Creating a survey – 5 questions that need to be answered first.

The key in success is preparation! In this post you’ll find 5 important questions you need to ask before you start building your survey.

1. What is the purpose of the survey?

Surveys are being held to gather insights. The questions let respondents give answers. These answers are combined and analyzed which result in insights. It is very important to determine exactly what information needs to be gathered. So ask yourself; What are my project goals?. From there you can start creating the right questions.

Determining the exact project goals is like aiming a telescope. If is not exactly right, the targeted galaxy will never be seen.

2. What is the target audience?

Part two is to determine the target audience. It is important to remember that you are talking to humans who take a survey. Even if it is targeted at companies, it is an employee or owner who takes the survey.

The primary selection of the audience is based on demographic data.

  • Sex
  • Year of birth (don’t use age as it changes each year and with periodically done surveys the data will be exchangeable anymore).
  • Location (country, state, city)
  • Educational level
  • Income situation (student, employee, entrepreneur)
  • Origin
  • Relationship status and family situation

After the demographic criteria there’re also other criteria possible. For instance type of mobile phone us or type of car people own. Since these aspects change sometimes more than once per year a filter question can be used at the start of the survey to filter out the respondents who don’t meet the required criteria.

Having that data, on how many respondents don’t meet the criteria compared to the entire target audience, is something you can use for research purpose. For example the percentage iPhone owners compared to the entire mobile phone users.

3. How many completed surveys are required?

The number or required surveys depends on the project. A common sample within a population of 20.000 or more is, based on the 95% standard deviation, 384 complete surveys. Is the total population smaller than 20.000 the number of completes is smaller. Therefore is the minimum amount of filled in surveys 100.

4. How can the target audience be reached?

There’re five different types of respondents.

Type 1. Respondent within a personal social network

These respondents are family, friends, and acquittances. Use social media to reach them.

Advantages: likely to have high response rates because of likability.

Disadvantage: Because of the closes social status respondents may only give a socially desirable answer.

Type 2. Respondents within the professional social network

These respondents are colleagues, customers, clients or contractors.

Advantage: In case of a good professional relationship the respons rates will be high.

Disadvantages: if anonymity isn’t ensured there will probably be a lack of criticism in the answers, especially from a contractor who depend on your business.

Type 3. Respondents within third party networks

These respondents are from networks form for examples of clients. Does the project require a specified group of respondents? In this case fanclubs, sportclubs of interest groups can provide the respondents

Advantage: if the project meets the interests of the fan club or the interest group the respons rate will increase based on likability.

Disadvantage: the fanclub or interest club will probably request something back. In most cases it is required to share the data and analyses.

Type 4. Respondents from outside any known network

These respondents are for example respondents who are approached in a shopping mall.

Advantage: if location is a specific criterion the target audience is easily located.

Disadvantage: it is quite labor-intensive to gather the required number of completes.

Type 5. Respondents from online database companies

These are respondents who have signed up in the past at companies such as who specialize in completing surveys. The respondents have no personal interest in a project and complete the surveys mostly for the incentive. Quality checks on the data are a must with these respondents.

Advantage: gather the required number of completes is easy

Disadvantage: each complete costs money.

5. How to persuade respondents to complete the survey.

Respondents have 168 hours in a week. Most of the time is filled with either works or study, social contacts, hobbies, and sleeping. The trick is to convince the respondent to exchange 5 minutes of those activities to complete your survey. Sympathy and likability are a major factor in this. Explain the reason why they were contacted and feed their curiosity.

If this is not enough an incentive (or a change on it) can help as well. Gift vouchers or small payments are persuading respondents to complete your survey. Respondents who are acquired through a database company receive their incentive through the company.

The next step: start writing down the questions.

With these questions answered you can now start on writing done the question and creating the survey. Good luck with your project.


Starting your project with SurveyTool!


Eveerybody can create a survey with the drag & drop modules.

Unlimited use

Each account supports an unlimited number of surveys, questions per survey and respons per survey.

Download results in Excel

Download the results in an easy to use Excel format.

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Additional Premium features are available for € 14,95 per project.

Mobile friendly

Have your respondents complete your survey on their mobile. Available on free accounts as well.

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SurveyTool is available as White label with all  premium features, unlimited surveys and 2.000 invitation per month through the Invitationmodule.