How to Design Effective Questionnaires/Surveys

Questionnaires can be very useful in gathering opinions and information from multiple sources. The analyst may choose to distribute questionnaires using a web or paper-based form. Using a questionnaire can go a long way in gauging user perceptions and gaining insight into pertinent issues. If questions are asked using the most appropriate medium, results can be achieved easily.

When is it advisable to use a questionnaire?

  1. When you need direct or specific responses
  2. When there’s a large group of people you need data from. In this case, using a standard set of questions can provide responses for further analysis
  3. When you’re more interested in facts than details

What should you take note of when designing questionnaires?

As with most techniques, there are useful guidelines to be followed when designing questionnaires:

  1. Use only straightforward questions crafted in simple language. If your questions are confusing, respondents may provide inaccurate responses or worse still, not respond at all.
  2. Each question must contribute to achieving the objectives of the study.
  3. Pre-test the questionnaire before sending it out to ensure that necessary modifications are concluded. Testing the questionnaire before deployment ensures that any existing errors or confusing statements are clarified before sending it out to a wider group of stakeholders. 
  4. Questionnaires should not take longer than 10 minutes to complete; the longer the questionnaire, the less likely it is that respondents will take time out of their busy schedules to respond.
  5. The most important questions should be positioned at the beginning of the questionnaire.
  6. Questionnaires are best used with closed-ended questions. Read Effective Questioning Strategies for Business Analysts for ideas on how to frame questions from the beginning to the end
  7. Ensure that questions do not reflect any personal bias. 
  8. Usually, if the population is large, it’s more effective to use a sample of that population.

Though questionnaires have received some criticism on their effectiveness, the results obtained depend on how they are designed. Good questionnaires are “designed” and not written. Spending some extra time deciding who the questionnaire is for and what its objectives are is well worth the effort and would increase the analyst's chances of success

Here are the pros and cons of questionnaires that every analyst should be aware of.


  • Questionnaires can be completed at the convenience of respondents. Respondents can come back at a later time to alter or complete the form.
  • It’s relatively inexpensive (compared with other techniques like interviews) to use questionnaires to gather data from a large number of people.
  • Questionnaires allow respondents maintain their anonymity in most cases. This is likely to result in more reliable responses.
  • Responses can be tabulated and expressed in a format that is easy to analyze.


  • In some cases, the rate of response is low. Where stakeholders respond, there’s no guarantee that they will provide all the necessary information.
  • The use of questionnaires does not offer immediate opportunities to ask follow-up questions and clarify conflicting statements. Questionnaires are thus deemed inflexible in this regard.
  • With questionnaires, there’s no opportunity to study and decipher the body language of respondents