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Is there a best practice way to create a survey?

Difficulty level: Easy

What does the functionality do?

If you want to conduct an online survey, you will always have to follow a process with the same steps – whatever the content of your survey might be. In this topic, we will provide some guidelines for creating a survey. The steps you should follow are: programming and testing the survey, collecting the data and analysing these data. This topic covers all these four stages of your survey. You will find out what you need to pay extra attention to and what you have to consider when moving from one stage to the next.

Step 1: Programming the survey

The first step of your survey project is programming your new survey. You are going to create a new questionnaire and fill it with the desired questions and other elements.

If your questionnaire is comprehensive and complicated, dividing it into sections might be a good idea. An interesting aspect of this is that you can also set filters at section level.

Another section feature is randomising sections or pages. Or randomising questions, if you only have one question per page.

Note: Do not activate your survey while you are in the programming phase. However, during the programming phase, you can use the preview (via the eye symbol or the general survey link on the ‘Distribute’ tab), as the preview also functions for non-activated surveys.

Step 2: Testing the survey

It is important to schedule ample time in your survey creation schedule for the testing phase as well. With a new survey, testing often takes as long as programming. It is a very significant step.

The purpose of the testing phase is to identify any problems – in the questions, but also in routing of the survey – and then, of course, fix them. If you discover problems only at a later stage and then have to start fixing them, it will always involve a lot more work!

It is recommended to divide testing into two steps. The first step is to ensure that the questions are complete and correct, both in terms of wording and question types. Is everything in order? Then comes the second step: checking the routing – i.e. checking the filters, randomisations, placeholders, URL forwardings, etc. For this, it can be useful to use the Back button in the survey and then provide different answers, rather than starting each test situation from the beginning of the survey.

In general, you can test the programmed survey both inside and outside of Survalyzer. If you are logged into your Survalyzer account, you should preferably use the eye symbol (preview symbol). Testers who do not have and should not have access to it, can use the general survey link you will find on the Distribute tab.

If you want to analyse files with raw data, you should also check the generated raw data after the first test questionnaires have been completed. As long as your survey has not been activated, you can still easily adjust variables and codes in preparation for the analysis.

Note: Do not activate your survey while you are in the testing phase. However, during the testing phase, you can use the preview (via the eye symbol or the general survey link on the ‘Distribute’ tab), as the preview also functions for non-activated surveys.

Step 3: Collecting the data

To start collecting the data, participants have to be invited. For each online survey, you can use the anonymous link (the same link for all participants) or personal links (one individual link for each participant). Alternatively, a combination of anonymous and personal links is possible: some participants use the anonymous link, others the personal one.

If you want to use personal links, you must first create a sample. You can create a sample during the programming or testing phase. You can find more about distributing survey links under Invite sample in the Distribute survey: overview (initial phase) topic.

Before you start collecting data, the testing phase must be completed. Once you have successfully completed the testing phase, you can get your survey ready by activating it. When you activate your survey, all test data will be deleted and all counters will be set to 0. Now first check the Interview settings (e.g. Back button, Section order) and Access control settings (Allow multiple participation, End date and Enable code access). Once you have done this, you can start inviting participants.

Note: It is essential to activate your survey first before you start inviting participants. You must delay the process of inviting with personal links (including link lists) until the survey has been activated. This is because already existing personal links become invalid during the activation process.

Response Statistics and Online Reporting

On the survey overview page, you will find the On status (against a green background) for all activated surveys. To the right of the status information, you will see a value. This indicates the number of completed questionnaires at that time. When you click on this value, you will directly access the survey analysis. There you will find, among other things, the online report of all data collected so far. Furthermore, you can also retrieve Excel, PowerPoint and PDF reports and download raw data (either as XLSX file for Excel or as SAV file for SPSS). More details on reporting options can be found in the Download basic report topic (Analyze).

On the Distribute tab, you can click on each distributor (distribution list), e.g. an invitation mailing, on the left-hand side of the overview to view the corresponding response statistics.

You can enable external parties (e.g. customers) to have access to view the online report. You do this by submitting to them the reporting link, which is shown in step 4 Activation when creating a basic report.

If not all errors were detected and corrected during the testing phase and you still need to make corrections after activation, you can put the survey in revision mode. You do this by clicking the Edit survey button at the top right of the screen. This is the same button you used to initiate the activation process beforehand.

Step 4: Analyzing the data

Once the data collection phase is complete, you need to close your survey. You can do so by clicking the Close survey button. Alternatively, you can set an end date that has already expired. When you close the survey, you can be sure that no more new data will be collected, that you can consider the collected data as final and that you can start the analysis. More information on reports and file download options can be found in the Download basic report topic.

Note: Once the collection of data has been terminated, your survey data will be retained until you delete them yourself. You can analyse your data whenever you want. If you want to delete the collected data from your workspace, you can, for instance, delete the entire survey.

Updated on November 17, 2022
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