The best way to keep your respondent focused and clear on your survey is to ensure that there is a form of narrative or flow to your survey. Whilst it could be considered that jumping from one question to the next will keep your respondent ‘on their toes’, it is more likely to confuse, annoy or discourage someone from spending the time to answer your questions altogether.
There is no rigid guidelines as to the order your questions should be asked in as, in truth, all surveys are different depending on their topic, audience, who is sending the survey. However, there are some good rules of thumb you should consider when deciding on the order that your questions will be asked.
Rule 1: Who are you?
For the most part an introduction to your survey is key. It lets the respondent know who you are, what you are doing and why you want them to be involved in it. It creates trust and familiarity with the respondent so that they will be more willing to answer your questions.
However, you must also think about if revealing your company name, institution or product will influence your respondents answers. If you need to be somewhat anonymous to your respondents to avoid bias, consider explaining who you are in general terms, or reveal who you are and why you asked them to complete the survey as a conclusion rather than an introduction.
Rule 2: Grouping Topics
If you have many topics to your survey, try to keep them group together. For example, if you are asking questions about dinner foods, keep all the questions about costs together, all the questions about foods eaten together and all the questions about time/location together. Ask all the questions you have about one topic before moving onto the next.
Rule 3: Warm Them Up
Have you ever taken an exam or test where your first question is mindbogglingly complex? If you have, then I bet you found that test one of the most difficult and painful ones you have ever taken. This is why, more often than not, exams will start you off with some easier questions before hitting you with the ones that require more thought and time and consideration.
By warming you up with easier questions first, it gets you into the right frame of mind for the rest of the questions. it gets your brain ticking and the though juices flowing – preparing you for the questions ahead. It is just like when you stretch before exercise.
Starting off with easier questions in your survey has exactly the same effect. Questions that don’t require a lot of thought should be asked first so that your respondent can get warmed up and comfortable with answering nice easy question before having to commit to the more in-depth ones later on in your survey.
Rule 4: The Crux Of The Matter
After your respondents have been nicely warmed yup, you can now move on to your more detailed and complex questions that require more thought and input.
Not only have your previous easier questions made your respondents comfortable with your survey, but you have also allowed them to become invested in it. They have got this far in answering the questions so are more likely to see it through to the end, even if it means answering more through-provoking subject matters within your questions.
Rule 5: Getting Personal
If you need to ask any personal questions or if you need to ask contact information questions, save them for the end of your survey. If you ask these kinds of questions too soon, it can discourage people from answering your survey.
You need to first get their trust, make them comfortable with your survey and get them invested in your survey before asking these questions. remember, in most cases, they don’t really know you and giving out personal information (especially online) is not something that people do lightly. You have to earn these last pieces of information through the earlier parts of your survey.