One of the reasons I often find Seth Godin’s advice to be useful is that it’s usually so simple.

When it comes to online surveys, Seth has a few common sense tips that seem obvious but, not surprisingly, are usually not implemented. I felt they were worth posting here, along with several suggestions of my own.

Seth’s tips are:

  1. Don’t ask questions that you don’t really care about the answers to because every question is “expensive” in terms of user loyalty and goodwill.
  2. Every question you ask changes the way your users think” so be careful what implications this has (e.g. leading questions provoke skewed responses).
  3. Make it easy for the user to answer a few questions and then leave if they so desire because getting some responses is better than getting none.
  4. Add a bit of entertainment because boring surveys produce boring answers.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask unconventional questions; add some variety to the question formats.

All good stuff worth taking into consideration when crafting your next online survey. Here are 5 of my own:

  1. Reward. Offer users who respond to a survey a discount, an entry in a drawing for a prize, something of value. It will boost response rates and make them feel like they’re investing their time wisely.
  2. Follow up. People like to know that their feedback has been taken seriously, so where appropriate and where possible, follow up. There are a number of ways to do this, from implementing suggestions that were received and announcing that feedback played a role in their implementation to contacting specific users and asking them to go into more detail. However you follow up, doing so will help ensure that your users know that your surveys aren’t just fluff.
  3. Segment. Send each survey you run to the users who it’s most relevant to. This not only helps you obtain better, more actionable results but ensures that your surveys aren’t going out to the users who realistically don’t care about them.
  4. Give users a voice. I usually dislike surveys that have a ‘multiple-choice-only‘ format. Sometimes the available options just don’t provide for a good response. So where appropriate, give users a voice and let them go into more detail in their own words.
  5. Get feedback on your surveys. Don’t just send a survey out once you’ve created it. Get 10 people who weren’t involved in its creation to test it out and ask for their feedback on the questions and format. Chances are they’ll spot things you missed and provide great ideas that will help make the survey more useful.

Online surveys can be valuable tools for aggregating feedback and finding out what your users think. Make an investment in doing them right and you will reap the rewards.