How to Write a Proper Survey Introduction
Hello everyone! During my time as a survey creator, I have seen countless online surveys, each with its own format and structure. In fact, there is no concrete standard for online surveys that survey creators must follow. The lack of standardization can be seen most clearly in differences between survey introductions and the information provided within them. This freedom in the creation process does help researchers create their own unique look and feel, but it can also leave researchers confused on what information they should be including.
In this article, we will cut through all the colourful designs and interesting styles found in surveys and discuss what makes a proper introduction so crucial, as well as the key sources of content that should be included in all questionnaire intros!
Why are Introductions so Important?
It is argued by many research professionals that creating the correct introduction is the most important part of developing a survey. The reason for this strong sentiment is that the majority of potential respondents will decide whether or not to drop out of the questionnaire based solely on the first page. So, in essence, the intro of the survey acts as the hook to keep respondents.
Furthermore, just like in person interviews, the introduction will set the tone for the rest of the survey. Without providing the correct information your respondents may feel uncomfortable or suspicious of the research study. So when you create your introduction, look at your survey from the perspective of the respondent. Remember, each respondent has to decide whether they are going to provide you with their personal information. The best advice is to try to predict if there are any concerns a respondent may have, and address them immediately in the survey.
The Introduction Essentials
The screen shot below depicts a bare bones introduction. As you will see, each sentence of the intro has a purpose and represents a necessary element of the first page of any questionnaire.
To create an excellent first page a researcher should ensure that the introduction contains four key parts:
1) A thank you statement: An introductory thank you will go a long way for making respondents feel welcome and willing to participate. Not only should this statement reflect your gratitude to the respondent, it should also highlight the importance of their input. This will make the respondent feel valuable to the study.
2) The topic of the study: Many people can be reluctant to complete a survey that they do not understand or are suspicious of. It’s therefore best to be up front and transparent with your research goals and purpose. Explain why you’re conducting the questionnaire and how the data will be used. This will build respondent trust and encourage honest, truthful survey answers.
3) The expected time to complete the survey: Respondents will be more likely to take part in a study if they have an idea of how much time they can expect to spend on the questionnaire. Moreover, adding the estimated time will show that you take into account the respondent’s schedule and are not wasting his/her time.
4) A confidentiality statement: If you’re collecting data for the purpose of studying a group as a whole, rather than individual respondents, make sure you promote the survey as confidential. Assuring respondents stay anonymous will allow them to put their privacy concerns at ease and answer all questions truthfully.
TIP: If your survey requires external information on a topic or familiarization with a document, it is best to identify this and provide a link on the bottom of the introductory page. That way they can follow the link before they begin the survey. Do not cut and paste large documents to the introduction! This will look messy and increase the number of drop outs.
The styling is up to you, but by ensuring that each of these elements is present in your survey introduction, respondents will be more likely to participate and provide rich information!
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2. A simple thank you
Power up your survey introduction with a thank you note.
Hey, it’s not only a sign of appreciation, it’s the least you can do!
Your participants are giving up their time for you to benefit from.
They are not gaining anything from doing this (except maybe your super relevant incentive). Try your best to make this experience as human and “spontaneous” as possible by adding a personal touch, especially by thanking your respondents.
(Thank you, by the way. You’re doing an awesome job reading all the way to the end… )
Use this template: We personally want to thank YOU for every second invested in our research. You rock!
If your company and research allows it, make this even more personal.
Give your brand a face.
Adding a real person’s name works just as well in surveys as it does in a newsletter, blog post or podcast.
Use this template: Thanks for helping us out. From all of us at [company name], [your name] [your title (optional)]
3. Less is more
Take everything you’ve learned in the previous steps…
And now scratch that!
Because a little less will do.
We recommend to always write your survey introduction text as short as possible.
… Sorry, I know!
People – especially those in a hurry – don’t want to waste their time reading page-long introductions before finally being able to start your survey. Use only the essentials from the above tips. Then go ahead and just make your point.
