Searching for the best type of question to ask in your upcoming customer survey, market survey, or satisfaction survey? Guess what. You will not find it.
Determining the best type of question to ask in a survey ultimately boils down to preference. You will likely have a preference, I will have a preference, and a market research company would have another preference.
Choosing the right type of question depends on a number of variables including:
- The intended length of your survey
- The audience you are trying to reach
- Your objectives of the question and the survey
- How engaged you need the respondent to be
A preferred question type might be even be determined by something as basic as whether the survey will be taken on a PC, tablet, or phone.
The options are endless...
Making the right choice is defined as accounting for all of these variables and choosing the best question or set of questions that make up your survey script.
Variety is a good thing in terms of the survey experience. More engagement equals more attention and focuses on your questions which results in "Better Data. Better Decisions. Better Strategy" - our motto.
Trying to understand which questions are the best fits for your next survey project?
Learn about 36 different options from our online survey company. Asking the right questions cannot be understated when it comes to survey design.
This is why many survey writers and organizations with little experience in this field hire a professional market research company to assist them with script design.
Using a third-party:
Eliminates bias ✔️
Guarantees 0 poorly worded questions ✔️
And most importantly, sets your team up for success ✔️
The difference between a good question and a bad question can make a large impact on the survey taker experience.
It's the difference between high-quality data and low-quality data, a drop-out versus someone who completes the entire survey, and makes a difference between highly engaged respondents and those who are just running through the motions.
Choose. But choose wisely.
#1. Single response list.
This might be the most basic survey question of all. It is a single response question with a list of choices below with radio buttons. The respondent selects one response.
An example of a single response list question would be:
#2. Multiple response list.
Very similar to the single response list question but instead of radio buttons, this type of survey question typically features checkboxes to allow the respondent to select all that apply, all of the above, or any combination of one or more choices.
#3. Open-ended text box.
As opposed to the closed-ended questions in #1 and #2 with a finite number of choices, an open-ended text box is a short box to allow the respondent to type in a response.
You would use this for a simple question like: "What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of our brand?"
It would be difficult to list all the possible words to select from so an open-ended question makes sense.
#4. Open-ended text box list.
Similar to the single open-ended text box in #3, this lists multiple short text boxes under the question.
This may be used for a similar question like: "What are the first 3 words that come to mind when you think of our brand?"
Those responses can be recorded directly underneath one another in separate boxes or next to one another. This option is much easier to analyze than asking the participant to write all 3 words in one box separated by commas.
#5. Open-ended text box grid.
This a more advanced type of question and one that may require a lot of typing from your respondent so use sparingly.
Let's say you wanted to get the top 3 words that come to mind for Brand A, Brand B, and Brand C.
You may list the 3 brands across the top (columns) and Word 1, Word 2, and Word 3 horizontally (rows). Therefore there are 9 text boxes in the grid to enter top-of-mind words.
Obviously this requires a lot of typing and will likely be a key point of drop-off in your survey.
#6. Open-ended comment box.
This is very similar to the open-ended text box but a comment box is intended to capture more data.
The box is larger and wider on the survey screen indicating to the respondent more text is expected and allowed.
A perfect fit for an open-ended comment box would be a follow-up to a rating question such as: "Why did you rate your customer satisfaction as a 7?"
#7. Open-ended quantity.
This question is an open-ended box but coded to record a quantity. As the survey designer and programmer, you can add verification to this box to ensure the respondent enters a quantity (e.g. "10" versus "ten").
This makes the analysis of these responses a breeze.
Interested in learning more about survey programming? Watch this 60-second video.
#8. Open-ended percent.
Similar to the open-ended quantity, here you can specify the respondent enter a percentage. Directly to the right of the box is a typical % label to make sure the respondent is on the same page.
You can set up verification coding here to ensure the quantity percent entered ranges from 0% to 100%. If the respondent types anything else, an error message appears.
#9. Ranking selection.
As part of this survey question, you ask the respondent to rank a number of categories and survey options with an open-ended box next to the factor or a grid.
The grid lists the ranks (1st through 5th; columns) and the respondent reads the corresponding categories (rows) ranking them 1 through 5.
This can also be accomplished by asking the respondent to type 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 next to the category with verification logic built-in to allow only one rank per question.
This aims to avoid a respondent with two number 3 ranks.
