Survey Testing: A Guide to Collecting Actionable Data

Survey testing is an essential part of market research and is a valuable tool for businesses, organizations, and individuals to gather information and insights from their target audience.

It can be time-consuming, but it’s important to ensure that your questions are clear and everything is working as intended before sharing with your audience.

What is survey testing?

Survey testing refers to the process of evaluating the quality and effectiveness of a survey before you distribute it to a larger population.

This can include testing the survey questions for clarity, testing the survey logic and flow, and pilot testing the survey with a small group of participants to assess its effectiveness and identify any issues or areas for improvement.

The goal of this is to ensure that the survey will produce valid and reliable data.

Guide for testing surveys

If this is your first experience with questionnaire design, you may want to familiarise yourself with the best practices for writing survey questions. This will give you a good head start and help you avoid creating a flawed survey.

Below, we’ll describe the process and steps for testing your survey at different junctures. Some of these steps occur before you share your survey with respondents.

But it may surprise you that some of this analysis occurs after you’ve collected responses.

1. Preview your survey

Before sharing your survey with your target audience, you should preview and test its content and functionality first. Any decent survey software will allow you to do this in the app.

Here are a few ways to identify potential problems before running a pilot survey:

Review surveys questions

This ensures that your questions are clear, easy to understand, and free of errors. Some other factors you’ll want to keep in mind are:

  • Question-wording: you should word questions clearly and concisely.
  • Question order: the order of survey questions can have unintentional effects on how people respond to the following questions. You should order questions logically and in a way that creates as little bias as possible.
  • Question balance: There are two types of survey questions; closed-ended questions and open-ended questions. Both are essential to conducting well-rounded research projects, but the overuse of either can lead to survey fatigue (especially open-ended questions).
  • Don’t ask double-barrelled questions: only ever ask one question at a time. Failing to do this will confuse audiences and can result in inaccurate data.

Take a test run

This is an important step if you’ve enabled any custom features in your survey. Logic and Piping and both prime examples of this, you’ll want to be sure this is all working.

Shout allows you to respond to survey questions, as a respondent would, without saving a response.

Check device responsiveness

You’ll also want to check how your survey looks on different devices, like tablets and mobiles. Most online survey tools will do this for you, Shout will even let you preview your survey on mobile and tablet in the builder.

What you’ll want to check is that there are no bulky sections of text or other survey design issues that may impact respondent experiences.

When you’re previewing and testing your survey, you must do so from the point of view of a respondent. Try and remove any bias from your mind, and take an objective look at your questions.

The best thing to do would be to ask a friend or colleague to do a test run of your survey and have them give feedback on their experience.

2. Run a pilot test of your survey

Once you’ve tested the survey on your end, you’ll want to run a pilot study with a small sample of respondents. This is where you’d ask a small group of people, similar to the target audience, to answer the questions in your survey.

This allows you to identify any errors, confusion, or response bias in your survey before it goes live.

This also provides valuable insight into the kind of data you’ll collect, which can completely change your outlook on the survey questions you ask.

We recommend running a pilot test of your survey by the same method as you intend to conduct the real survey. This will give you the most comparable results and allows you to make accurate changes to your questions.

However, you may benefit from testing your survey via the below methods:

Online surveys

An online survey is a method of collecting data in which a researcher asks a set of questions to a group of participants through an online platform, such as a website, email, or social media. The participants respond to the questions by selecting from a list of predefined options or giving open feedback.

Face-to-face interviews

A face-to-face interview survey is a method of collecting data in which a trained interviewer interviews with a respondent in person. These types of surveys are typically used when the research topic is sensitive or personal. They can also gather detailed information from respondents, as the interviewer can ask follow-up questions and probe for more information.

Telephone interviews

A telephone interview survey is a method of collecting data in which a trained interviewer interviews with a respondent over the phone. These types of surveys are typically used to reach a wide geographic area and are less expensive than face-to-face interview surveys. They also reach respondents who may be hard to reach or who are not able to take part in a face-to-face interview.

Focus groups

A focus group survey is a method of collecting data in which a trained moderator leads a group discussion with a small, diverse group of individuals who share similar characteristics or experiences related to a specific research topic. The participants are selected based on specific criteria such as demographics, behaviour, or attitudes.

Observational studies

An observational study is a research method in which the researcher observes and records the behaviour of individuals or groups without actively influencing or altering it. The goal of an observational study is to understand the relationship between different variables and to gather information about a specific phenomenon in a natural setting.

3. Identify the best distribution method

After the questionnaire has been pilot tested, and any necessary changes have been made, it’s ready to go.

You may be wondering why we’ve included a section on distribution in an article about survey testing. That’s because, in an ideal world, you should also test which method of distribution has the highest yield of survey respondents.

If you’re distributing to an email list, this will be less of a concern for you. But other methods such as social media, phone, website embeds, and QR codes can be subject to fewer responses if the proper strategy isn’t in place.

Also, it’s important to ensure that the data collected is accurate and unbiased. This can be done by using random sampling techniques, using multiple methods of data collection, and using ethical research practices.

4. Report on your findings

Once you’ve collected and analyzed data, it’s important to report on your findings. Two ways of doing this are a written survey report or a presentation.

After analyzing the data, you may notice some issues that escaped you when survey testing. This is completely normal, and just something you’ll have to take note of when you conduct a survey again in the future.

Create a document that outlines these issues, whether they were caused by questions or technical glitches, and have it ready for next time.

Wrapping up

Survey testing is an essential part of market research and a valuable tool for businesses, organizations, and individuals to gather information and insights from their target audience.

The process of survey testing begins with the development of a questionnaire, followed by pilot testing, distribution, data collection, and analysis.

It’s important to note that survey testing is a process and not a one-time event, you need to continuously test and gather feedback to improve your surveys and your understanding of your target audience.

It’s important to report the findings clearly and concisely, making it easy for the reader to understand. With the right approach, survey testing can provide valuable insights that can aid in making informed decisions.