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Informed business decisions require insight into your consumer’s behavior and their associations with your brand, product, services and more.  Designing a survey that your participants will actually take in its entirety, and that will provide meaningful and actionable data, can feel like a daunting task.  Over the years, our project managers have developed some best practices in survey design to help guide you through the process and get the results you’re looking for from your surveys.  Some of the primary things to consider are:


How much time are your customers willing to spend to complete a survey?  This can vary depending upon the target market, but on average, the recommended survey length is around 5 to 7 minutes from start to finish. Results from a study of 100,000 survey participants showed that abandonment rates began to increase between the 7 to 8 minute mark, and grew as high as 20% or more as the survey increased in length.

Question Structure

The types of questions that you include in your survey will make the biggest impact on the length of your survey, and how valuable the data produced will be.  Questions that take the shortest amount of time are typically “closed ended”.  These questions limit the number of answers and for the respondent to make a choice between them.  They include things like Likert Scale questions (“On a scale of 1 to 10, how much are you enjoying this blog post?”) or simple “yes” or “no” questions.  With limited answers comes limited data, however, so use these types of questions with purpose and caution.  

On the opposite side of the spectrum are “open ended” questions where the respondent is encouraged to provide a deeper explanation of their feelings using full sentences or personal stories.  These questions drive up the length of a survey, but provide more meaningful insights when structured appropriately.  For example, if you ask “Do you think that you would use this product?” a participant can simply answer “yes”, but if you rephrase to “How do you think this product would change the way you…?”, that prompts a more in-depth response. iMad Project Manager, Himanshu Bajpai, advises that “Respondents usually provide generic responses if an open-end question is in the beginning of the survey, as it is too early for them to get a clear picture of the topic” so these types of questions should be placed at the end, but “having more than 3 open-ends in a study usually fatigues the respondents, and the quality does get effected.”  

In either case, avoid asking double-barreled questions like “How do you feel about our product and service?”.  It may seem tempting to shorten the overall survey length by combining these two questions into one, but questions like these cause frustration in respondents who are confused about how to answer and may even cause them to abandon the survey all together.


Consider where along the customer journey that your survey responses would yield the most valuable results.  Your goals for the survey will ultimately determine the best time to launch, whether it be before, during, or after your customer experiences what it is you are offering.  Especially in the case of emotionally loaded situations, timing is everything.  You want your respondents to view your brand as being caring and proactive, not insensitive or unaware.  Deploying your survey at the appropriate timing will help you achieve insights that drive business decisions and help position your brand as leaders in customer service.


Often times, timelines aren’t built to allow for this extra step or external forces create a need to rush a survey into field, but being proactive and leaving space in the timeline for soft-launches or A/B testing is important for the overall success of the survey.  Launching your survey to a small number of participants before sending it to the entire list of respondents at once allows you the ability to use early feedback to make any necessary changes to the survey itself or to the experience and ensuring its effectiveness. “At iMad, it is standard practice to spread the field work into two phases, the first being soft-launch, and the second, a full launch.” says Himanshu. “We proactively ask for an extra day from our clients to deliver the soft launch results. The point of this step is to help the team thoroughly analyze the soft-launch data to look for any gaps and ensure the survey is well-knotted before a full launch.”

All of the best practices that we’ve discussed so far are only meaningful when action is taken based on the data that they yield.  One of the biggest mistakes that brands make is putting significant time, effort, and budget into data collection and then failing to make an action plan based on the insights.  As part of the survey design process, make sure you’re asking yourself or your organization: “What are we going to do if our consumers say…?”.  Setting a course of action from the beginning will help keep you on a path of success when it comes to closing the loop for customer feedback.

At iMad, we have an experienced and dedicated client services and project management team that is available 24/7 to help guide you through the process of designing, launching and fielding a survey, as well as a global panel of respondents that are ready to answer your most challenging business questions.  Contact a member of our team today to receive a customized quote and we will work with you to help move your business forward.


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