When writing an online survey, you want it to be long enough to get the information you need. But if it’s too long, you could dissuade people from taking the survey in the first place. For those reasons, the length of your survey needs to be planned out very carefully.
There isn’t one right answer for how many questions your survey should contain. But there are several factors you should consider. Here are a few of them.
Keep the Survey Focused on One Objective
The best way you can get your survey to the perfect length is by having a clear objective beforehand. If you’re just trying to get general information about your business, there are so many different questions you would have to ask.
So instead of running a survey to find out if customers like your business, choose a more focused objective. For example, you could try finding out which of your products customers are the least satisfied with, if your website is too complicated, or if customers might be interested in a specific new product.
Keep Customers’ Time in Mind
Once you have a clear objective in mind, you need to find a way to balance getting the information you need while using the fewest questions possible. In general, customers won’t want to take a survey if it’s going to last longer than about five minutes.
Usually, you can keep surveys to that time limit with 10 questions or fewer, especially if you are using complicated questions (such as a matrix asking respondents to rate multiple items in one question) or open-ended text questions. However, if you’re using simple questions, you can potentially increase the number of questions you include.
Keep the Wording Simple
In order to fit in as many questions as possible without turning away respondents, you need to keep them simple. If customers have to read and re-read your questions because they are complicated or poorly worded, that’s precious time wasted. To keep your questions clear and to the point, don’t use complicated words, leading questions or double negatives.
In addition, if a lot of your questions fit into the same format, you might consider grouping them together to get the most information in the shortest amount of time. For example, instead of asking, “Are you satisfied with the usability of our website?” and “Are you satisfied with our customer service options?” you could simply ask, “Please rate your level of satisfaction with the following aspects of our business.” Then give respondents several different aspects to rate from most satisfied to least satisfied. That will allow you to get the same information without forcing customers to scroll and read through multiple different questions.
Run Multiple Surveys if Necessary
In many cases, you may find that you want to ask a number of follow-up questions based on answers to your initial survey. Be open to keeping those to a separate follow-up survey, rather than trying to ask them all in the same survey. And if your research objective means you will run a longer survey, just be up-front with your respondents about how long the survey is likely to take, while also letting them know the objective behind the survey. That way, they aren’t blind-sided and can decide if they want to commit to the time the survey will take before they start.
Basically, your goal is to keep your survey super focused on your research objective — this will naturally help you limit the number of questions you ask while still achieving your objective. Run some tests with your team or a small group of respondents to see how long your survey will realistically take. And remember to value your customers’ time as much as you value your own.
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