Consider user experience in survey design

What happens when you present a respondent with a survey question? Yes, you’re right! One hopes the respondent answers the question. But whose to say the respondent provided an accurate answer? How did the respondent arrive at the answer they did, and how can you use that knowledge to build a better question? We can consider this the user experience element of survey design.

Bell (2007) developed a framework that we might consider:

  1. First, the respondent has to read and understand the question being asked. Is your question stated in simple, clear language?
  2. Second, the respondent has to consider the question in relation to their prior experience. Which experiences are you assuming they will draw upon to answer your question?
  3. Third, the respondent has to integrate all their prior experience into a single answer. They may or may not draw upon their most recent experience to answer. How you phrase your question will determine if they are trying to average across all experiences, or remember the most recent, etc.
  4. Finally, they have to communicate their feeling through one of your response options. Are your responses adequate to support a respondent in conveying the sentiment you have surfaced through your questions? Be sure your responses provide the respondent with adequate opportunity to express themselves.

Bell’s framework provides us a valuable method to consider the respondent’s user experience. As you craft questions, one might consciously explore the question and answer options through this lens. The result? More accurate questions and, ultimately, less bias in the answer!


Bell, A. (2007). Designing and testing questionnaires for children. Journal of Research in Nursing 12, 5. 461–469.