Saturday, April 16, 2011

Don't Create Frustrating Surveys!

I hate taking personality tests or polls or surveys or anything like that. Actually, it’s more like a love-hate relationships because I enjoy coming up with my answers since they are usually easy questions. It’s like taking a test that you know all the answers to because it’s about you!* The part I don’t like is trying to figure out how MY answers fit into the options that are provided. Sometimes it could make me feel like an outcast when my answer doesn’t fit in or I feel like I'm being untrue to myself by choosing an option that doesn’t truly reflect my response.

The following are tips I have accumulated to avoid causing frustration for the users.

-optional comment box for explanations behind WHY they answered the way they did after each question

-optional general comment box at the end- there’s always something that a user has to say that the creator did not think about whether it’s a question or pointing out a problem with the survey or something else.

-include  a "not applicable" option- Forcing users to choose an option when the question doesn't even apply to them can screw up your data

-include a "neutral" option-Forcing users to lean one way or the other when they really don't care about that particular question can also screw with your results. Or you could just put a comment box after each question as bullet 1 suggests. Then the user has a chance to say, "Hey, I don't care either way." However, I guess some might want the users to be forced to pick a side to discern their "true" feelings or something like that.

-always offer an “other” option and a space to fill in the blank unless it is just completely inappropriate given the question and options.

-provide an estimated time for completion next to the survey link- This is not entirely necessary and sometimes difficult to estimate especially since we all spend different amounts of time completing a task. However, saying it takes 5 minutes verses 30 minutes at least gives the user an idea of whether it’s a short quick and easy thing or something they are going to need to sit down and do when they have a good amount of time free.

-being able to save and come back later or retake it because it stinks when you are filling out a survey and the internet disconnects and you can’t get back into it because it only lets you take it once. Or something comes up and you’ve already done most of it but you have to leave and you don't want to lose your work and start all over again.

*”It’s like taking a test that you know all the answers to because it’s about you.” That’s something to remember as a positive for giving students a beginning of the year assignment about themselves worth points for completion.

Please add other tips to these because I’m sure I did not cover everything.


  1. Excellent tips. You've clearly thought a lot about this. I guess I haven't taken that many polls/surveys to become frustrated with them but I'm glad you pointed out all of these things. I like the idea of using surveys with my students and I've copied and pasted these tips into a word doc so that I won't lose them and can refer back to them when I'm creating my surveys. Thanks for the helpful tips!

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