12 Common Survey Design Mistakes to Avoid to Get More Responses

Want to know how your customers feel? Need to conduct market research? Surveys are the answer – and they’re everywhere. With the availability of easy online survey platforms, just about anyone can sign up and get started.

However, not everyone creating surveys is aware of the little nuances behind this research method. Did you know how you design your survey can have a direct impact on the answers you get?

Surveys need to be designed with care, keeping the audience in mind. So, if you aren’t already doing that, here are the top mistakes you should steer clear of:

1. One Question Too Many


The longer your survey is, the higher your abandonment rate will be. One of the most common mistakes we see in surveys is asking far too many questions to your respondents.

With shorter attention spans, your audience will hardly stick around to complete a long survey. So if you want to gather genuine responses, make sure all your questions are absolutely necessary. If not, that question isn’t needed and you can make your survey a little shorter!

2. You Need to Break it Up

Have you ever just looked at a survey and felt overwhelmed? It looked way too long.

So what was the trouble here? If all those questions were absolutely necessary, it’s important to divide them into sections to give your audience a sense of minor accomplishments.

Just like all goals in life, if you want to achieve something, you have to break it up into smaller goals.

So is the case with the survey. If you want to ensure that your audience sticks around without leaving early on, make it easier for them to do so. Online survey platforms like SoGoSurvey and many more make this even easier with focus mode to make the survey design more interactive, which is especially helpful for longer surveys where your audience is bound to get distracted.

3. Biasing Participants with Leading Questions


If you are looking for authentic, honest answers, leading your audience simply isn’t the way. Leading questions are those that subtly influence what the audience will say. These can be used to get the answers you want (but not necessarily the answers you need.)

In fact, leading questions can bias your results, rendering them inaccurate.

These are often used in customer service surveys and such, to influence the satisfaction rating given by the audience.


Our wonderful customer service has been awarded the best in our field. How satisfied are you with the service?

How it should be:

How satisfied are you with the quality of our customer service?

By using adjectives and indicating the award conferred, you are subtly manipulating what your audience will say. This can negatively affect an organization as well since you might not be alerted to any experience gaps or concerns with your customer service early on.

4. Double-Barrel Questions

Asking two questions in one will never lead to an accurate response. This only confuses an audience.

However, this is quite common and often done without realizing it. So read through every question you’ve set in place. Also, get an unbiased third person go through the questionnaire and see what they think.


Please rate the quality of the delivery service and the product purchased.

How it should be:

  1. Please rate the quality of our delivery service.
  2. Please rate the quality of the product purchased.
  3. Too Many Open-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions usually mean they’ll take a while to pen down. Asking too many can actually cause survey fatigue and – you guessed it – increase the abandonment rate!

Every time you have a question in mind, don’t jump to giving your audience an open-ended text box. Instead, will that question befitting of a radio button response, a multiple-choice option, or something else?

This ensures that your audience finds it quicker to respond while also making the answers easier to analyze!

6. Incorrect Question Type


Have you ever received a multiple-choice question but the answers only allow you to select one option? Remember the frustration of not being able to answer accurately?

This is actually more common than you realize.

So when designing your question types, it’s important to gauge how your participants will be answering. To prevent bias, send out a test survey to anyone with a subjective eye, and listen for feedback. The best surveys and researchers do this, and it helps to ensure that your answers aren’t biased or inaccurate.

7. Making Everything Mandatory

Not every question you ask is absolutely essential, so give your participants a break – don’t make it all mandatory.

This is especially important when a question doesn’t apply to a participant.

For example, if a participant stated that they haven’t reached out to the customer support of your brand, asking mandatory questions about your customer support is just going to create frustration.

Instead, use skip logic to avoid showing participants irrelevant questions altogether.

8. Negative Wording


Words have the power to influence people without them even realizing it. So negative wording in a survey can often lead to answers more tilted towards the negative, whereas positive wording can inspire positivity.

For example:

How unhappy are you with our product delivery?

Instead, attempt to use neutral words to get the most unbiased responses, or frame a sentence positively where required.

Otherwise, the survey results might be confounded by the unconscious bias, not giving you an accurate idea about how a product or service is perceived by the audience at large.

9. Grammatical Inconsistency

This rather simple but often ignored point actually refers to the inconsistency between question and answer.


How happy are you with the delivery of your product?

Unsatisfied | It was okay | Satisfied

In order to maintain consistency, the scale should also have pertained to variations of happy and unhappy. Alternatively, the question could’ve asked ‘how satisfied’ the customer was.

10. Forgetting Answer Options


Imagine knowing an answer but not being able to answer it because the options have simply not accounted for it!

Annoying, right?

So the next time you’re giving your audience the option to select an answer from a given list, also leave a little open-ended text box as an option. If your participant has an answer that isn’t listed in the choices above, they will always have the option of mentioning it.

11. Forgetting Cultural Differences

Some questions simply aren’t relevant based on where you’re conducting the survey. Our work and businesses are becoming increasingly global and interacting with cultures from everywhere, so when you conduct a survey across countries, it’s important to ensure that your questions remain relevant and respectful of the region.

Always have someone proofread your survey to catch any mistakes.

Respondents in certain regions can be sensitive about various aspects, from sexual orientation, consumption of certain foods, religion, income, and even personal care.

So based on where your survey is being distributed, remember to be wary of the questions you ask.

12. Looks, Matter


No matter what anyone says, appearance is important, especially when it comes to surveys.

A survey that looks boring is probably not going to catch the attention of your audience.

Instead, create an engaging and interactive survey design to keep participants intrigued. Spoiler alert: it will also increase your response rate!

In Conclusion

Surveys are a great way to get the information you need; whether it is to get feedback, understand market receptivity to upcoming products, or even get insights into various academic questions.

However, how you design your survey has a direct impact on the authenticity, rate, and quality of answers you get.

That’s why it’s essential to avoid these key survey mistakes and start off on the right foot.

About Jeanette Iglesias