Learn How to Run Successful Web Surveys with this Free Guide
I’m often asked to give advice on web survey projects. Most people want help with general approach, selecting software and hosting, or avoiding common implementation issues. I created Successful Online Surveys with these issues in mind. From selecting the right survey software through to how to avoid the biggest cause of web survey nonresponse, this step-by-step guide covers the key development and implementation decisions you’ll face.
The guide is free, and I’d appreciate you letting me know if you have suggestions for improving it.
Download Successful Online Surveys (1.1MB pdf file)
Survey Failure Damages Reputations
Despite the speed and cost advantages of web surveys, many people remain skeptical about them. They have good reason to be. You don’t have to hunt far to find examples of online questionnaires that failed because they had technical problems, contained critical design flaws, or were sent to the wrong people.
Badly developed web surveys cause frustration for respondents and can result in disastrous decisions. Even Fortune 500 companies, with all of their resources, are not immune. At a recent industry meeting dedicated to problems in survey response, Kim Dedeker, then VP-consumer and market knowledge at Procter & Gamble, presented one example in which online and mail surveys on an instant-coffee concept came up with opposing results!
If I had only had the online result in this particular case, I would have taken a bad decision right to the top management.
Kim Dedeker, Procter & Gamble
Avoid the Major Pitfalls
Good planning along with a little knowledge of where things often go wrong can vastly reduce your risk of survey failure. Successful Online Surveys will help in both of those areas by equipping you with tools and tips to navigate through critical software choices and common implementation problems.
I’ve included processes and technical insights gathered from my experience implementing online questionnaires, teaching market research, and helping others get their survey projects on track.
In a nutshell, Successful Online Surveys:
- Is structured for quick reading (an hour or less).
- Steps through the survey development process, pointing out key planning, technology, and design issues that ‘make or break’ a web survey.
- Introduces terminology specific to online questionnaires and links to resources on important topics, so you’ll know what to look for and where to go to get extra information when you need it.
- Provides practical advice on choosing survey software that will allow you to follow best practice design guidelines without high cost and technical headaches.
Some of the Things You’ll Learn:
- Why ‘free’ online survey software really isn’t, and how to pick a solution that will give you the best bang for your buck.
- The three sources of error, overlooked by almost everyone, that can render the results of a web survey dangerously inaccurate.
- One technique for improving response rates that has never failed in all of the surveys I have been involved with.
- Why making your questionnaire more visually attractive can actually reduce the quality of responses.
- Seven critical factors you should consider when deciding whether to rent, buy, or build the online survey software for your project.
- How to structure your invitation to avoid the number one cause of nonresponse in many web surveys.
- Why restricting access to your survey can improve the quality of results you get, even if it means you get fewer responses.
- The eight most common question wording mistakes people make when developing web surveys.
- How to avoid most technical and interpretation problems before they infuriate your respondents… and what you can do to identify and rectify problems once the survey is running.
- One question format that consistently leads to inaccurate data. Amazingly, it is still used in many web surveys… even though usability experts have been advising against it for years and despite there being a great alternative option!
- Six little-known tips for communicating your results so they are understood and acted upon.
As well as these tips, the guide contains links to free web-based resources you can go to for more information on specific topics, a list of books dedicated to online survey development, and my suggestions for where to start when looking for survey software suitable for your project.
Download the Guide
Download Successful Online Surveys (1.1MB pdf file)
Note: The guide is in PDF format. Most people already have the software necessary to read PDF files on their computer, but you can download Adobe’s PDF Reader for free if you don’t.
Links in the Guide
Here is a list of resources linked to in the guide. You can use these links if the ones in the guide don’t work properly for you.
- Creative Commons License
- Dillman’s book: Mail and Internet Surveys
- Krug’s book: Don’t Make Me Think
- Public Opinion Quarterly
- Social Science Computer Review
- Guidelines for Accessible and Usable Web Sites
- Ron Czaja’s Pretesting Article: Questionnaire Pretesting Comes of Age
- Admap Magazine
- AAPOR Code of Professional Ethics and Practice
- AAPOR Standard Definitions
- Survey Software Provider: SurveyGizmo
- Survey Software Provider: SurveyMonkey
- Survey Software Provider: SnapSurveys
- Survey Software Provider: ClassApps
- Survey Software Provider: LimeSurvey
- Mick Couper’s book: Designing Effective Web Surveys
- New book co-authored by Mick Couper’s book: The Science of Web Surveys
- Valerie Sue and Lois Ritter’s book: Conducting Online Surveys
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