Survey research: The complete guide for 2024

Jack Wolstenholm
November 17, 2023
Survey research: The complete guide for 2024

In an era where user experience dictates the success of your products, your ability to gather and interpret user feedback can set you apart. After all, the power to shape the future of user experiences lies in your hands, and surveys are the key to unlocking this power. Think of surveys as a window into your users' minds, offering insights that can pivot your strategies from guessing games to precision moves.

Your mission is to create a bridge between users and your products, ensuring that every question counts towards building a user-centric masterpiece. But let's be honest; designing an effective survey can feel like navigating a minefield in the dark. Fortunately, we have prepared a comprehensive guide to help you master the art of designing surveys that engage and reveal powerful user insights.

What is a survey?

A survey is a written set of questions designed to collect data from a group of respondents. This research method helps you extract insights about a larger population based on the responses of a sample group. A survey's core purpose is to understand the opinions, behaviors, preferences, or characteristics of a larger group by analyzing the responses from a selected subset.

Surveys are versatile and can be used in numerous fields and for various purposes. For instance, in UX research, surveys are essential for gathering feedback on the usability and satisfaction of digital products and services. They can help you understand how users interact with a product, what challenges they face, and what improvements you can make to enhance the user experience.

In market research, they help businesses understand consumer preferences and market trends. In social science, surveys are vital for assessing public opinion, social attitudes, and behaviors. The effectiveness of a survey largely depends on the design and the representativeness of the sample group.

Benefits of survey research

Here are a few benefits that you can reap from surveys:


Whether you're a startup or a well-established company, you can conduct surveys, particularly online surveys, without straining your finances. You can gather vast user data without the high expenses typically associated with in-depth research methods like one-on-one interviews or extensive user testing.

Wide reach and accessibility

In today's digital age, surveys can reach a global audience swiftly. This wide reach ensures you gather diverse user feedback, which is crucial for creating inclusive and universally appealing products.

Quantifiable data

Surveys provide quantifiable insights, allowing you to measure user satisfaction, usability issues, and more. You can easily analyze the data to identify trends and patterns, helping you make informed, data-driven decisions to enhance the user experience.

User-centric feedback

Surveys place the focus squarely on the user, giving you direct insight into their needs, preferences, and pain points. This user-centric approach is the cornerstone of effective UX design, ensuring the end product resonates with its intended audience.

Versatility in data collection

You can adapt surveys to various formats, including multiple-choice, open-ended, and rating scales, allowing you to tailor your questions to the type of data you need. This versatility helps in collecting both quantitative and qualitative data, providing a comprehensive understanding of user experiences and perceptions.

Speed and efficiency

With the ability to collect and analyze data quickly, surveys expedite the research process. They enable rapid data collection from a wide audience, which is crucial in today's fast-paced product development cycle.

Limitations of survey research

While surveys are a powerful tool in UX research, they come with certain limitations that you should be aware of. These include:

Limited depth of responses

Surveys often provide a surface-level understanding of user opinions and behaviors. Unlike interviews or user testing, they don't allow for in-depth exploration of responses. This means you might miss out on the nuanced insights that can be gained from more interactive research methods.

Low response rates

Engaging users to complete surveys can be challenging. You might face low response rates, especially if the participants perceive the survey as lengthy or irrelevant. Low response rates can result in a smaller sample size, affecting the representativeness and reliability of your data.

Bias in responses

Response bias can occur, where participants may answer in a way they think is expected or socially acceptable rather than providing honest feedback. This can distort your understanding of user needs and experiences, leading to less effective UX solutions.

Ways to create & distribute surveys

You can choose from different types of surveys based on deployment methods. The most common types include:

Online surveys

These are the most popular and convenient types of surveys in the digital age. Hosted on websites or sent via email, they can reach a wide audience quickly and are cost-effective.

Telephone surveys

These are conducted over the phone and involve an interviewer engaging directly with respondents, asking questions, and noting their answers. They add a unique personal element to the interaction, which isn't achievable with online, mail, or paper surveys.

Mail surveys

Physical surveys sent via postal mail are less common but useful for reaching demographics less accessible online, such as older populations. While response rates can be low and data collection slower, mail surveys can be effective for certain target groups.