By writing up your survey introduction as short as possible, you force yourself to only focus on the most important message. And you don’t waste respondent’s time even before they’ve taken the survey. Getting them in is what’s most important.
4. Inviting atmosphere is key
The first step for your introduction is making sure people will enter your survey and answer questions. Your second priority, is making sure they’re honest.
Here’s how to get that done:
Honesty:“You get what you give. What you put into things is what you get out of them.” – Jennifer Lopez.
Don’t expect your participants to blindly answer in a truthful way if they don’t know the full picture surrounding your study. Offer all corresponding information from the very beginning to avoid sloppy data which could lead to “brand dilution”.
Neutrality: Try to remain neutral throughout your entire survey, not just your introduction. You often see companies using one liners like “leading company in our niche” or “Bringing you the best service”. Don’t do this! As it will only create confusion and prejudice instead of confidence and reliable data.
Now let’s summarize, and get to the good stuff:
The perfect survey introduction example
Followed all of the steps above? Nice!
You will have a survey introduction that is perfect and by the book!
Does it look like it got a bit too long?
Too much info?
Simply not as appealing as you thought it would be?
We wrote up a short, generic and to-the-point version for you to use. The perfect survey introduction example:
Use the ultimate template:
Hey, glad to see you around here!
First of all, let me thank you for taking our [survey duration] survey. You are a great help! 🙂
We at [company name] are on a daring quest to collect the right data about [survey subject]. Our target audience involves everyone who [target audience]. This is why we chose you!
And don’t worry, your data is just for [where you will use it] ]so [be clear about their privacy]. We promise!
– Get started and take your chance to WIN [a grand prize]
It’s most important to make this introduction represent you as a brand, organization or person.
It’s the first step of starting up a conversation.
And don’t be afraid to entertain: Don’t bore, get more. 😉
Extra tips & inspiring introduction examples
1. Increase brand recognition
Hey it’s you!
By adding your logo at the top of your intro screen, you’ll increase brand recognition without having to push it forward during the entire survey.
Make people feel like they’re talking to an old friend.
2. Use a conversational tone
Most people still associate surveys with these boring tasks that are basically – let’s face it – a waste of their time.
Spice up your language and bring some humanity into your questions.
Making your surveys more conversational will benefit your participation and completion rate tremendously!
EXTRA: If your brand and tone of voice allow it, throw in an interjection here and there. A “yee-hah” to show joy or an “ooh-la-la” to let respondents know they can win a prize?
Works like a charm.
Take a look at this list of interjections, for exclamations in every kind of situation.
3. Turn a frown upside down with emoticons
Go back 15 years in time and nobody would even THINK of using a smiley face.
Well, that period is over and now it’s totally fine.
In fact, did you know that the use of emoticons in your communication increases the empathy towards your brand?
Perfect to express the mood of your survey, if your message is a playful one.
4. What’s in a name? Don’t use the word “survey”
Long, boring, difficult, too much work, … the word “survey” brings out some awful associations. We cannot blame our respondents. Instead, ask people to answer “a few questions” or to “spare a minute of their time”.
By avoiding the actual word you’ll see an increase in clicks and actual responses. This works in the introduction screen of your questionnaire, but in your email invites as well for example.
Keep in mind though that you should stick to just 4 questions if that’s what you said!
5. Show off the (incentive) goodies
A reward for answering a couple of questions lowers the threshold tremendously! Even more so if there’s a game or contest connected to the reward. The thrill of playing and possibly winning something is a perfect addition to your survey introduction.
6. In all seriousness
There’s a time and place for everything, so if your questionnaire is much too serious for smileys or “whoopees”, you can still write up a longer introduction that eases the respondent into the setup.
A competency assessment, like the above example, is something that requires more information. They managed to put quite a lot of it in the introduction, but decided to refer to an informative page via a hyperlink in case an employee would like to read up before getting started.