Asking the right questions is critical to any survey, whether you’re conducting customer research or polling a general audience. The type of questions you ask will determine the quality of data you collect, which is why it’s essential to understand the difference between close-ended vs open-ended questions.
In short, close-ended questions are those that can be answered with a yes or no, or closed variable equivalent, such as multiple choice. This means that the structure of the response data is finite or has parameters that make it easier to sort, organize or visualize. Open-ended questions require a more detailed response, which means that the response can be less structured, and open to a broader range of response formats. For example, an open-ended question can pose a thought provoking statement and have the respondent answer the question openly without limitation by typing or speaking. Each type of question has its own advantages and disadvantages, which we’ll explore in more detail below. Use this blog as a guide to the differences between close-ended vs open-ended questions so that you can make the most of your next survey!
Advantages of Close-Ended Questions
Close-ended questions have a few distinct advantages. First, they’re less time-consuming for respondents, since they don’t require as much thought or reflection as open-ended questions. They can be ideal for a quantitative study or lead generation survey, that require results to be sorted into quantitative charts or if the survey is heavily focused on conversion, and requires a fast approach to collecting data. Close-ended questions also allow you to collect data that’s easy to quantify and compare. These question types also have fixed answers, limiting the amount of room respondents have to misinterpret response opens or introduce any sort of bias into the survey.
Disadvantages of Close-Ended Questions
While close-ended questions have their advantages, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider. First, because they limit respondents to fixed answers, they may not always provide the level of detail you need to make informed decisions. This means you might miss out on some of the emotional context or nuance behind some of the answers. Second, if not crafted carefully, close-ended questions can lead to inaccurate results, as users might be confused by what is being asked, and only have a finite amount of response options. In these cases adding an “other” option and allowing users to respond openly could be helpful.
Advantages of Open-Ended Questions
Open-ended questions have a few distinct advantages over close-ended ones. First, because they require respondents to elaborate on their thoughts and feelings, they tend to provide richer data that can be used to inform decision making. The most important thing when it comes to open ended questions in a survey, is leveraging a survey that lets users respond honestly and authentically, speaking their mind in ways they feel comfortable, such as by voice or text. Second, they help reduce response bias by allowing respondents to express themselves freely without being limited by fixed answer choices. And lastly, open-ended questions can be used to probe deeper into areas of interest uncovered during earlier parts of the survey.
Disadvantages of Open-Ended Questions
While open-ended questions offer several advantages over close-ended ones, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider. First, because they require more thought and reflection from respondents, they tend to be more time consuming, which means responses won’t be collected as quickly. One suggestion to consider is allowing respondents the choice to answer your open-ended questions with voice, allowing them to provide rich detail in a shorter period of time that it would take to type out a response. Open-ended responses can be difficult to analyze due to their freeform nature, so another consideration is to ensure you have a solution that automates and structures your data. One consideration is to use a survey tool like Voiceform, as we auto-transcribe all voice-responses, and also provide automated analysis like sentiment analysis or topic extraction from the data. And lastly, because they don’t limit respondents to fixed answer choices, they may result in higher levels of variation in your results—making comparisons more difficult.
The best surveys ensure respondents get the best of qualitative and quantitative questions.
Now that you understand the difference between close ended vs open ended questions, it’s time to put this knowledge into practice! Ultimately, we recommend a survey that includes a mix of both closed and open ended questions. This ensures you can make your survey easy to fill out, easy to analyze and still offers opportunities to drill into the emotional insight and rich qualitative detail collected from your audience. When crafting your next customer survey, consider Voiceform, as we offer the best of both quantitative and qualitative question types, and offer robust customizations like conditional logic, and rich analysis tools like sentiment analysis and themes analysis. By taking the time to ask the right types of questions, and using a survey platform that lets your respondents have added flexibility in how they answer questions, you can ensure that you collect high quality data that you can use to inform important business decisions—driving your brand forward in the process! Get started with Voiceform for free, or book a demo to learn more!