In-person surveys

These involve face-to-face interactions, either through street interviews or organized focus groups. They are excellent for gathering detailed qualitative data and understanding nuanced responses. However, they are the most resource-intensive and can be limited by geographical constraints.

Mobile surveys

These surveys cater to the growing number of mobile users, as they are delivered via smartphone apps or mobile-optimized websites. They are convenient for users and can provide real-time feedback. The design of mobile surveys requires a focus on brevity and simplicity due to the smaller screen size.

Kiosk surveys

These are deployed on digital kiosks or tablets, often in public spaces or at the point of sale. They are useful for capturing immediate customer feedback in retail or service environments. Their success depends on the placement and ease of use of the kiosk.

Are surveys qualitative or quantitative?

Surveys can be both qualitative and quantitative, depending on the nature of the questions and the data they are designed to collect. Quantitative surveys focus on collecting numerical data that can be quantified and statistically analyzed. They typically use structured questions like multiple-choice, Likert scales, or rating systems.

Quantitative surveys are ideal for measuring opinions, behaviors, or frequencies in a way that can be easily summarized in numbers. They are useful for identifying trends, making comparisons, or estimating the prevalence of certain characteristics in a population.

On the other hand, qualitative surveys aim to gather more in-depth, descriptive data. They often use open-ended questions that allow respondents to answer in their own words. A qualitative survey is more exploratory in nature and is used to understand underlying reasons, opinions, and motivations.

Common survey examples (+ free templates)

Surveys are a versatile tool for gathering insights across various aspects of business and the user experience. At Great Question, we offer various UX research survey templates to make it easy to launch your research. Here are some examples of surveys you can conduct:

Brand awareness surveys

Brand awareness surveys are designed to measure how familiar your brand is with an audience. This type of survey can be used frequently to monitor brand awareness over time and to spot market trends and shifts.

Get started free --> Brand awareness survey template

Brand perception surveys

A brand perception survey takes it a step further than awareness, exploring how a brand is perceived by its target audience. Running rolling brand perception surveys can help your team evaluate how effectively your brand's messaging and values is being communicated in marketing efforts.

Get started free --> Brand perception survey template

Customer churn surveys

A churn survey aims to understand why a now-former customer has canceled a subscription or stopped using a product. This type of survey gathers valuable feedback on the reasons why people are choosing not to continue using a product or service. Continually running a churn survey enables patterns and trends to be identified around what is causing people to leave.

Get started free --> Customer churn survey template

Customer service feedback surveys

Customer service feedback surveys evaluate the experience a customer had with your customer service team. They work best when sent to customers immediately after interacting with your team so the experience is still fresh and top-of-mind. You can run this type of survey consistently to keep a pulse on customer satisfaction and troubleshoot potential issues in real-time.

Get started free --> Customer service feedback survey template

Demographic surveys

A demographic survey is designed to gather personal information — age, race, ethnicity, gender, marital status, income, education, employment — from a sample population. Demographic surveys are especially useful in the early stages of product development when seeking a high-level understanding of who your potential users are.

Get started free --> Demographic survey template

Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys

Perhaps the most widely-used customer experience metrics, Net Promoter Score (NPS) is rooted in one simple question: ‘How likely are you to recommend to a friend or colleague?’ Respondents answer on a 0-10 scale; then take the percentage of people that scored 9 or 10 minus the percentage that scored 0-6 to calculate your NPS.

Get started free --> NPS survey template

System Usability Scale (SUS) surveys

Introduced in 1986, the System Usability Scale (SUS) is a tried-and-true method for evaluating the usability of products and services. It remains popular due to its simple nature: 10 fixed usability questions and decades of historical data to determine how your score stacks up.

Get started free --> SUS survey template

Website feedback surveys

Running website feedback surveys is an easy way to for gauge users' experiences and views about a website. Ideally, they are presented during or immediately after a user’s visit to help you measure satisfaction and flag any issues they experienced.

