How To Write Survey Questions in 3 Steps (Plus Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published October 21, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Obtaining and understanding feedback from customers and employees can be a very important part in the business development process for both new and old companies alike. Survey questions concerning an organization's duties can help employees learn if their efforts have an impactful change on a system or process. Learning how to write effective survey questions can help your department and business learn what it needs to improve based on customer feedback. In this article, we review the survey question types, as well as how to write survey questions and tips for survey questions.

Survey question types

There are many types of survey questions that you can use to gain information about your customer and employee satisfaction levels, including:

Open-ended questions

Open-ended questions are survey responses that allow the customers to express their opinions in a free-form writing paragraph. These questions often ask detailed questions that either require or can benefit from longer, unique answers. Including these types of questions can help a company ask specific questions and receive long and detailed answers from a customer about a particular part of the business. For example, an open-ended question may be able to provide more feedback about the faults or advantages of a specific system, rather than simply rating it or answering with a pre-determined response.

Related: 80 Questions To Include on Your Next Customer Survey

Closed-ended questions

Closed-ended questions are survey options that ask customers or employees a question while providing choices between several pre-written answers. Closed-ended questions can be helpful for surveys that need quick, easy-to-answer questions. Unlike open-ended questions, closed-ended questions can help provide specific feedback to points in a system, due to its answering style. Because closed-ended questions don't allow answerers to provide original feedback, these questions may be best for discovering aspects about a process, such as which line works more effectively than the other.

Rating scale questions

Rating scale questions allow the answerer to rate certain options according to a number, usually one through ten. This kind of question is not only quick to answer for most participants but can also allow employees to rate the effectiveness of particular systems or processes. For example, a survey may ask customers how high they rate their own customer experience. This kind of specific feedback can help a process improve, especially if paired with a follow-up, open-ended question for elaboration.

Matrix questions

Similar to a rating scale question, a matrix question asks how an item rates according to the asker from a series of options. Instead of numbered options, however, a matrix question usually includes ranks such as "Not Good" or "Very Good" and variants in-between. Matrix questions can be effective for asking multiple questions within a single section.

For example, a matrix question can begin by asking the employee about their satisfaction with the following work traits before listing each aspect the company wants to evaluate. Unlike other question types, the matrix format allows writers to list as many aspects within the question request margin as needed, without asking a new question each time. This type of question can help keep both formatting and survey length concise, without compromising the data-gathering potential of the survey.

Dropdown questions

Dropdown questions are survey evaluations that ask a question while showing all the possible options to the reader in the form of a dropdown menu. These types of questions can help the survey process by showing the reader all the possible answers at once, giving helpful context concerning the question. For example, a dropdown menu question can ask the user what their age is, and give a list of ranges for them to choose from. This format can help them understand what range they fit into, and maybe how this may affect the overall survey.

Demographic questions

Demographic questions apply to a specific age, group or position within or outside the company. For example, a demographic question may only apply to employees so that the company can learn what they as a group think of a certain process or policy. Demographic questions can help company surveys discover more information about a specific aspect of the company, such as what customers think of a policy, or what a specific age group thinks of a new system. Demographic questions allow surveys to gain specific answers, both in the question format and answer format.

Image choice questions

Image choice questions allow users to choose between a list of images as their answer. This kind of question can help in many kinds of survey settings, such as surveys concerning logos, art pieces or design choices. If a survey is reviewing employees' competence regarding a policy, an image choice question can help the company determine if employees understand the visual difference in safety and protocol standards. Image choice questions are highly versatile options that can not only help bring direct feedback to your questions but also change the format in an interesting and engaging way.

Click map questions

Click map questions are unique and engaging questions that ask users to click on certain parts of an image or website to identify key points concerning design and usability. For example, a click map question may ask the user which part of the website is most appealing to them. This kind of question has the potential to gain interesting insight into a website's or image's design, without requesting the user to write a detailed explanation about why they do or don't like a website.

File upload questions

File upload questions allow your survey participants to upload a file as a response to a question. This can include a video file or audio file answering the question verbally, or a document containing paragraphs or more of their answer in great detail. A file upload answer can also include items like a potential employee's resume or cover letter. File upload questions allow a survey to have multiple functions beyond gathering feedback and can equip a survey to become a precursor for evaluating applicants during a hiring campaign.

