Naga Chokkanathan

Why Not? — Design Good Surveys

Posted on: January 14, 2011

I love giving feedback. Whenever I am in a restaurant / airline / superstore / other places where they collect client feedback, I voluntarily pick a form and fill my responses; I genuinely believe in people / organizations, they may make mistakes here and there, but they are always willing to improve, things will get better if I give them my honest feedback.

But am I right? Or I am just wasting my time?

For any business, collecting feedback from customers is very important. As a next step, we need to use this feedback information to improve ourselves. If done right, this can be the major differentiator between two otherwise similar products / services and make / break a company.

But recently people take this ‘feedback loop’ very seriously and start collecting data just for the sake of collecting it. Many times you wonder if they really care, do they really use the data we provide or it goes to the recycle bin directly.

For example, consider this article ( by Jared Spool, last December he took a survey by a very famous airline company, and based on his experience, he has listed down 19 lessons on “how to build a crappy survey”. It reads like a humorous story, but unfortunately it is real – most of the questions make you wonder how that company can miss such basic things when designing a survey!

(Image Courtesy:

You might have answered such online / offline survey / feedback forms yourselves. Some characteristics / Notes (Few adopted from Jared Spool’s Examples, Others added from my own frustration):

  • No clarity in terms of why this survey is done (What can I expect to change if I spend x minutes filling this survey?)
  • No option to say “No, thanks”
  • No clarity in terms of how big the survey is (a simple text like “Page 3 of 7” or “40% completed” will do. But most survey’s don’t care about this)
  • Too many mandatory questions
  • No option to exit in between (if the survey takes too long, or not applicable for us)
  • Wrong answers / choices (and it is mandatory to choose one of those incorrect answers!)
  • Wrong controls (use of radio buttons instead of check box, Less space to type / write address etc.,)
  • No Neutral answers (Example: “May Be” (in addition to “Yes” and “No”), “I Don’t Know”, “Other”, “Don’t want to answer”)
  • Not enough help / explanation on questions / answers
  • No clarity in terms of scales (Example: 1 is “Fully Agree” and 5 is “Fully Disagree”? Or the other way?)
  • Sudden & Very Late Exit (Example: After answering 6 pages of questions, I am told “Sorry, You are not eligible to complete this survey”, Why not find it out in Page 1 itself and save everybody’s time / frustration?)
  • No customization of survey experience based on situation / type of user / answers already given by users – This means they are using standard surveys and no intelligent / dynamic design is done, which results in wasting everybody’s time
  • Not enough tools to analyze survey results
  • Improper sampling, resulting in unrealistic analysis

Collecting feedback / running surveys with clients / prospects is essential, But if we are not doing them right, they can backfire and hurt our existing business relationships!



N. Chokkan …

14 01 2011


2 Responses to "Why Not? — Design Good Surveys"

[…] the rest here: Why Not? — Design Good Surveys « Naga Chokkanathan Comments […]

Good ……

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Organization He works for / belongs to.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 61 other followers

Big Adda

%d bloggers like this: