How to make your surveys more effective?

Becky Birch
4 min readOct 19, 2018


User research is a fundamental part of a design sprint, whether you are launching a new product, adding a feature or improving an existing one.

There are different methods for gathering feedback such as user testing, focus groups, A/B testing and surveys to name a few. In this article, I am going to focus on online surveys and how can we make them more effective.

An online survey is a less personal way of interacting with customers particularly now businesses are savvier to communicating with users through other user research methods. However, they are useful when it comes to; gathering feedback, exploring the reasons why people visited a website, identifying who your users are and what they want.

Let’s look at 10 ways you can create an effective online survey.

Define a clear goal
Make it clear to the participants what the reason for the survey is — users are more likely to participate if they can see the point. Remember, people like to feel in control of what they are doing and the personal information they are giving out.

Resist temptation
Stay focused throughout the survey and don’t ask too many questions. Resist the temptation to ‘just add in a couple more questions’ as this will increase the chance of user drop out. A better approach is to keep the survey brief and run another in a month or two.

Simplicity is key
Easy and straightforward questions, always! In particular, if your site is international — user’s from different countries will interact with the survey and may need to use google translate. If this doesn’t make sense to them, you haven’t created a useful online survey.

Respect your user’s privacy
Following GDPR, privacy means everything to the users. I would advise that you keep your survey’s anonymous — it is not the place for accumulating personal contact information. Asking for the user’s name, age, email address etc. will significantly reduce the number of people completing the survey.

Albeit, I would say that collecting demographic information is ok but before including those questions ask yourself do you need that data from this survey?

Show gratitude
If people can see you value their opinion, they are more likely to complete the survey. Some brands would display this appreciation by incorporating an incentive — ’If you complete this form you get automatically entered into winning a gift’ — I would avoid this because people are more likely to complete the task purely for the gift and not provide honest feedback.

Avoid pop-ups
Its natural to want as many people entering your website to participate in the survey. However, you want to avoid creating annoying pop-ups and instead, contemplate using your mailing list or adding a link to specific pages of your website.

Less is more
It is essential to have a firm focus on time and not on the number of questions. Surveys should be quick and precise to retain the user’s full attention. It should only take a few questions to get the quality data you need.

Use specific questions
Surveys are often used to get quantitative data from users and so it is essential to ask the correct type of question. Closed questions are the best for online surveys as these are more specific — often associated with radio buttons, check boxes and scale indicators. I would avoid asking open-ended questions because they are difficult to analyse and often lead to the wrong question being answered.

Avoid linear scales
It often seems like a good idea to get a visual representation of where the users place you on a scale of 1–5. However, the majority of people will pick 3 because it is the middle option and requires the least thought. A linear scale will often produce inaccurate results because effectively selecting 3 is a decision rather than the answer to the question.

Don’t rush the questions
It is essential to get the wording of the question correct. Writer, Paul Boag implies words should be as neutral as possible to get accurate results — for example using the word ‘should’ instead of ‘could’ has been known to alter results by up to 20%.

Survey tool recommendations

There are some incredible tools online that can help you create a survey in a few minutes. I would recommend Google Forms, it's super simple to use and does the job — I have set up a customer feedback form which you can see here. (I would love to hear what you think about my articles)

Other well-known tools are:

Survey Monkey
Survey Gizmo

Surveys have helped me learn about my users and what improvements I could make. Every so often, I adapt the questions to get a more in-depth understanding of a specific topic I want to learn.

If you take the 10 points listed above into consideration, your survey will do well. But, feel free to share your survey forms for further feedback on the structure of the questions if you are unsure — I love to help!



Becky Birch

Product Designer | Design at Scale is my popular newsletter packed with design systems tips, product & UX insights | 💌 Join: