The Austin Research approach to survey design

It's easy to design surveys but very difficult to design surveys well. At Austin Towers we have over 20 years’ experience of designing market research surveys and believe we know a thing or two about creating great questionnaires. This experience informs the principles of our approach to survey design:

Focus on objectives: questions should relentlessly focus on the research objectives. It is our responsibility to ensure that we completely understand how clients intend to use the survey results and that objectives are clear before we even start to design the questions.

Respondent first approach: questions need to be simple, understandable, easy to answer, meaningful and engaging for respondents. Confusing, difficult to answer questions result in data that is impossible to interpret, making the research worthless.

Simplicity: we fervently believe in simplicity. The simpler the survey, the easier it is for respondents to understand and complete and the easier results are to interpret and act on.

Efficiency: we aim to design surveys that are as efficient as possible, surveys that ask as little as possible from respondents in order to get the information we require. Questionnaires should be as brief as possible as shorter surveys result in a better respondent experience and, hence, better quality responses.

Flow: we strive to make our surveys as conversational as possible. Questions should be presented in an order that makes sense. Respondents should be able to move through the survey quickly and smoothly. We avoid creating Questionnaire Quicksand, areas where respondents get bogged down.

Plain speaking: we don't use language that respondents do not commonly use and can cause confusion. We call a toilet a toilet and not a lavatory. We are precious about the number of words we use, minimising question length and avoiding long, convoluted questions. We aim to make all questions understandable for everybody.

Neutrality: it is important that we don’t ask questions that are leading and could bias response. We always approach questionnaire design from a position of neutrality, aiming to eliminate wording that may unduly influence respondents’ answers.

Attention to detail: we check our surveys again and again, not just to check for spelling and routing mistakes but to ensure the questionnaire flows well and that questions are working in the way we want them to.

By following these principles we design surveys that are appreciated by respondents and produce "decision ready" results, data that helps clients make better decisions.

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