6 Horrible Mistakes You're Making With Online Surveys

Believe it or not, there is an art to designing and curating online survey questions. Without the proper techniques, discipline, experience, or knowledge, significant mistakes are bound to be made. 

The one tried and true way of avoiding common mistakes in survey writing is to partner your efforts with a market research company, who specializes in online surveys. However, we know this isn’t always in the budget.

In this blog post, Drive Research, an online survey company, will share six common market research mistakes we often see in surveys designed in-house. 

Plus, we’ll share some beneficial tips to keep in mind while constructing your next questionnaire.

6 horrible mistakes


Mistake #1: Skipping the introduction

It’s crucial to inform and set expectations for respondents before they answer the first survey question. The survey introduction should express the goals and objectives of the market research. 

Sharing a brief purpose of the research will provide a purpose to the survey and give respondents a reason to complete it with accuracy. 

With that being said, it’s important not to give away too much information in the introduction, as oversharing about the nature of the research might lead to respondent bias. 

Focus on including information such as…

How long the online survey will take ⌚

The introduction of any survey should also provide a time frame of how long it takes for someone to complete the online survey.

This piece of information is essential, so participants know how much time they need to allocate to complete it effectively. 

The incentive for completing the survey 💸

If you are offering the survey respondents a reward for their participation in the online survey, then the introduction is a great place to list any incentives for completing the survey.  

What the feedback will be used for 📊

The survey introduction should also explain what the survey data will be used for. This is sometimes referred to as “informed consent.” 

Being transparent with market research respondents builds trust with the research team since they know their information is in good hands.


Mistake #2: Forgetting to put yourself in the respondent’s shoes

During the survey writing process, it’s vital to keep the respondents’ experience and perspective in mind. Failing to do so can prevent people from successfully completing the survey.

Some of the ways market researchers can prioritize the respondent experience include:

  • Gain respondent trust at the beginning of the survey by asking simple questions first.
  • Leave more personal or elaborate probing questions toward the end (or even remove those difficult questions altogether).
  • Be considerate of the respondents’ time by shortening the length of the questionnaire to keep the respondents happy and engaged. No one likes to waste time!

Mistake #3: Not asking the right questions

A major element to survey design is forming insightful questions. 

To create a survey that is engaging, concise, and comprehensive, market researchers first need to understand the audience and thoughtfully evaluate their approach when writing each survey question. 

Overall, it’s important to have an objective perspective when constructing your queries.

This will keep the questions neutral, and it will eliminate any leading questions that might contain bias.

Let’s look at an extreme example of leading questions. 

👎 How bad was the food at [INSERT NAME OF RESTAURANT]? 

This immediately brings a negative connotation to the question. Instead, you should phrase the question as:

👍 Please describe your level of satisfaction with the food at [INSERT NAME OF RESTAURANT].


Mistake #4: Using vague and complicated language

When creating your online survey, it’s important to be as direct as possible. This is not the time to show off your vocabulary skills.

Using language that is unclear and complex can confuse and distract the participants.

It’s better to be clear and succinct with every question to capture your respondents’ attraction and understanding. 

The last thing we would want is for the participants to answer any question inaccurately (or not answer it at all), especially when they can’t ask for clarification in an online survey.


Mistake #5: Not rewarding your participants

Offering an incentive is a surefire way to motivate and encourage respondents to take the survey. 

Additionally, it’s important to reward your respondents after taking an online survey in order for them to feel appreciated. Hopefully, they’ll have a positive experience and want to participate in more market research in the future.

When it comes to the reward, you don’t have to spend an exorbitant amount on each respondent.

Doing so could have a negative impact on the quality of the data because the respondent might only take your survey for the reward and not answer each question honestly.

As a result, the survey data can become skewed.

Instead of promoting an expensive incentive, our market research company has worked with clients who choose to raffle off gift cards to a few lucky respondents.

Another method would be to use a panel vendor with its own incidence rate and cost of rewards imbedded in its cost per complete.

It’s up to your budget as to how you approach survey incentives, but make sure to be clear on what you’re offering from the beginning to eliminate any confusion or disappointment. 

For example, if you’re raffling off a $50 Amazon gift card, be sure to make it clear to survey respondents that they won’t receive the incentive simply because they completed the survey, but rather, completing the survey allows them to “enter to win” the gift card.


Mistake #6: Not testing your survey

Testing your survey is an essential aspect of the survey programming process. It’s a strategy market research firms use to gauge the effectiveness of the survey. 

It’s also a great way to discover errors in your programming and resolve them before your target audience sees them. 

When testing your online survey look for errors in spelling, grammar, question formatting, and logic. 

In order to obtain feedback to improve your questionnaire, ask your colleagues to test and evaluate your survey, and then you’ll be good to go.

Sometimes, clients may even request a test link to preview the online survey before it is sent out. This serves as an ultimate gut check before sending the survey into fieldwork. 

To learn more about survey programming, watch this 60-second video!


Contact Our Online Survey Company

Are you interested in working with our online survey firm? We will consult with you from end-to-end to give you exactly what you need for your market research project.

Contact us through one of the four options below.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at info@driveresearch.com
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

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