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Layout and design of your questionnaire

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Follow these points to make your questionnaire inviting and encourage the best possible response.

Design tips

  • Your first questions should be short, easy to answer and interesting to grab the attention of your participants. Use bold or italics to direct attention to important words if this will not reduce accessibility for your target audience.
  • Test the readability of the font, and any colours if used.
  • Use a font and font size suited to your target audience.
  • Limit the line length of your questions and response options.
  • Arrange questions on the page to make sure they are attractive, bearing in mind overall length. 
  • For longer online surveys, think how to break the questionnaire into separate sections and pages.
  • Make your question numbering clear – either number sequentially throughout the questionnaire or on each page.
  • Use subheadings and clear explanation to guide people through the questionnaire.
  • For all questions, give simple, exact instructions on how to answer them. For example, tick the box, circle the number, add any comments in the space below.
  • For online questionnaires, make sure you have chosen the correct question type in the survey package you are using.
  • For both online and hard copy questionnaires, make sure there is enough space for qualitative answers.
  • For online questionnaires make sure your welcome screen is friendly and inviting.

Accessibility for different groups

  • It is important to design your questionnaire so it is accessible and reflects the experiences, views and perspectives of different groups. This will help you to limit coverage bias (when a survey is unable to reach people who you want to get responses from).
  • It may be useful to consult with organisations that have specific experience of working with particular target groups to make your questionnaire more accessible.
  • There are resources you can use to improve access. For example, tools to assist people with learning disabilities or dyslexia. 

Online questionnaires

  • Remember that some groups may not have access to technology or may find using it a challenge. You may want to offer a paper-based questionnaire as an alternative. 
  • If you are using an online survey, test your questionnaire in an accessible format for respondents with visual impairment. 
  • Some online survey software creates questionnaires for respondents who use screen readers.
  • Use bright and distinct colours which provide contrast and are the easiest to distinguish.
  • Blind and partially-sighted people can access electronic documents by using special software. These are more accessible than paper-based questionnaires. The software can enlarge text on the screen, read it out, or show it in braille. But it is important for the questionnaire to be designed appropriately, and it will be helpful to get guidance on this.

Hard copy questionnaires

A guide to making printed documents more accessible

  • Use a font size of 14 point. Be prepared to print in 16 point or 20 point.
  • Use a sans-serif typeface like Arial or Helvetica, avoiding italics and ornate typefaces.
  • Make sure there is contrast between the background and the text. 
  • Use a left alignment and allow for generous spacing between paragraphs.
  • Use bold rather than upper case for emphasis.
Page last edited Dec 16, 2016

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