5 Techniques We Use to Capture Insightful Data


February 24, 2019 8 min. read

As a full-service market research agency, we create a lot of surveys.

One of the major points to consider when writing a survey is, “how will the respondent react to this, and will the format, content, and flow encourage them to complete the survey?”

Keeping this in mind, we have a few tricks up our sleeves to make sure we maximize survey completion and keep our clients (and respondents!) happy. Today, we’ll walk you through five key points we keep in mind any time we write a questionnaire. Feel free to incorporate some of these into your own survey creation to help you capture the best quality data from the highest number of respondents so you can make insightful and informed decisions!

5 of our techniques:

1. Avoid Marathon Surveys Whenever Possible

With smartphones, a plethora of ads, and various entertainment options constantly begging for people’s attention, how do you ensure people stay on task for a survey they aren’t being forced to take? Basically, this one is simple: respect people’s time, and be concise. Avoid marathon surveys where possible, and structure your questionnaire to capture the information that matters instead of the “noise”.

You will absolutely have situations where a long survey is unavoidable; some topics require more in-depth precision and probing than others. However, whenever possible, put yourself in the respondent’s position and keep the overall length in mind relative to the topic. A survey on what people plan to do over the weekend shouldn’t take 60 minutes if you want people to complete it!

So, what do you do when you need a lot of information on a topic, and you feel the survey length is getting out of hand? Multiple touchpoints! One of our newest innovations at Yardstick is our online panel, Engage. By getting respondents to opt into our panel based on their interest in the survey topic, we create further opportunities to reach out to them in the future and collect more data.

2. Serve the Most Relevant Questions

Get to the main points. Your respondent has clicked on your survey for numerous reasons and a big one is that they want to share their opinion on a specific topic. For example, if you frame the research as being about local sports attendance, but the last third of the survey is about reactions to local weather — this may seem logical when considering potential barriers to attendance, but respondents may begin to wonder why the topic has shifted and narrowed so suddenly.

A good way to keep the survey focused is to create a logical structure that encourages deeper insight on an off-shoot topic where necessary but doesn’t force it on everyone. In the sports/weather example, a single question about the weather as a potential barrier is great, and then that can open up some deeper follow-up questions for people who indicate it is a barrier while moving past that section for everyone else.

Using our software, Qualtrics, we are able to create these logic flows, ensuring that respondents are served questions that are most relevant to their response patterns.

3. Offer Non-binary Response Options

Options, options, and more options. For a survey to deliver the most meaningful insight, questions that capture “scale” are important. You’ve probably taken surveys like this in the past, but consider the difference between, “do you like the city’s new initiative — yes or no,” compared to, “On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is strongly disagree and 5 is strongly agree, how do you feel about the city’s new initiative?”

You can probably see right away that the second approach offers more depth to the answer, and therefore can help decision makers glean useful insights from the data. (This type of questions is said to be utilizing the “Likert scale” for any research nerds like us!)

4. Avoid Complicated Questions

As with all things UI and UX related, simplicity is king! This refers not only to the layout of your questions but also to the content. When crafting your questions, be sure to avoid using conflicting or misleading qualifiers — e.g. “On weekdays when you’re tired after work, but really anytime, how do you feel about xyz?”

Be direct and concise, and strive to create questions that make sense no matter how much you break them down. The goal is to always ask questions that get the clearest responses in order to ensure the most accurate results.

5. We Don’t Force Respondents to Answer Every Single Question

Allowing respondents to be able to skip questions (especially during long surveys) allows them to have flexibility and puts the control in their hands. By forcing people to answer every single question on your survey you run the risk of them not completing the survey — or worse, clicking false answers to proceed quickly — because it was not as flexible as it needed to be. People sometimes also feel the need to give an answer even if they don’t have one, so allowing a skip can be a smart move to avoid erroneous responses.

If you’re in the business of designing surveys for market research, you can use the above 5 tips to enhance some of your questionnaires and get the most insightful data possible.

Speaking of insightful data, if your organization is considering conducting market research or looking for a way to connect to key audiences, check us out at Yardstick Research and learn about our online panel solution, Engage. We live and breathe market research and would be more than happy to discuss your situation in detail!

Happy survey designing!