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The Basics of Questionnaire Design

If you want to better understand your customers, you may find yourself thinking about putting together a short questionnaire. You might, for example, want to know how satisfied your customers are with your service, or their reactions to your web site. You might want to sent them an email message as the questionnaire, or perhaps post a questionnaire on your web site.

If you don't know the basics of questionnaire design, you'll find yourself quickly confused. But this short tutorial may help. In it, we lay out some simple general rules about questionnaire design and explain the basics of measurement. As always, this is a quick overview, and we have books in our book section that go into far more depth.

To start you off, here are some general rules you need to think about when putting together any type of questionnaire:

GENERAL RULES Efficiently ask all the questions that are important. Avoid questions that seem off topic. This requires that you first clearly identify what it is you want to know. Shorter questionnaires are better than longer ones, but more important than length is how easy it is to complete the questionnaire. So, you need to make your instructions very clear and make sure the wording of all questions is unambiguous. Pre-test a questionnaire to make sure of the above. Do this with real respondents, or at least co-workers. This is very important! Pre-testing ensures that the questionnaire is easy to fill out. Open-ended questions, while often necessary, are the least likely to be answered. You may need to use them, but you'll increase your response rate by translating them into a scale.

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