You’ve created your online survey and it’s ready to send out.
The survey questions have been reviewed and approved by stakeholders. The format of the survey has been inspected, updated, and reviewed again.
Wording, colors, imagery, and typography have all been proofed and approved by your team members.
A trial test of the survey with several participants has been successfully conducted.
Is there anything you might have missed?
Why You Want a “Before You Send Online Survey” Checklist
Plenty, as I’ve discovered over the years.
Which is why, when I was working on our Refresh Detroit meetup annual survey this week, I took time to update my “Before You Send” Online Survey Checklist.
You know, that last-details checklist you use to check the survey before you send it out.
The checklist isn’t focused on:
- Overall design
- Questions asked
- Color contrast
That’s another checklist.
Rather it’s focused on providing different information to survey participants.
Information that will encourage people to take your survey and trust what you will do with their responses.
In other words, what’s the incentive for someone to take your survey? What’s in it for them?
For our Refresh Detroit meetup, or any other type of meetup, sending an end-of-year survey to members helps organizers understand what members are looking for.
Members will be glad to know their responses were used for planning events and activities for the upcoming year.
If it’s a product or service, a survey can inform you on what your customers think of your product/service weaknesses, features, and how it compares to competitors.
Customers will feel good about providing feedback when it’s used to improve the products and services they use.
What Happens When You Don’t Have a “Before You Send Online Survey” Checklist
Five years ago, I was a web developer on the web services team at a local community college.
We had a survey we wanted to send to our students and I was in charge of creating the actual survey.
I reviewed several survey options, and Google Forms fit our requirements best.
Everyone on the team reviewed the questions, reworded some of them, and I was given final approval to design the survey.
I was excited; it was my first time using Google Forms for a survey with a large number of participants. We double and triple-checked the survey before we announced it.
It wasn’t until the first few survey responses came in that I discovered what we missed.
We added a question at the end of the survey, asking if people had any questions. They did! And they let us know.
Why are you conducting this survey?
I submitted my survey, but wanted to go back and change an answer. I couldn’t so I submitted another survey.
Who do I contact about the survey. I have a question about my admissions application, but there’s no contact info. Why didn’t you include contact info?
Uh oh. That was just a sampling of some of the questions submitted. We had questions about the schedule, instructors, hours of the the library, many comments on issues that had nothing to do with the survey.
There were other problems with the survey which we eventually resolved.
We learned a lot from that survey and used the lessons learned for our next survey.
Before You Send Online Survey Checklist
That was the start of my checklist. Which I’ve edited and added to over the years.
I’ve seen it expand to 20 list items, only to consolidate and try to keep it at a comfortable 10 items.
I explain many of the items upfront in the survey description.
Here’s my checklist:
- Who, or what organization, is conducting the survey
People are more willing to complete a survey when they know who is conducting it.
Even more so when it’s someone they know well, a subject they’re interested in, an organization they’re involved with, or a monetary incentive.
- Explain the reason for the survey
Share the purpose for the survey. It is to track something? Learn what presentations or events meetup members want?
Are you looking for feedback or perceptions about your product or service?
- How will the results be used
Knowing how results will be used can encourage participants to complete your survey. Without that information, some participants may decide to opt out of your survey.
- Will results be shared with participants
If you plan to share survey results, include the expected date for the results to be published and how they will be shared.
- How long the survey will take
Time is valuable. Let participants know how much time the survey will take. Five minutes? Ten minutes? More?
- Include progress bar showing how much of the survey has been completed
The progress bar is a visual reminder of how many questions the participant has answered and how many more they can expect.
There’s no better feeling for a survey participant than when that progress bar goes over 50 percent!
- Explain why their email address or name is requested
Some surveys are anonymous, which often leads to more responses.
But if you want to follow-up with participants’ answers, or if they’re offering to help in some way, you’ll want to get their email address and/or name.
- What questions are required
Note which questions are required. In Google Forms, required questions are marked with an asterisk.
Something I believe should be changed to simply “required.”
- Who to contact if you have any questions about the survey
Plan for questions and follow-up messages.
Provide the name of the person(s) to contact for questions, along with email address, phone number, or other way for participants to contact them.
- Expiration date for survey
Always add an expiration date for your survey. The expiration date ensures your participants act in a timely manner to submit their responses.
It may seem like a small thing, but by creating a “Before You Send” Survey Checklist, you’ll take care of those last few details of sending an online survey.
Which will lead to more participants’ answering the questions in your survey.
Do you use a checklist before you send an online survey? Share your reply in the comments, I’d love to know what you include in your checklist.