Get started free --> Website feedback survey template

Types of survey questions

Here are various types of questions you can incorporate into your survey design:

Open-ended questions

These questions allow respondents to answer in their own words, providing qualitative insights. They are ideal for exploring thoughts, feelings, and experiences in depth. For example, "What do you think could improve your experience on our website?"

Closed-ended questions

Contrary to open-ended questions, closed-ended ones restrict answers to a set of predefined responses. They make data analysis easier and are useful for quantitative analysis. An example is, "Do you own a smartphone? Yes/No."

Rating questions

Rating questions ask respondents to evaluate something using a numerical scale. They are great for measuring the intensity of feelings or the degree of agreement. For example, "On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate our customer service?"

Likert scale questions

These are specific types of rating questions that measure the extent of agreement or disagreement with a statement. An example is "I am satisfied with my purchase," with options ranging from 'Strongly Disagree' to 'Strongly Agree.'

Multiple choice questions

These questions provide several options, but respondents can select only one answer. For example, "What is your favorite color?" with a list of color options.

Picture choice questions

In these questions, respondents choose from a set of images. They are engaging and can be more intuitive than text-based options. For example, a survey might show different product designs and ask which one the user prefers.

Demographic questions

These questions collect basic information about the respondent, such as age, gender, education, etc. They are crucial for segmenting data and understanding different user groups. An example is, "What is your age group?"

Matrix questions

Matrix questions are a grid of questions with the same set of answer options. They are efficient for asking a series of related questions in a compact format. For instance, a matrix might list several product features with options to rate each from 'Poor' to 'Excellent.'

Rank order questions

These ask respondents to rank options in order of preference or importance. They help in understanding priorities or preferences. An example is, "Rank the following features in order of importance to you."

Slider questions

Sliders allow respondents to indicate their level of agreement or feeling on a visual slider scale. They are interactive and can capture nuances in opinions. An example is, "Move the slider to indicate your level of satisfaction with our app."

Dropdown questions

These present a list of options in a dropdown menu. They are useful for long lists of options where showing all options at once can be overwhelming. For example, "Select your country of residence" from a dropdown list of countries.

Types of survey bias

Survey bias can significantly affect the accuracy and reliability of survey results. The most common types of survey bias you should be aware of include:

Response bias

This bias occurs when respondents answer questions in a way that doesn't reflect their true thoughts or feelings. It can be due to social desirability—trying to give answers they think are more acceptable or favorable.

Sampling bias

Sampling bias happens when the survey sample doesn't represent the entire population. This can lead to skewed results that don't accurately reflect the broader group's opinions or behaviors.

Question order bias

The sequence in which questions are presented can influence how respondents answer subsequent questions. Earlier questions can set a context or tone that affects the interpretation of later questions.

Question-wording bias

The way questions are phrased can significantly impact responses. Leading or loaded questions can subtly suggest a particular answer or viewpoint, thereby influencing the respondent's answer.

Nonresponse bias

This bias arises when the individuals who choose not to respond to the survey differ significantly from those who do. Their absence can skew the survey results, as the opinions and characteristics of non-respondents are not represented.

Acquiescence bias

This is the tendency for respondents to agree with statements regardless of their content. It often occurs in surveys with many agree/disagree questions and can distort the true distribution of opinions.

Confirmation bias

When creating or analyzing surveys, researchers might unintentionally favor information or responses that confirm their pre-existing beliefs or hypotheses, leading to biased conclusions.

Related read: How do incentives impact bias in UX research?

How to create a survey

Here's a guide to help you design a survey that yields valuable insights:

Define your objectives

Clearly define what you want to achieve with your survey. Understanding your goals helps in crafting questions that are relevant and focused.

Know your audience

Tailor your survey to the audience you are targeting. Consider their demographics, preferences, and the context in which they will be answering your survey.

Keep the survey length in mind

Long surveys can lead to respondent fatigue, affecting the quality of responses. Keep your survey as brief as possible while still gathering all the necessary information. Respect the respondent’s time by keeping the survey concise.

Pilot your survey

Test your survey with a small group before full deployment. Piloting can help you identify any confusing questions or technical issues.