9 down. 27 to go. We warned you. Making the right choice for your survey is difficult 😉😉
#10. Ranking drag and drop.
It's a similar premise to the ranking selection, but this type of question is a little more engaging. This allows the respondent to click, drag, and move the factors they are ranking. It allows for a simple reordering or ranking.
An example of a ranking drag and drop question would be:
#11. Single response grid.
This type of question is excellent for Likert scales where you have multiple factors you want the respondent to rate.
For example: "Please rate your level of satisfaction on these factors from 1 to 5 where "1" is not at all satisfied and "5" is very satisfied.
The factors are cost, customer service, response time, etc. A rating of 1 to 5 is selected for each factor.
#12. Multiple response grid.
Another similar set up to the single response grid except this option allows for multiple responses per row.
A simple example might be a list of 3 models of cars in the rows and the vertical columns are features of the cars (e.g. good gas mileage, safe, sporty, etc.).
The respondent can select all of the features which match each of the 3 card models and there may be multiple features selected for each model of car (row).
#13. Drop-down menu.
This is another way of asking a single response question.
A common drop-down question you often see in surveys is: "In which of the following states do you reside?"
Rather than listing off 50 radio buttons of states, the respondent clicks a down arrow and can scroll directly to the appropriate state or type the first letter as in "N" for New York or "T" for Tennessee.
#14. Drop-down menu list.
Like the drop-down menu question except this lists multiple drop-down menus consecutively.
For instance, the question may ask which of the following words best explain the taste of the food, select up to 3. After the question, there are 3 consecutive drop-down boxes with words which can be selected in each drop-down menu.
#15. Drop-down menu grid.
This is a time-consuming option similar to the open-ended grid. This lists multiple items in several rows and several columns with drop-down boxes at each intersection.
As you can imagine, there is a lot of clicking that needs to take place in this type of question and it is not highly recommended by our market research company.
#16. Cascading drop-down.
Think of this question as peeling back the onion a bit. The first drop-down question may ask: "What is your favorite brand of car?"
From the drop-down, the respondent selects "Jeep".
Then another drop-down appears asking: "What is your favorite model of Jeep?" From the drop-down you select "Grand Cherokee".
Another drop-down appears asking: "What is your favorite feature of the Jeep Grand Cherokee?"
To which you select the "Four-wheel drive in bad weather".
#17. Email input.
This question is as simple as it sounds. It allows the respondent to input an email into an open-ended text box form. Through this, you can validate an email in your code to force the respondent to include an "@" and potentially a ".com", ".net", and so on.
#18. Date input.
Another obvious question type from our online survey firm. This one makes it easy for the respondent or interviewer to record the date in the survey instrument.
It can offer scrolling drop-downs for month, day, and year or simply offer an open-ended box requiring the respondent to enter the date as "10/10/2018."
18 down. 18 to go 🎉🎉
#19. Slider scale.
A slider scale is a fun type of question for sure. This is another way of keeping respondents engaged in the survey by displaying a horizontal or vertical bar where the lever can be toggled back and forth.
This works for pricing (toggling between price points of $1 to $100,000 or more), percentages (toggling between 0% and 100%), and toggling between numbers.
It's a different way of asking an open-ended quantity or percent question.
An example of a slider scale question would be:
#20. Slider scale list.
This type of question is the same as #19 but multiple slider scales on top of one another.
Let's say you are asking: "What do you expect to pay for Product A, Product B, and Product C?"
These can be listed as 3 slider scales on top of one another.
#21. Star rating.
Bored with basic radio button questions or rating grids? Star rating scales might be a good option for you to change it up with the respondent and display a more fun and engaging question.
This can be set up as stars, faces, and a variety of other icons. ⭐ 😊
It works great for satisfaction: "How satisfied were you with your purchase? 1 Star indicates not at all satisfied and 5 Stars indicates very satisfied."
#22. Net-promoter score (NPS).
One of the most common if not the most common benchmarking question in market research.
Net promoter score (NPS) uses a simple 0 to 10 scale asking the respondent likelihood to recommend, like this 👇👇
- Those who rate likelihood to recommend a 9 and 10 are promoters.
- Those who rate it 7 or 8 are passives.
- Those who rate it 0 to 6 are detractors.
NPS is calculated as the difference between promoters (65%) and detractors (25%) = +40.
Want to learn more about NPS? We've got a video for that too.
#23. File upload.
