Yes-or-no questions in online forms and surveys

Building an online form or creating a survey that yields the information you seek requires a lot of thought. How much information should you ask for? How many questions will people actually answer? How detailed should each question be? 

The answer to each one of those questions comes with its own set of pros and cons, and often leads to many follow-up questions. You have to balance getting the information you need with not asking more questions than respondents are willing to answer.

There are some rules you can use to figure out what you should ask and how. To help you make better questionnaires, let’s look at how to use yes-or-no questions on online forms and surveys.

Why ask yes-or-no questions?

The yes-or-no question is the simplest question that can be included on a form. A couple of key characteristics determine how and when you use it.

Binary. A yes-or-no question is binary, which means there are only two possible answers — yes or no. Since these types of questions are easy to answer, they don’t add significantly to the total time it takes to complete a survey.

Unambiguous. Unlike scales, multiple-choice, or free-response questions, there’s absolutely no doubt about what respondents mean when they answer a yes-or-no question. This makes interpreting the results from these questions easy and straightforward.

Understandable. Yes-or-no questions are the simplest types of questions in the English language. In fact, these are often the first questions that people learning English become familiar with. As a result, yes-or-no questions can be understood by almost anyone who has any level of English proficiency, making them as close to universal as possible.

All of these factors make yes-or-no questions in online forms and surveys very versatile. With enough creativity, it’s possible to create an entire form using nothing but yes-or-no questions. Of course, there are other approaches that may do a better job on your particular survey. 

Even though yes-or-no questions have a lot of pros, they are not without some disadvantages:

Oversimplifying. Some questions require a more thorough or detailed answer than yes or no. Reducing some queries to a yes-or-no question risks oversimplifying them to the point where the answers aren’t very helpful.

For example, “What feature do you love the most about JotForm?” provides more information than “Do you like using JotForm?”

Possibility of confusion. In some situations, trying to reduce a question to just yes or no can lead to confusion on the part of the survey taker. Perhaps someone would answer “yes” 90 percent of the time but doesn’t want to rule out the 10 percent of the time that “no” is appropriate. Often, trying to reduce a question to yes or no makes it unclear what you’re actually trying to find out.

For instance, “Do you drive a car?” seems like a yes-or-no question, but what about respondents who have a license but seldom drive because they don’t own a car? A more accurate yes-or-no question might be “Do you have a driver’s license?” or “Do you commute to work in a car?”

Not Applicable. Not all questions can be answered with a yes or no, such as, “How many guests will be invited to the party?”

How to use yes-or-no questions in online forms and surveys

The simplicity of yes-or-no questions makes them a versatile tool for collecting information on online forms and surveys. There are a couple of specific cases where these kinds of questions are especially useful:

Short surveys and quick reactions. Sometimes you don’t need lengthy responses to get the information you need. Quick reaction and response surveys that evaluate how effective something was are a good example — “Did this article answer your question?” or “Did you enjoy the presentation?” 

These kinds of quick questions pair well with JotForm Cards, a simple and short way to ask questions online.

Decision questions for form logic. Yes-or-no questions are great for setting up form logic. They can filter respondents into groups that might see different follow-ups based on, for example, if they found a software feature or service useful or not.

Everywhere simplicity is required. Because of how easy they are to understand, yes-or-no questions are particularly useful for surveys that go out to a large audience with a wide range of comprehension ability. Alternatively, if you aren’t confident in your ability to interpret complex results, yes-or-no questions make reading survey results much easier.

Yes-or-no questions in online forms and surveys are powerful tools that both experienced and novice form builders should have in their tool box.

This article is originally published on May 05, 2020, and updated on May 11, 2020
AUTHOR
Data collection analyst. Seeing life in 1's and 0's. Can't resist to a good cup of coffee.

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