Write perfect survey questions 

The key to obtaining accurate and reliable data from your research is to write survey questions that are suited to your chosen method and are carefully worded to reduce bias. Even with a well-executed sampling process, the insights gained can be compromised if the survey is based on vague or biased questions.

Crafting effective survey questions involves writing clear and unbiased questions and thoughtfully arranging them to create a coherent and logical questionnaire. Here are some best practices to keep in mind to help you write good survey questions:

  • Use screener questions: Incorporate screening questions at the beginning of your survey to ensure you're gathering data from the right audience. These initial questions determine whether a respondent fits the demographic or criteria necessary for your research.
  • Ask the right questions: When writing your survey questions, focus on asking about topics that are essential and relevant to your research objectives. Avoid including questions that respondents may not be able to answer accurately.
  • Balance the question types: Use a mix of question types (multiple choice, open-ended, Likert scale, etc.) depending on what information you need. Balance is key; too many open-ended questions can be burdensome, while too many closed questions may not provide enough depth.
  • Write clear and concise questions: Ensure your questions are straightforward to understand. Avoid jargon, complex language, and double-barreled questions (questions that ask about two different things at once).
  • Avoid leading or biased questions: Questions should be neutral and not suggest a preferred response. Leading questions can skew your data and do not reflect the true opinions of respondents.
  • Pay attention to question order: Start with general questions and gradually move to more specific ones. Sensitive or personal questions should be placed towards the end.

How to recruit survey participants

Recruiting the right participants is a crucial step in conducting effective surveys. Here’s how you can ensure a successful recruitment process:

Identify your target audience

Clearly define who you need to survey. Understanding the characteristics of your desired respondents, such as their age, location, or consumer habits, helps in tailoring your recruitment strategy to reach the most relevant audience.

Avoid professional survey takers

Be wary of participants who frequently take part in surveys solely for incentives. These individuals might not provide genuine or thoughtful responses, which can skew your results. Look for participants who have a real interest in or stake in your survey's subject matter.

Choose appropriate recruitment channels

Select channels that your target audience frequents. This could include social media platforms, online forums, websites, or even physical locations. Tailoring your recruitment approach to the habits of your audience increases the likelihood of engagement.

Offer incentives wisely

Incentives can motivate participation, but choose them carefully. They should be appealing enough to encourage participation without being the sole reason for taking the survey. The incentive should align with the effort required to complete the survey.

Use screening questions

Employ screener questions to filter out respondents who don’t fit your criteria. UX research tools like Great Question make it easy to create screener survey questions, ensuring you don’t waste time going through useless survey responses.

Follow up respectfully

If necessary, send polite reminders to potential participants. However, be cautious not to spam or harass individuals, as this can damage your reputation and deter future participation.

Looking for research participants? Recruit from a panel of more than 3 million B2B and B2C research participants.

How to analyze survey data

Analyzing survey data is crucial for drawing meaningful conclusions and making informed decisions. Here’s a step-by-step approach to analyze your survey results:

Scrub the data

Cleaning your dataset involves removing incomplete responses, filtering out outliers, and ensuring consistency in the responses. Data cleaning is essential for the accuracy and reliability of the analysis.

Categorize responses

For open-ended questions, categorize the responses into themes or groups. Categorization helps you quantify qualitative data and makes it easier to analyze it alongside quantitative data. This analysis can reveal deeper insights into respondent attitudes and perceptions.

Analyze closed-ended questions

For closed-ended questions, use frequency analysis to understand how often certain responses were chosen. Pie charts and bar graphs can be helpful in visualizing this data and identifying the most common responses.

Look for trends & patterns

Examine the data for trends or patterns that emerge over various demographic groups or other criteria. This analysis can provide insights into how different groups perceive or react to your survey's subject.

Interpret the results

Interpret the data in the context of your initial research questions and objectives. Do not overextend the conclusions beyond what the data can reasonably support.

Report findings

Finally, compile your findings into a report. Present the data clearly using visuals like charts and graphs, where appropriate. Clearly articulate the implications of your findings for your audience.

What is a good survey response rate?

What's considered a good response rate can vary based on the type of survey, method of distribution, and the audience of respondents.

According to HubSpot, a response rate of about 33% is considered average across different types of surveys.

