How do you create a questionnaire for consumer insights?

Questionnaire design is one of the most fundamental aspects of research for success. Learn where to start, how to polish them, and what to double-check.
14 July 2023
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Anna Shevchenko

Research Director, US

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Designing questionnaires for consumer insights or customer feedback can be intimidating. It requires many considerations, as it is key to the success of any quantitative research.

The importance of well-designed questionnaires

Recognizing the importance of a well-designed questionnaire is crucial to the overall success of your research. Questionnaires are the gateways through which we access the minds of our respondents, and the design is what ensures that gate opens as widely and effectively as possible.

A well-structured questionnaire can produce insightful, accurate, and actionable data. It can minimize respondent confusion, reduce biases, and generate a higher response rate. Not only that, but an appropriately designed questionnaire can help ensure your research objectives are fully met, providing you with the rich data needed to make informed decisions.

Crafting an effective questionnaire isn't just about the questions you ask—it's also about how you ask them, the order you ask them in, and even how you offer options for responses. All these elements can influence the answers you receive, and therefore the insights you can draw.

So, always remember: the quality of the data you gather is only as good as the questionnaire you design. Put in the effort at the outset, and you'll reap the rewards in the form of quality, actionable insights.

Exploring different types of questionnaires

There's no one-size-fits-all approach to questionnaire design. Different research objectives require different types of questionnaires, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Here, we'll explore some of the most common types:

Structured questionnaires

These are questionnaires where the order of questions and response options are fixed. They are often used in quantitative research where statistical analysis is required. This type of questionnaire is perfect for when you want to collect easily comparable data across a large sample.

Unstructured questionnaires

This type allows respondents to answer in their own words, without being constrained by preset choices. They're often used in qualitative research to gain deep insights into respondents' thoughts and feelings.

Mixed method questionnaires

These questionnaires combine elements of structured and unstructured questionnaires, allowing for both quantitative and qualitative data collection. This approach provides a balance between depth of insight and ease of analysis.

Pictorial Questionnaires

Pictorial questionnaires utilise images or symbols to make the survey more engaging and easy to understand. They can be especially useful when targeting audiences with different literacy levels or languages.

Choosing the right type of questionnaire depends on your specific research objectives, your target audience, and the kind of data you need to collect. Each type has its own merits, so carefully consider which will serve your research goals best.

4 Tips to Set Your Questionnaire Design Up for Success

If you’re just getting started with drafting your own questionnaires, looking for inspiration, or trying to make improvements, here are the 4 steps we recommend you take to set your research up for success.

1. Brainstorm

The best way to start the questionnaire development process is to brainstorm. Think about the key topics and high-level categories that you want to cover in your questionnaire. Start broad and then dive into the specific questions you would like to ask and gather information about, for example: the demographics, screening questions, core questions for your research, and anything else you would need for analysis.

It may be helpful to think of the 6 w’s, six basic questions for information gathering (who, what, where, when, why and how). These can help you start pulling your ideas together and get the questionnaire draft going.

2. Fill Out the Details

Once you’ve brainstormed your ideas and know what information you want to get out of the survey, move towards the next step of filling out all of the details of your questionnaire: question text, response options, and programming instructions.

We recommend designing the survey in a way that's concise, easily understood, and neutral (so you don’t bias participants).

Outlining programming instructions (like assigning labels and question types) are just as important as questions themselves. They determine how your survey will be built and eliminates assumptions and interpretations.

3. Organize

Now that you’ve gotten your questions and specifications figured out, you can add some structural organisation into your questionnaire, if you haven’t already.

We recommend structuring your document with project specifications like desired screening criteria and quotas at the top of the document, then survey intro and screening questions to get to your target audience, followed by core research questions for your target audience.

4. Double Check

The final step in designing your survey is to review everything holistically. You may even want to take a break and come back to the questionnaire for a final read through with a fresh set of eyes, double checking survey quality controls.

As you review, put yourself in the respondent's shoes and think about how they will understand the survey as they take it. Make sure your survey content is clear to anyone who takes it, and anyone who meets the screening criteria can answer your questions.

A well-designed survey is an investment in the success of the research. It is well-worth making the effort upfront as opposed to making sense of data when the research is done (when it may be too late). A well-crafted survey also keeps respondents engaged and ultimately leads to more accurate and trustworthy data.

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Explore the full training video on questionnaire development

A lot of thought goes into crafting a questionnaire. It may need to be an iterative process: from getting at critical questions, to following best practices, to providing a smooth experience for respondents, to considerations for data quality. All together, these actions increase respondent engagement, reduces bias, and encourage honesty.

Learn more & subscribe

Watch our 14-minute Online Survey Training Module: How to Create a Questionnaire to learn more. There you’ll learn more about the four steps for questionnaire success and additional considerations for creating a survey. Find our full library of video modules here.

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