Paper or online questionnaires are an effective means to collect feedback and opinions from a large population group. Questionnaires can be used to collect feedback from customers, staff and the general public or, alternatively, used to record observations and behaviour.

Understandably, when an organisation administers a questionnaire, it hopes to receive as much engagement and completions as possible. The more responses you receive, the bigger the pool of data you have to perform analysis from and thus the more accurate your findings will represent the opinion of your target audience.

It can be quite frustrating when a low number of questionnaires are being returned, despite several reminders. Although the reasons for not returning questionnaires may be a lack of interest, occasionally, the quality of the design of the questionnaire may be a hindrance. The design of the questionnaire may leave some people finding it difficult or unable to complete, even if they wanted to.

Here are 6 things to consider when designing your questionnaire to prevent a low questionnaire return rate:

Font Size & Style

We want our questionnaires to be attractive to people in order to encourage feedback; however this may be over done in certain occasions. A fancy font style will look really nice but may be illegible. The same applies to the size of the font. We may be inclined to use a small size in order to save in printing cost and to make the questionnaire appear shorter to people, but is this at the expense of illegibility?


English may not be everyone’s first language and many will find it hard to understand written English. If you’re aware in advance that your target audience vary in ethnicity and race, it is a good idea to offer options to complete the questionnaire in a different language.

Instruction Sheet

A quick paragraph long instruction sheet will do a world of good and ensures you receive responses in the format you want. A lack of an instruction sheet may result in some answers being circled, others ticked and others crossed. To promote legibility, state a basic set of instructions such as writing within the box for free text responses and having all multiple choice responses ticked. Other useful instructions include the colour of ink to be used and how to deal with making corrections, if a respondent wishes changes their answer.

Question Types & Response Methods

The key thing with both question types and response methods is to add variation. That will help both you and your respondents. Ask a mix of open and closed ended questions as you best see fit. Closed-ended questions are ideal for a short and snappy response and open-ended questions are more suited to drawing out a specific opinion from a respondent. Mix and match response methods too. Don’t always use multiple choice boxes; consider numbered range responses or asking respondents to number statements in order of preference/importance.

Another good option is to use imagery as a response method. For example, smiley faces and expressions to denote different emotions towards something.

A last note on response methods: give them enough space to write! We have come across so many questionnaire where a respondent is asked to provide basic details such as name and address, but the spacy given is so tiny! If you want answers you can read, provide enough space.

Layout & Colour

A subtle approach works best for layout and colour. You want your questions and answer space evenly distributed across a page to prevent any confusion for respondents and to promote good responses, particularly in the case for open-ended questions. In choosing colour, plain white works best, but if you are to choose different colours go for something that is calming on the eye and not too bright and “loud”.

Media & Multi-Mode Completion

If you’re embarking on administering a questionnaire that a respondent will complete online or on their tablet, make use of media to promote higher response rates. Appropriate use of images and videos can make a questionnaire more interesting to complete. Moreover, if your questionnaire is for a wide target audience, a multi-mode completion option is beneficial. Give you respondents the option to complete the questionnaire online or on paper, the more ways they can submit, the higher the engagement rates.

Target Audience

Before making a decision on any of these 6 factors, it is recommended to do a quick profile on your target respondents. Understand the environment the questionnaire will be completed in, the age range, ethnicity and other demographics of your audience. This will really help you personalise the questionnaire appropriately.

We will design your questionnaire for free

Document Capture Co is currently offering a free questionnaire design or re-designs. We will design your questionnaire for you and take you through our thought process behind the design and the next steps for free. Upload your questionnaire here.