This type of survey question simply allows them to upload the file directly into the survey experience.
#24. Single or multiple response image selection.
Rather than writing out your selection options as text in your survey, why not include an image to select?
This makes the survey somewhat more engaging and colorful for the respondent. This helps if you are testing any type of recall where a brand, color, or image may help the respondent remember.
#25. Image heatmap.
Another engaging question where you can show the survey respondent an image or a website. The survey functionality allows the respondents to click areas of the image they looked at first, areas they like, and areas they dislike.
It is very interactive!
#26. Text highlighter.
Testing messaging or a slogan for your brand? Try using a text highlighter question in your survey.
This allows the respondent to select the text and provide a comment either positive or negative which is associated with the text.
Including terms and conditions in your survey or recruitment outreach. Some advanced survey tools allow capabilities to collect a signature in the software.
This works great for any mobile or tablet survey. The signature can also be drawn with a mouse or touch-pad on a desktop or laptop.
Example: Using a star rating scale of 1 star "not at all informative" and 5 star "very informative", how informative was this 60-second explainer video about Drive Research?
#28. Continuous sum.
This is also known as constant sum.
Let's say you want a respondent to break down the importance of 4 factors in choice by allotting 100 points.
Using a continuous sum scale, the respondent can apply 65 points to Factor C, 10 to Factor A, 15 to Factor D, and 10 to Factor B. The constant sum scale adds these points together in real-time to make sure your respondent totals 100.
Interested in learning more? I suggested reading this blog post on the topic of continuous sum.
#29. Video sentiment.
With this survey question, you can embed a video easily into your programmed version. The respondent may watch a video and follow-up questions can be asked using radio buttons, a slider scale, or other types of questions.
The intent is to capture feedback and feelings about the video shown.
#30. Audio sentiment.
Similar to the video sentiment question, your survey can also relay an audio clip to the respondent. They can click play to listen and respond to a question or questions below the audio clip.
This is a more advanced analytical question for your survey. Conjoint evaluates the preference for packages and features using a forced-choice approach.
🍕🍕 A simple example is a pizza restaurant creating 3 packages:
- Large pizza, 24 wings, and 8 garlic knots for $29.99.
- 2 medium pizzas, 12 wings, and 12 garlic knots for $29.99.
- Large pizza, 30 wings, and 12 garlic knots for $36.99.
By forcing a choice of one of these combinations and randomizing the sequence, the market research company can determine the best combo and features for the client.
#32. Grouping or open card sort.
For an open card sort, the respondent drags items or features into new buckets or categories which they may label themselves.
For example, if the survey lists off 8 brands of soda, the respondent may be asked to drag those brands into self-created categories such as "cheap", "sweet", "gross", etc.
This type of question requires a lot of time and attention from a respondent.
#33. Grouping or closed card sort.
This is similar to the open card sort but the categories the respondent drags the factors or features into are already predefined by the market research company.
In this case, the respondent may be asked to group the 8 soda brands into "top-tier", "middle-tier", and "low-tier" by dragging the 8 into these categories.
These cannot be rearranged once placed.
The process is exactly the same as the grouping closed card sort. However, at the end of the grouping, the respondent has the ability to move or shift the brands into different categories.
Meaning the responses are not closed.
#35. Max Diff.
This is a creative way of separating most from least through maximum differentiation (MaxDiff).
Using the soda brand survey example, with MaxDiff the survey lists 4 brands and asks 2 simple questions: "Which is your most preferred brand?" and "Which is your least preferred brand?"
MaxDiff is calculated by taking the difference between those two percentages (e.g. 40% most and 15% least = +25).
#36. Semantic differential.
The idea with this question type is to score feelings and emotions using two antonyms. This is displayed as horizontal scales with two words on each side of the grid.
It is important to use 2 distinct words when using this scale to see how the respondent leans in one direction or the other.
Sometimes the market research company assigns scores to each radio button (-3, -2, -1, 0, +1, +2, +3).
An example of a semantic differential question would be:
Drive Research is is a national market research company located in Upstate New York.
Questions about an upcoming survey or market research project? Our team specializes in a number of qualitative and quantitative market research studies all across the country.
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- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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George is the Owner & President of Drive Research. He has consulted for hundreds of regional, national, and global organizations over the past 15 years. He is a CX certified VoC professional with a focus on innovation and new product management.
Learn more about George, here.