What makes a strong design for paper surveys?

April 23, 2013

For businesses and organizations that are looking for information or opinions from a large number of people, providing a survey is generally one of the most efficient ways to do it. With a paper survey and a data capture service, companies can acquire necessary information from participants quickly and make decisions based on the data obtained. However, creating a strong survey – including the best questions and question sequence – can affect how accurate responses are. The layout and design of a survey is also relevant.

When designing a survey, one expert says that one of the most important features to remember is clarity. Not only should questions be as straightforward as possible to ensure that both question askers and respondents are on the same page, but the layout itself can also help make a question more clear. 

“If the respondent finds your survey easy to read and follow, your response rate will improve. In addition, a well-formatted survey will reduce your measurement error, as respondents will be more likely to follow the flow of the survey, and less likely to misread or overlook questions,” University of Virginia instructional design specialist Elizabeth Fanning wrote in a survey guide.

When formatting, Fanning stresses to keep a layout consistent, symmetrical and simple.

Under the “consistent” category, this includes the style and size of fonts, and the indentation of questions and answers. If all questions are designed similarly, participants will be able to determine quickly how to answer a question. This is especially important when questions have multiple components, such as if the answer of one question leads to the next one. If this is the case, Fanning encourages using white space around the questions and extra instructions to help respondents know what to do.

To make a survey symmetrical, avoid using two columns. Though it may be tempting to try to fit in as many questions onto a page as possible, especially when trying to save costs or paper, but ensuring that the flow of the questions is clear can help survey designers achieve accurate responses.

Making a survey simple can often mean using only one side of a paper, neutral colors and fonts, and only including what’s necessary when asking a question. As always, the more clear a survey is, the more accurate the responses will be. 

After a survey has been given out, the faster a company can retrieve the information, the faster it can be used. To do this efficiently, data entry services can extract the information from high volumes of paper, helping businesses obtain information as quickly as possible. 

Tab Service Company is a Chicago based company with over 53 years of experience as a data processing service provider.  We provide business with outsourcing solutions for document scanning services, data entry services and mailing/lettershop services.  As a SOC2-approved service organization, we apply industry-best practices to our approach with clients.