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Creating Effective Online Surveys: The Ultimate Guide

Making an important decision is much simpler when you have data to back it up. But how exactly do you get the data you need to make crucial, impactful decisions for your business?

Team brainstorming in a meeting

Types of Survey Questions

To get the most accurate and reliable data, it’s important to create clear survey questions. The question styles you use depend on the type of information you need to gather. Using a variety of question styles creates a more interesting survey and can help deter boredom and survey abandonment.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the most popular types of survey questions, what they’re best used for, and pro tips for using them in your surveys.

Likert Scale Questions

The Likert scale asks a question and has respondents reply by selecting an answer from a scale. The most common response options include “Agree,” “Somewhat Agree,” “Neutral,” “Somewhat Disagree,” and “Disagree.” You can also use an answer scale with likely to unlikely, satisfied to unsatisfied, helpful to not helpful, or any other descriptor that makes sense for your question or statement.

This survey question type is best for: Measuring attitudes and opinions on a deeper level. Likert scales give you more insight than yes or no answers.

Pro Tip

Balance your responses

Always balance your responses. Don’t offer more positive selections than negative ones and vice versa. This will help you avoid bias and improve the quality of your data. You should also avoid using number scales—sticking with clear, descriptive words makes it easier to provide a true answer.

Matrix Field Questions

A matrix field is best used for gathering similar feedback across various topics or questions. The answer selections do not change, making these questions easy to understand and great for comparisons or rankings. Use a matrix field to minimize the number of questions in your survey and make it appear shorter.

This survey question type is best for: Asking multiple questions that all have the same set of possible responses.

Pro Tip

Limiting matrix fields

Using too many rows or columns in your matrix field can lead to straight-lining, which is when a survey taker simply chooses the same answer down the row. It’s smart to limit your matrix field to five questions or less, with no more than five answer options to choose from.

Multiple-Choice Questions

Multiple choice is by far the most popular type of survey question. This question type provides the survey taker with a set of possible answers, minimizing the time it takes to think of an answer and making data analysis easier on the back end. Multiple-choice questions can include a single answer (pick your favorite ice cream flavor) or multiple answers (what ice cream flavors do you enjoy).

This survey question type is best for: Questions that have a distinct set of answers.

Pro Tip

No overlapping answers

Don’t offer overlapping answers. For example, don’t ask for the age of the participant, then proceed to list the answers as 15–18, 18–21, 21–25, etc. All answers should be different to ensure accurate data.

Net Promoter Score Questions

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a question used across industries to measure customer loyalty by asking, “How likely are you to recommend our business to someone else?” It uses a 1–10 rating scale to divide customers into the categories of promoters, passives, and detractors.

This survey question type is best for: Using as a stand-alone survey question after a customer has an interaction with your business.

Pro Tip

Use a pop-up survey

This type of survey question serves as an alternative to traditional customer satisfaction surveys. It gives you the power to measure overall customer satisfaction and brand loyalty with just a single question! Use it as a pop-up survey on your website after a customer makes a purchase.

Open-Ended Questions

Give your survey takers the power to provide authentic feedback in their own words. Use a short question that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no.

This survey question type is best for: Asking for general feedback or asking questions that are not easily answered with one response.

Pro Tip

Less open-ended questions

Avoid using too many open-ended questions. The more your survey takers have to type, the less likely it is that they will get to the end. Substitute with multiple-choice questions when possible.

Ranking Questions

Understand what your audience deems most important and least important with a ranking question. This will help you pinpoint where to invest the most time, money, and resources.

This survey question type is best for: Ranking similar groups or topics, such as product features, parts of an event, or topic interests.

Pro Tip

Stay under budget

Need to cut something to stay under budget? Include a ranking question in your survey to help guide the conversation on what should get the boot. You’ll get insight into what your customers love and what they won’t miss.

Rating Scale Questions

Rating scales usually use numbers or images to gather feedback on the satisfaction or happiness of customers. It can also be used to determine thoughts on the quality of a product or service.

This survey question type is best for: Gathering general feedback on a particular topic, event, product, or experience.

Pro Tip

Use graphics

Use graphics to make ratings more fun! Be sure to clearly state what each star rating means to ensure your audience knows exactly how their star rating translates.

Exploring question options

Fun Fact


Formstack provides over 15 question types for surveys!