Slider questions

Similar to ranking questions, slider questions allow participants to answer a question by adjusting a slider on a horizontal or vertical scale. Slider questions may ask users to rank a system from one to ten by using a slider or to rank a system from best to worst or vice versa by using a slider in any direction. Slider questions allow users to answer value questions both uniquely and quickly. Because slider questions involve only the question and the slider they can also help save space on a survey page.

How to write survey questions

If you're considering writing survey questions, explore some of the following steps to help you get started:

1. Choose your survey platform

Before beginning your survey creation, consider what platform you want to use for your survey. Consider using a platform that all your members can freely access. If you're surveying customers for example, it may be best to use a platform equally available to the public rather than a custom platform made by your company. However, if you are surveying employees of the company, using custom survey software that the company created may be a better option, if possible.

Related: Survey Templates and How To Use Them Effectively

2. Understand your survey goal

When writing your survey questions, it's important to understand the ultimate goal of your survey. Understanding the goal of your survey can impact both the answers you want to receive and the questions you ask. For example, if you want to know more about the company website, consider asking map clicking questions and open-ended ones concerning its appearance and functionality. The purpose of your survey can change both the type of questions you ask and the specific nature of what you ask from the employees and customers.

Related: Creating Customer Satisfaction Survey Questions: Best Practices and Examples

3. Notify your audience

Once you create your survey with questions surrounding your subject, give your audience proper notification about the opportunity of your survey, and how they can help the company by participating. If your survey is for employees, you may be able to help incite action by making the survey mandatory for all employees.

For customers or otherwise, consider sending out email notifications with the survey link attached. After sending the link, set a date to send a follow-up email to those same addresses, reminding them to take the survey if they have not yet done so already. Sending a reminder may remind those who meant to take the survey but forgot, or reach email boxes that previously didn't read the message.

Related: How To Write a Survey: Steps and Tips

Tips for writing survey questions

If you want to create an effective survey for your audience, consider some of the following tips:

Keep a neutral tone

When writing your survey, consider keeping all questions within a neutral, unbiased tone of voice. Consider revising any questions that may have negative connotations, or speak negatively of customers or the company. Alternatively, consider removing positive connotations regarding the company as well. Removing both positive and negative statements from your survey allows the audience to more freely make judgments for themselves when answering your questions, especially in situations where open-ended questions are an option.

Offer diverse answers

When creating your survey questions, other than open-ended questions, consider offering as many answers to the user as possible. The more answers you offer, the more specific users can be concerning their opinions of the company. If you offer diverse answers, you may be able to receive more detailed feedback concerning the policies and opinions of customers.

Another way you can offer diverse answering pools is by allowing customers to define their answer through an open-ended response if their optimal answer isn't within the given list. While this may lengthen their answering process, giving users this option allows them to articulate their point more clearly in your survey.

Ask diverse questions

When creating your survey, consider how many questions of each type you ask during the process. Asking a variety of question types rather than a single type repeatedly can help users answer more honestly and efficiently. Changing question formats often during your survey can help users navigate questions without strain and help keep their interest. If possible, consider making questions as interesting or thought-provoking as possible, so that users can answer with both interest and honesty.

Allow optional questions

While every question is important for your survey, offering optional questions may ultimately help the feedback you gain from your users. Having an appropriate survey length that users can complete in a short time is important, so consider offering optional questions at the end of your survey for users to answer if they have extra time. Giving your users optional, but very informative questions, such as open-ended ones, can be very beneficial to any process or policy in your department. Detailed feedback in optional questions may be the most important part of your feedback gain, depending on its contents.

Test your survey

Before sending your survey out officially, consider hosting a test of your questions first. This can help eliminate any technical difficulties that beta testers may have with the software or compatibility issues. Testing your survey by giving it to a team of beta testers can help ensure that each question and answer reads clearly to the user audience. Beta testing a survey allows you to change any concerning questions before sending the survey out to your primary audience.

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