What Makes a Bad Survey? | Market Research Survey Tips

Wondering how to spot an awful survey?

As a leading market research company, we have spotted our fair share of surveys written by non-pros with a variety of issues. In fact, the twitter account @MRXShame is dedicated to spotting bad surveys with major, sometimes hilarious, errors. Reading through these tweets are definitely worth your time and will give you a laugh.

Below is an overview of factors that could lead to a bad survey.

What Makes a Bad Survey? | Market Research Survey Tips

Learn what makes a survey truly awful.

Be Mobile Friendly

Being mobile friendly is a must-have for all online surveys these days. No matter what, do not assume everyone taking an online survey will use a laptop or desktop.

Creating a mobile friendly survey encompasses several factors, but most importantly it means the survey questions are displayed well on a mobile phone. When taking a survey on a mobile phone there should be no need to enlarge the text, change the layout orientation (i.e. portrait versus landscape), enlarge pictures, overly scroll to read questions, etc.

Here are more tips on how to create a mobile friendly survey.

Limit Survey Length

Extremely few people will stick around to complete a 20 minute survey with no incentive. Honestly... it's just naive, wishful thinking that you will get a good response rate to a long survey with no incentive.

Best practice in survey writing tells us surveys should take 5 minutes or less to complete, which typically allows for 15 to 20 questions, and offer an incentive.

Before adding questions to the survey, ask if the question is absolutely necessary, if the data collected is something that is already known about the respondent and can be appended after fieldwork is complete, or if data could be derived from another question.

For example, if a survey asks for respondents to enter their ZIP Code, it is typically unnecessary to ask respondents for their state, city, town, or county as well. All of those details can be gathered through ZIP Code.

Limit Number the of Response Options

I get it, coding open-ended responses can be tough and time-consuming. However, creating a question with more than 10 response options with sentence-after-sentence trying to capture the realm of all possible open-ended answers is just a result of laziness. Also, it will lead to respondent fatigue and ultimately drop-off.

Instead of creating a question with 20+ response options, pick the top 10 and include an option for respondents to list other responses. Or just ask it open-ended and code the categories.

More work for you. Less work for the respondent. Better response rate.


Don't Use Complex Question Formats Unless It's Necessary

Slider scales, grid rating questions, semantic differential, and drag-and-drop questions are all interesting question formats. However, this does not mean they all should be used in the same survey.

For example, a market research company would not have 5 slider scale questions listed on the same page. Also, respondents will find extensive grid rating questions, semantic differential questions, and drag-and-drop question annoying if they are overused.

Always keep the respondent experience top of mind. Put yourself in the shoes of the survey taker. Would you want to answer a list of 10 semantic differential or drag-and-drop question in a row? It would certainly be confusing and time-confusing, which are important to avoid in surveys.

Learn more about types of engaging market research questions.

Double Check For Errors

Leading market research companies know to void using several different font colors, typefaces, and confusing language in a survey.

When choosing font colors and typefaces, choose a dark font color, a light background color, and an easy to read typeface. Some of the best typefaces for readability include Arial, Georgia, Open Sans, Veranda, and Helvetica.

Also, be sure to proof the survey to ensure it is free of errors or confusing language. Survey language should be clear and direct.

Don't Forget About The Sampling Plan

Oftentimes, the methodology of the study plays a role into how the survey is designed. For example, an online survey sent through a research panel vendor will likely be a little different than one sent through social media.

To ensure a high response rate, consider how to capture the respondent's attention and keep them engaged throughout the survey. This might include keeping the survey short or using an engaging survey question.

Contact Drive Research

Drive Research is a market research company located in New York that specializes in custom market research. Have questions about how our team can assist with your survey or market research?

Here's how to contact us:

Message us on our website
Email us at [email protected]
Call us at 888-725-DATA
Text us at 315-303-2040

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