What is a questionnaire and how to create effective online questionnaires

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Quality questionnaires are essential when conducting market research. In this post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about them and provide some tips to help you create your online surveys with confidence.

What is a questionnaire?

A questionnaire is a data collection technique used in market research. It consists of a set of questions organized in a more or less structured way. Questionnaires are used to interview the sample population in a market research study.

  • In qualitative studies, questionnaires are semi-structured. The questionnaire covers all the topics you want to inquire about, and based on the responses, the interviewer can adapt the interview. This allows for a deeper or shallower exploration of certain topics and can change their order as the conversation evolves.
  • In quantitative studies such as surveys, the questionnaire is entirely structured. All the questions are fixed, and the order cannot be changed on the fly. This ensures that all interviews are conducted in the same way, allowing for data consolidation.

The questionnaire design is a crucial phase of research. The quality of the questionnaire significantly influences the ability to draw conclusions and make decisions based on the study’s data. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that the questionnaire is well-designed before fieldwork begins.

Difference between a questionnaire and a market study

Sometimes questionnaires are confused with market studies. The questionnaire is a component of a market study. A market study involves creating a questionnaire and performing many other tasks such as deciding on the methodology, selecting the target audience, conducting fieldwork, and analyzing the data. The combination of all these elements constitutes the market study, and the questionnaire is one of its necessary components.

How to create a questionnaire?

The starting point for any questionnaire is the research objectives. At We are testers, we recommend that before you start drafting the questions, you review the answers you want to obtain and imagine how you will practically use them. If you plan to cross-reference the results by an important variable for your organization, such as purchase frequency, you will want to include the question, even if it’s not among the research objectives. Therefore, to avoid missing anything, it’s essential to start by building that mental map.

Once you have it, group the questions into blocks and consider their order. You may want to introduce filter questions and logical skips, so the questions that create them should be placed beforehand.

If you already have a good mental framework for how to organize the questionnaire, it’s time to start drafting the questions.

Tips for creating an effective questionnaire

The complexity of questionnaires can vary greatly. Some can be very complex, while others are straightforward. Creating a simple questionnaire is possible for most people if you follow the tips we provide here:

  • Group questions into blocks and introduce an explanatory sentence before block changes. This way, the interviewee doesn’t perceive that you are returning to topics they have already answered, and they understand the phase of the questionnaire they are in.
  • Start with the easiest blocks and gradually increase complexity as you progress through the questionnaire.
  • Use language tailored to your target audience. Make sure it’s understandable to everyone. Unless it’s directed at a very specific population, avoid using technical terms or acronyms that can lead to confusion.
  • Employ a respectful and friendly tone. This helps build trust, and the interviewee feels helpful rather than «examined.» Avoid using controversial terms or terms that may have pejorative connotations.
  • Use neutral questions that do not bias the desired answers from the interviewee. They should feel comfortable choosing any of the given options.
  • Design questions that can be easily answered, without calculations or extensive memory recall or deep reflections. For example, asking, «How many times did you buy snacks in the last 12 months?» may not be useful for determining buying habits since it’s impossible to remember with precision.
  • Use symmetrical rating scales, with an equal number of positive and negative options.
  • Ensure that the response options are mutually exclusive. For example, concerning the frequency of a habit, the answers «Between two and four times a month» and «once a week» are not mutually exclusive and will confuse the interviewee.
  • Introduce logical skips and filter questions whenever possible so that no one has to go through irrelevant questions. If the consumer has indicated that they know three brands, only ask about those three and «skip» the questions about the rest.
  • Introduce, if possible, a control question to help identify respondents who should not be considered in the results.

When designing your questionnaire, you will have different types of questions for surveys. Use the best type for each question. Mixing different types of questions makes the questionnaire more engaging and helps maintain the interviewee’s attention.

These tips will help you create effective questionnaires. Once you’ve created one, test it with other people to identify any errors before starting fieldwork.

Duration of online questionnaires

When creating a questionnaire, it’s essential to consider its approximate duration. If the questionnaire is too long, the interviewee may become fatigued and lose interest or abandon the interview. Survey abandonment can lead to more fieldwork time and increased costs.

The duration of the questionnaire is particularly important for online surveys and mobile surveys. If respondents are traveling, they may pause the survey upon reaching their destination, and they may not have time to resume it. Designing short questionnaires makes it easier and faster to collect data.

The following tips will help you reduce the questionnaire’s duration:

  • Write questions and answers as concisely as possible. Don’t ramble!
  • Be clear about which questions are essential to your study and which ones are optional. If the questionnaire exceeds ten minutes, consider whether you want to include all questions in the same study. Alternatively, you can collect some now and some in another study. A research platform like We are testers allows you to have a credit plan. This way, you can launch studies quickly when it suits you, and you don’t need to conduct all your research in a single study.
  • Use a consumer panel. Panelists’ characteristics are known, so you can access samples that match your desired profile directly. This saves you the need for sample filter questions, as well as demographic data questions.

When there’s no alternative to a long questionnaire, it’s crucial to ensure that it’s entertaining and engaging. This way, the interviewee will maintain their interest throughout the interview.

Questionnaires for online surveys

An online market research platform like We are testers allows you to create your own online questionnaires. The interface is highly intuitive, and you can add questions as you progress through the questionnaire. You have access to all types of questions to compose your questionnaire: dichotomous questions, single-response, multiple-response, rating scales, open-ended questions, matrices, heat maps, and many more. This way, you can choose the question type that suits each occasion best.

If your company has created studies with We are testers before, you can consult your online questionnaires on the platform. If you use the same question wording, your questionnaires will be more consistent, and the data will be more familiar to your stakeholders.

These resources will be helpful if you want to create your questionnaires. Remember that We are testers is more than just a platform. We have a team of expert researchers to assist you with anything you need to create your questionnaire. And we can always create it for you if you prefer.

Do you need to create a questionnaire for an online survey? Contact us to gain access to our survey tool and make inquiries with our support team. They will be happy to assist you.

Update date 22 December, 2023

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