Surveys, such a common and fundamental tool in many areas of research, may seem simple to create at first glance. But let’s not fool ourselves, designing a good questionnaire is an art that not everyone masters. One of the most common questions is: “How long should the survey be?”
In this article, we are going to delve into that idea and the importance of maintaining a balance between the length for a survey and number of questions.
What is a survey?
Let’s start with the basics. According to Merriam Webster, a survey is ” a set of questions to obtain statistically useful or personal information from individuals“.
Although their most common use is in the field of research, questionnaires are used in a variety of fields, from opinion polls and marketing surveys, to demographic studies, mental health and, of course, in organizations to improve people management and create more efficient companies.
How important is the length of a survey?
Time is money, and that also applies when answering a questionnaire. The number and length of the questions play a crucial role in the time participants need to complete it, which can affect the response rate and the quality of the data obtained.
Imagine that you are asked to answer a questionnaire with 75 questions. You would probably start with energy and enthusiasm, but as you progress, you would notice how you answer questions more quickly and with less attention, a phenomenon known as “speeding “
In the end, you would get tired and stop responding, which results in a higher non-response rate and lower quality and reliability of the data collected.
How extensive does a questionnaire have to be?
When you start designing your survey, it’s important to keep in mind how long it will be. Various studies have shown that there is no magic number of questions that guarantees a high response rate and quality data. What does seem clear is that a short questionnaire (around 13 to 25 questions) is more likely to be completed and provide quality data.
But what if your study requires a longer questionnaire?
In that case, it is crucial to prepare for low participation and take preventative measures to minimize respondent fatigue and boredom.
One of the most effective strategies is to divide the questionnaire into sections and administer each section at different times. This way, you prevent participants from getting tired and keep their attention level high.
How to design a good survey while maintaining a balance between length and quality?
Designing an efficient questionnaire requires time, dedication and a good knowledge of your audience. To give you an idea, a good survey should be able to be administered in less than 15 minutes to maintain the interest and attention of the participants. Even if it’s less time, the better!
The key to achieving this is to maintain a balance between the amount of information you want to collect and the length and complexity of the questions you ask: your goal is to get quality data, not just a bunch of answers.
To help you in this task, here we leave you 6 tips that you can put into practice to design simple surveys, quick to respond and 100% actionable:
- Have your objective clear: Before starting to design the survey, it is crucial to be clear about what you want to achieve. Knowing exactly what you want to learn from the answers will help you create more precise questions.
- Focus on relevant questions: Make sure each question contributes significant value to the overall objective of the survey.
- Use simple language: Avoid jargon, technicalities and complex words so that everyone can understand your questions without difficulty.
- Maintain order: Start with general questions and move towards more specific ones. Extra tip: the first questions should be easy to answer to motivate participants to continue with the survey.
- Balance between open and closed questions: Depending on the question, you can use different types of responses, such as Likert scale or free text responses. The variety will allow you to obtain higher quality information.
- Don’t forget accessibility: Make your surveys easy to answer on mobile devices and tablets too!