to get a high response rate.

Common Mistake #3: Poorly Structured Questions

In agreeing to participate in a survey, respondents are doing you a great favour—so make it as smooth an experience for them as possible by not sending out an onslaught of poorly structured questions. Avoid complicated questions that would force respondents to spend a lot of time to comprehend and answer. Be straight to the point and double check for acronyms, double negatives, and technical jargon. Also, avoid words or terms that may offend or lead to biased answers.

Common Mistake #4: Too Many Open-ended Questions

Open-ended questions allow you to gather qualitative data, which is valuable to any research, but apply these in moderation. You don’t want your respondents to quit in the middle of the survey because they find it too tiresome to answer. A good rule of thumb is to offer multiple choices, and to not include more than five open-ended questions.

Common Mistake #5: Too Many / Too Little Choices

This is another common mistake that could lead to confusion among your respondents, as well as making it more difficult to analyse your results. It’s recommended that you provide at most 5-6 multiple choices and include a None or Other option.

Common Mistake #6: Requiring Mandatory Answers

It’s definitely a mistake to force survey participants to answer every single question. You might need to indicate that some fields are required, but don’t make it mandatory to answer questions your respondents cannot answer. This lessens your drop-off rate.

Common Mistake #7: Unclear, Inconsistent Scales

You need to carefully define your rating scales whenever you need to apply them. And if you should introduce a scale or rating system, make sure it’s consistent all throughout the survey. For instance, don’t suddenly reverse the order of the scale midway through the survey, as this can confuse participants.

Common Mistake #8: Failing To Optimize Your Timing

You’re most likely sending out links to your online survey through email. You’ll need to consider the days and times when you can maximise your response rate. For instance, you might think that the weekend is the best time to get people to sit down and do a survey, but studies show that midweek—from Tuesday to Thursday—are your best bets. Avoid the start and end of the week as well, when people are getting too much email already.

Common Mistake #9: Untargeted Distribution

You can send out surveys to a huge number of recipients, but bear in mind that it’s not the size but the quality of your sample that matters more. You want to ensure that you hit the bull’s eye when targeting your audience for you to get your hands on accurate and representative data.

Common Mistake #10: Not Testing

Once you’re done crafting a survey, remember to test first before you start with the email blast. Start with a few respondents and get ahead of potential problems such as your online survey not loading properly or participants having difficulty submitting their answers. Testing also helps you spot errors and finetune your survey to ensure a higher success rate.


With the abovementioned reminders in mind, you can maximise surveys as a tool for reaching customers, employees, and other prospects in gathering timely and relevant information much more easily, quickly, and cost-efficiently.

With all these awesome tips, crafting a high-quality survey should be a breeze for you. Get started!

P.S. If you liked this article, you might also like 7 Tips To Minimize Response Bias, Creating Simple Surveys Has Never Been Easier, and Tips and Tricks: How to Best Construct Survey Questions.

Naomi Ruth Ganhinhin
Mar 14, 2014
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