Three Tips to Creating an Engaging Survey - that you might not have heard before

A great survey does more than collect valuable insights. But how do we keep people engaged?

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Superpower: Headstands

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Mel's work spans our social and market research, and programme design work areas. She loves all aspects of the project life cycle - from the initial gathering of information to scope and design projects, right through to monitoring and evaluating the success of the project after its implementation.

Mel has been working as a researcher for over 10 years and has experience across a range of industries, her work in recent years has honed her skills in the primary industries and tertiary education sector.

Prior to joining the team at Scarlatti, Mel lived in Singapore for two years working as a senior consultant for a large global research consultancy.

Mel holds a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Marketing, and a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Statistics and Psychology from the University of Auckland.

Maintaining engagement

A great survey does more than collect valuable insights, it provides survey participants with a survey experience that captures their attention and guides their thinking.

We know that maintaining participant engagement leads to better quality data and makes for happier participants, but how do we keep people engaged?

Try our three tips for creating an engaging survey.

1. Bring your audience on board

People are much more engaged in activities that interest and impact them specifically. You want to capture your audience from the beginning and convince them why completing this survey is important. To achieve this, briefly outline what the survey will involve and the direction it will take. This details, at a high level, the narrative. Good design is empathetic.

For example, consider a survey that collects insights into farmers’ perspectives on environmental regulation. By outlining that you understand their challenges and want to hear directly from them on how they think we can collectively achieve the same environmental outcomes, you give them a purpose to complete the survey through a shared narrative.

2. Create a two-way conversation

A two-way conversation will engage your audience’s curiosity and maintain their attention, keeping them interested until the end of the survey.

By a two-way conversation we mean the survey gives them something back after they have answered a question. This can be in the form of letting survey participants know what they thought compared to others, or tailor their next question based on their previous response. This creates a captivated and interested audience which will help them stick in there for the remainder of the survey.

Beyond this, presenting live feedback also becomes a tool to inform an audience’s perspective. For example, you might:

  • Show participants how their thoughts align with others’ - You think this service is worth $99, which is 50% higher than people like you. Does that change your view?
  • Determine where participants place value by providing a series of options - You said you prefer ice cream over chocolate, but what if ice cream now came with strawberries?
  • Break up the flow of what participants might expect from a survey, rather than leaving them to mindlessly select pre-programmed boxes. Break the flow with something like, Thanks for your input so far – here’s what other people like you thought was most important.

3. Use thought-provoking question design

A common trade-off survey designers face is between open-ended questions and multiple choice.

Open-ended questions become common drop-out points as respondents find it takes time and effort.

Meanwhile, multiple-choice questions are faster to answer, but run the risk of not capturing the range of possible ideas or feelings that a participant might offer. Instead, consider using a combination of question types to precisely capture the respondent’s perspective.

For example, consider a survey where the objective is to capture a list of the barriers for women working in construction. You could design a three-part survey question that would:

  1. Present a list of barriers - start by providing an initial list of barriers and ask survey participants to remove anything on the list that doesn’t apply to them. This gets the respondent in the right head space.
  2. Allow the addition of new barriers - ask survey participants what they think might be missing from this list. This ensures that they can include exactly what they think.
  3. Allow the ranking of barriers - with the new list, ask survey participants to rank the barriers from most to least relevant.

We (Scarlatti) are a research and analytics consultancy and have developed a flexible survey tool called Confer, meaning ‘to have a conversation’. Confer has enhanced our ability to collect accurate and insightful information in interesting and engaging ways including feeding back to survey participants how others have answered.

Time to create that survey

Try these three tips and you will be well on your way to creating a survey that engages your audience, increases completions, and improves the quality of your responses.

Maybe we could help you with your next survey?

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