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Conducting a successful survey in 10 steps

By Vicky Karran

Head of Projects

Published:

Surveys are (usually) an easy and quick way of capturing the voices and opinions of the people who matter to the development of your product or service. They allow researchers, designers and developers to get important qualitative data that can mould the shape of any project, big or small. However, so much can go wrong when running a survey… Hence why we created a list of 10 top tips to make sure your survey sails smoothly across the waters of user research.

1. Tailor your audience

To make sure that survey submissions makes sense, you should tailor who the survey is sent to. For example, if you are looking for directors of companies that are privy to certain information, then the survey questions may not make sense to someone not in that position. Talk to People for Research for more advice on this, as we have the ability to tailor who has the option to partake in your survey. If you don’t tailor your audience, you may risk receiving dud responses!

2. Make sure your questions make sense to all users

Do not ask questions that assume anything – depending on your method of collecting responses, you may not be able to control who completes your survey. For example, asking “Do you have a company car?” assumes that the participants are both working and drive! If your questions don’t provide options for all outcomes, then your overall results may be misleading. If in doubt, include ‘other’ or ‘not applicable’ as options.

3. Capture details!

We always recommend providing some kind of incentive or at least a prize draw to reward people who take the time to complete your survey.

If doing so, it’s absolutely critical that, as part of the survey, you capture the participants’ full name, email and phone number; otherwise, you won’t know who is entitled to an incentive or who should be entered into the prize draw, when running one.

4. Test your survey link

You are the expert and, sometimes, this means being too familiar with a certain topic or activity. Always make sure you get someone impartial to test your survey and make sure it’s clear and easy to navigate through it! If working with an external recruiter such as People for Research, we can test the link on your behalf.

Beware, if you have different paths through the survey, ensure you have tested it properly. If you make a mistake, users can get stuck in a loop and never be given the option to submit their response.

5. Timings

We always recommend keeping surveys under 10 minutes if you are running a prize draw and not providing an incentive to everyone, as we see drop-off rate increase as people lose interest over 10 minutes.

However, if you are offering each participant an individual incentive, then it is acceptable to go past the 10-minute mark. Try to provide an incentive that is appropriate for the length of time it will take someone to complete the survey – we usually recommend around £1 per minute as a guide.

6. Deadlines

It’s important you give people enough time to complete the survey. We always advise at least 10 days to ensure maximum completions if we are working with a client and sending a survey out to everyone on our UK database to complete.

If, however, you are selecting people to partake based on specific criteria, we would suggest giving them five days to complete the survey, as we can monitor their participation and prompt more people to complete it, if necessary after the initial five-day period.

7. Prizes, prizes, prizes!

Make sure that your survey catches people’s attention. If doing a prize draw, this can usually be done by investing in an attractive prize. Apple watches and gadgets work well! Our advice is to offer prizes or incentives worth at least £300 to ensure you get a decent quality of response.

8. Terms and conditions

In order to act with integrity, we strongly advise setting out clear guidelines of the terms of the survey, including opening time, survey closing and how the draw of the prize/incentive payment will be processed – these guidelines should always detail how the winner or winners are selected.

Most recruiters will be able to provide a terms and conditions template that you can adapt to your survey. Still, whether you are working with an expert recruiter like PFR or not, be mindful that you should always include terms and conditions when sending out a survey.

9. Re-contacting

Make sure participants are aware from the outset if you are looking to re-contact them after the survey has been completed, as they will need to give consent that they are happy with this during the initial survey.

Including this information in the initial invite to fill in the survey and in the terms and conditions will make it clear to the participants and protect your research.

10. Use social media

To get the best coverage and completion rates possible, we recommend sharing a link to the survey across all social media channels available.

In our experience this has worked well to boost responses to surveys on all kinds of subjects, especially if the link is also shared by the clients we are working with. This is only relevant if you are managing the incentives through a prize draw, otherwise you may have more responses than you can afford to incentivise.

To get more attention in the social landscape and raise awareness about the surveys we conduct for clients, we also post the first name of any prize draw winners on social media once they have been selected!

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If you would like to find out more about our in-house participant recruitment service for user testing or market research get in touch on 0117 921 0008 or info@peopleforresearch.co.uk.

Vicky KarranAbout the author: Vicky Karran is not only a Head of Projects at People for Research, but also our ‘Excel Wizard’ and ‘Spreadsheet Queen’. Vicky has experience in both recruitment and research, and enjoys speaking to clients and participants in equal measure.

About People for Research: We recruit participants for UX and usability testing and market research. We work with award winning UX agencies across the UK and partner with a number of end clients leading the way with in-house user experience and insight.

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