Survey Questions and Answer Types

Tip and tricks for writing great questions for online questionnaires

Online Survey Design and Answer Type

So you've decided that you need a better understanding of the characteristics of people who visit your website, or of some other business-related question. Developing a focused and effective questionnaire will help you to efficiently and accurately pinpoint the information so that you can make more informed decisions.

Developing a questionnaire is as much an art as it is a science. And just as an artist has a variety of colors to choose from in the palette, you have a variety of question formats with which to paint an accurate picture of your customers and clients, and the issues that are important to them.


The Dichotomous Question
The dichotomous question is generally a "yes/no" question.

Example:

Dichotomous Question

If you are seeking information only about product users, you may want to ask this type of question to "screen out" those who haven't purchased your products or services. Researchers use "screening" questions to ensure that only those people they are interested in participate in the survey.

You may also want to use dichotomous questions to separate respondents or branch into groups of those who "have purchased" and those who "have not yet purchased" your products or services. Once separated, different questions can be asked of each of these groups.

You may want to ask the "have purchased" group how satisfied they are with your products and services, and you may want to ask the "have not purchased" group what the primary reasons are for not purchasing. In essence, your questionnaire branches to become two different sets of questions.


The Multiple Choice Questions
The multiple-choice question consists of three or more exhaustive, mutually exclusive categories. Multiple choice questions can ask for single or multiple answers.  In the following example, the respondent will select exactly one answer from the 7 possible options,  exactly 3 of the 7, or as many of the 7 options (1, 2, 3, or up to 7 answers can be selected).

Example:

Multiple Choice Questions

For this type of question, it is important to consider including an "other" category as there may be other avenues by which the person first heard about your site that you might have overlooked.


Rank Order Scaling
Rank order scaling questions allow a certain set of brands or products to be ranked based upon a specific attribute or characteristic. Perhaps we know that Toyota, Honda, Mazda, and Ford are most likely to be purchased. You may request that the options be ranked based upon a particular attribute. Ties may or may not be allowed. If you allow ties, several options will have the same scores.

Example:

Rank Order Scaling

The Rating Scale
A rating scale question requires a person to rate a product or brand along a well-defined, evenly spaced continuum. Rating scales are often used to measure the direction and intensity of attitudes.

Example:

Rating Scale

The Semantic Differential Scale
The semantic differential scale asks a person to rate a product, brand, or company based upon a seven-point rating scale that has two bi-polar adjectives at each end. The following is an example of a semantic differential scale question.

Example:

Semantic Differential Scale

Notice that unlike the rating scale, the semantic differential scale does not have a neutral or middle selection. A person must choose, to a certain extent, one or the other adjective.


The Staple Scale
The staple scale asks a person to rate a brand, product, or service according to a certain characteristic on a scale from +5 to -5, indicating how well the characteristic describes the product or service.
Example:

Staple Scale


The Constant Sum Question
A constant sum question permits collection of "ratio" data, meaning that the data is able to express the relative value or importance of the options (option A is twice as important as option B)

Example:

Constant Sum Question

This type of question is used when you are relatively sure of the reasons for purchase, or you want input on a limited number of reasons you feel are important. Questions must sum to 100 points and point totals are checked by javascript.


The Open-Ended Question
The open-ended question seeks to explore the qualitative, in-depth aspects of a particular topic or issue. It gives a person the chance to respond in detail. Although open-ended questions are important, they are time-consuming and should not be over-used.

Example:
(If the respondent indicates they did not find what they were looking for...)

Open Ended Question

If you want to add an "Other" answer to a multiple choice question, you would use branching instructions to come to an open ended question to find out What Other....


The Demographic Question
Demographic questions are an integral part of any questionnaire. They are used to identify characteristics such as age, gender, income, race, geographic place of residence, number of children, and so forth. For example demographic questions will help you to classify the difference between product users and non-users. Perhaps most of your customers come from the Northeast, are between the ages of 50 and 65, and have incomes between $50,000 and $75,000.

Demographic data helps you paint a more accurate picture of the group of persons you are trying to understand. And by better understanding the type of people who use or are likely to use your product, you can allocate promotional resources to reach these people, in a more cost effective manner.

Psycho-graphic or life style questions are also included in the template files. These questions provide an in-depth psychological profile and look at activities, interests and opinions of respondents.