Online Surveys


Maybe it’s just the day, maybe co-incidence, maybe because it’s near the end of the financial year. Over the past two days I have been asked to take part in half a dozen web surveys (“in order to improve our service to you …”) as they say.

I’m normally sympathetic to web surveys; I have commissioned enough to know that the results can be very useful. But there is a balance to be struck between gathering relevant information and intruding on people’s time.

One I took yesterday was just one question. Took no time at all. The one that had me running to my blog was from PayPal. “This survey should take approximately 15 minutes to complete.”

Ya what? 15 minutes?? Do I care that I will might win £500? No.

Here are a few tips for web surveys:

  • On the opening screen do let people know how long the survey will take (just like PayPal did). It’s good manners and you will have fewer uncompleted surveys.
  • Time test your survey – will it take more than 4 minutes? Then it’s too long.
  • Are you asking questions just because you have an audience? Questions for questions sake are wasting everyone’s time.
  • Are you clear about the information you want to gather and how that information will be used?
  • Don’t waste your own time gathering un-needed and un-usable data. As yourself – “If this was a survey for a company I don’t really care about, would I spend the time?” Most people don’t care as much about your company as you do.
  • Can the people you invited to participate see the value to them?
  • Can you make the survey fun? Probably not – but try to make it a little entertaining.
  • Always put in a contact form or email (and answer queries, comments and questions).
  • Always say thank you.


24 hours after posting this I’m delighted to see Seth Godin’s latest blog post “Too long”.

OK, enough.

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