How many questions to include in an online survey

Determining how many questions to ask is one of the hardest parts of putting together a web form or survey. Of course, some surveys are easier than others. If you’re building an RSVP form for an event or asking which color your customers like best for a new product, figuring out how many questions you need is pretty easy. But in most cases, balancing the need to get enough information without scaring respondents off is a real challenge.

So how many questions should you include on an online survey?

Why you should avoid including too many questions on your survey

“Survey fatigue” is an important concept. There are two types of survey fatigue:

  • Survey response/request fatigue. There isn’t much individual survey designers can do about this. More and more companies and organizations are requesting feedback from users. Eventually, those users get tired of providing feedback and just stop responding to surveys.
  • Survey completion/taking fatigue. This is the one you can do something about. The longer a survey takes to complete, the less likely it is that people will complete it. Many potential respondents won’t even start a survey if they think there are too many questions. Some users who scan the form and see a long list of questions get survey fatigue before they answer the first question.

Survey builders must take survey fatigue into account. The goal is to get as much critical information as possible without triggering survey fatigue in your responders. You can do this by splitting your survey into multiple pages and using progress bars, but mostly it requires asking fewer, more well-considered questions.

How do you figure out the right number of questions? Follow a couple of basic principles from the very earliest stage of designing your survey.

Identify the purpose of your survey

The most important step begins before you’ve written a single question. What, precisely, do you want to accomplish with the survey?

Surveys can help identify new product opportunities, evaluate staff, find ways to improve your company, or guide a marketing campaign. The best surveys pick one objective and focus exclusively on that.

Figure out exactly what information you need

Once you have an objective nailed down, you need to figure out exactly what information you need to collect in order to accomplish it. Even with a very specific objective, there are countless questions you could ask to support it. Whittle down that list of questions to the most important ones. As you go down your list, ask “Is this a ‘need to know’ or a ‘nice to know?’ ”

Respect your respondents’ time

Let’s be honest, your users are doing you a favor by taking the time to respond to your survey questions. The best way to thank them is by respecting their time and not asking them unnecessary questions.

Always keep in mind that every interaction users have with your brand, even if it’s just a survey, shapes their perception of your organization. If you respect their time, they may think better of your brand overall.

So how many questions should you ask on a survey?

There is no hard and fast answer. However, as a general rule, the survey should take no more than 10 minutes to complete; less than five minutes is more than twice as good.

Typically, this means about five to 10 questions. Ask fewer questions if they are particularly involved or are free-response questions. You can go a little over if the questions are simple yes-or-no, or true-or-false questions. This might require cutting some questions and simplifying others. If you’ve followed the steps above, you should get a meaningful data set that accomplishes your objectives and stays within that time range.

Data collection analyst. Seeing life in 1's and 0's. Can't resist to a good cup of coffee.

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