Specifically, in-person surveys tend to have the highest response rates, averaging around 57%, while mail surveys follow closely with a 50% average response rate. On the other hand, email surveys have a lower average response rate of around 30%.

However, it's important to note that these are just averages, and actual response rates can vary widely. A response rate of 50% or higher is often regarded as excellent, indicating high levels of participant motivation or a strong relationship between the business and the customer. That being said, it's more common to see survey response rates ranging from 5% to 30%.

In the context of business-to-business (B2B) surveys, the average response rate is around 33%. For Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys, any response rate above 20% is considered quite good. These benchmarks can help you set realistic expectations for survey response rates and evaluate the success of your survey efforts.

Related read: How to increase survey response rates

Survey design best practices

Follow these best practices in your survey design to ensure you collect reliable and actionable data:

  • Define clear objectives for your survey
  • Keep the survey concise and focused
  • Use simple, clear, and unbiased language
  • Include a mix of question types (e.g., multiple choice, open-ended)
  • Ensure questions flow logically and coherently
  • Pilot test your survey to identify potential issues
  • Offer incentives to increase response rates
  • Ensure respondent anonymity and data privacy

5 of the best online survey tools

Online survey tools have revolutionized how researchers gather and analyze data. They offer various features to help you easily design, distribute, and analyze surveys. Here are five of the best online survey tools available:

Great Question

Great Question offers a swift, efficient way to launch surveys and gather responses quickly. It provides various templates and AI-suggested questions for a quick start. It also has advanced features like skip logic and multiple question types to build comprehensive surveys.

The platform simplifies the research process by helping you recruit participants and track results all in one place, with the added capability of saving participant answers as custom attributes. Great Question also enhances the participant experience by automating the process of sending research incentives to respondents in any country.


SurveyMonkey is a user-friendly tool that helps you quickly create surveys with AI guidance, various question types, and over 250 expertly crafted templates. It enables you to collect feedback through multiple channels, like web links, emails, or directly on your website. With its built-in reports and customizable dashboards, you can easily analyze responses and uncover actionable insights.


Qualtrics offers an intuitive drag-and-drop interface for designing surveys, complete with advanced logic, over 100 question types, and pre-built templates. It allows you to reach respondents on various platforms, including mobile devices, apps, websites, and chatbots.

Qualtrics offers powerful statistical analysis and predictive intelligence. It also makes it easy to integrate these surveys seamlessly into existing systems like Zendesk.


With Pollfish, you can effortlessly create surveys within seconds using AI technology—simply type in your survey goal and let the AI do the rest. This tool offers access to over 250 million real consumers globally.

It ensures you receive real-time, high-quality responses thanks to comprehensive quality checks that eliminate survey fraud, bots, and irrelevant answers. Pollfish allows you to hyper-target your desired audience with detailed demographic and psychographic screening options, ensuring the responses you receive are perfectly aligned with your specified criteria.


Typeform elevates your survey experience, enabling you to gather deeper insights and more useful feedback for thorough research. With various popular templates like market research, customer feedback, and new product surveys, you have a solid starting point for any survey need. Moreover, Typeform's survey maker allows you to fully customize these templates, from colors to question types, ensuring each survey perfectly aligns with your specific requirements and aesthetic preferences.

The bottom line

Surveys are undoubtedly vital in gathering insights across various domains, from customer attitudes and preferences to brand awareness and website performance. The key to a successful survey lies in crafting clear, unbiased questions, choosing the right deployment method, and understanding the potential biases.

In today’s digital era, online survey tools like Great Question simplify research by revolutionizing data collection, offering user-friendly interfaces, AI-powered question creation, and deep analytic capabilities.

Keep in mind that the effectiveness of your survey also depends on proper participant recruitment and thoughtful data analysis. By adhering to best practices in survey design and analysis, you can unlock a wealth of information that drives innovation and enhances user experiences.

Jack is the Content Marketing Lead at Great Question, the end-to-end UX research platform for customer-centric teams. Previously, he led content marketing and strategy as the first hire at two insurtech startups, Breeze and LeverageRx. He lives in Omaha, Nebraska.

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