I recently completed a survey that was supposed to be about a product, but it started with so many personal questions that I wasn’t even sure where the survey was going and if I’d be comfortable continuing. I was able to connect with the product founder though StartupNorth to talk about their goals and asking more effective survey questions.

Here’s how our public conversation on StartupNorth unfolded.

Lee Dale: I don’t understand what the first 6 questions have to do with your product. (Point being, I gave up filling out this survey because it’s needlessly invasive.)

WonJune Tai: They give us a better understanding of how different demographics answer the rest of our questions differently. For example, there difference between how much the average male cares about healthy eating vs how much the average female cares about healthy eating. It’s for context, mainly.

Lee Dale: Sure, more information helps you segment groups, but if it doesn’t get to the heart of what you want to learn about the product, why turn people off by asking questions about marital status, education, ethnicity, and employment?

In other words, those are terribly personal questions and they all come in advance of any interesting questions related to your actual product, which would help users understand that the purpose of your survey is more than just ad sales.

If you’re hung up on segmenting, ask the product questions first, and then include an optional section where you first ask for their email and then ask demographic questions, preferably with an explanation as to what product related value you’ll get out of an answer to such personal questions.

WonJune Tai: I’m sorry you were offended by our questions.

Lee Dale: I’m not offended, just sharing some friendly advice on how to get more responses and more email addresses.

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