Designing and running successful online surveys

Photo credit: Imaged shared by idleformat, under a Creative Commons license

Today I attended a workshop on designing successful online surveys, facilitated by Tabetha Newman. The workshop, held at Bristol’s M Shed, aimed to help attendees understand the basics of good online survey design; from choosing software to the practicalities of running a survey. This was the first in a two part series of workshops – the second, to be held next spring, will focus on the management and analysis of data collected via online surveys.

The most useful section of the workshop, for me, was the introduction of Tabetha’s POETS model of design:

Population

Objectives

Ethics and data protection

Timeline

Sampling

Each letter of the acronym holds within it a range of questions and points to consider. For example, under Timeline, Tabetha notes the importance of factoring in extra time for testing, receiving feedback, chasing respondents and data analysis.

This method has helped me to organise my thinking around the requirements of the framework tool. The self-evaluation framework is by no means  a standard survey, and having a structured way of considering how to present the framework will be very useful.

Tabetha also touched on some important points to keep in mind when designing the look of the survey. She noted the importance of font size,  users should be able to see the question they are answering. The overall organisation of the page was also considered, it is good practice to keep questions uniform, changing the style or size of a question can throw participants off. Tabetha also commented on the advantage of fresh eyes – asking someone else to look over the framework and examine where their eye naturally falls on the page.

Through today’s workshop I was also introduced to Mike and Tom, who work on Bristol Online Surveys. They had some very useful advice regarding the final presentation of the framework- since it is rich in content I have had serious concerns about it being overwhelming for participants and they had some really great solutions to this.

Overall, the workshop has been very useful to me – personally I am someone who prefers to hear tips and advice from someone who can relate them to actual practice – seeing someone talk about something they clearly have a lot of experience in is far more informative than reading a textbook!

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