As researchers, we are most successful when we create and design surveys with participants in mind. What do participants want and need when taking a survey? What type of experience motivates them most? With this in mind, design thinking is a powerful set of principles for researchers to utilize when developing surveys.

So, what is design thinking? Design thinking takes the work processes of designers to help us systematically extract, teach, learn and apply human-centered techniques to solve problems in creative and innovative ways across art, music, science, engineering and business.

Design thinking is a human-centric and iterative process in which we seek to understand people, challenge assumptions and redefine problems in an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions that may not be immediately apparent. Design thinking revolves around a deep interest in understanding the people for whom we’re designing a product, service  – or in this case a survey. The process starts with the audience you are designing for and ends with the solutions that best fit the problem.

Some of the world’s leading brands from Apple to Google to GE have adopted design thinking to solve key business problems.

The basic principles of design thinking are:

Empathize with your research participants: Put yourself in the shoes of the individuals who will participate in your survey. Seek to fully understand these individuals. Determine how they will interpret your research topic and your survey questions. What is their worldview What is their skillset?    

Define the problem: The researchers must have a deep understanding of the problem that needs to be solved in order to generate meaningful insights. By defining the research problem, you create a more effective, well-targeted idea of how you develop the survey and communicate insights back to clients.

Ideate, ideate, ideate: The ultimate goal of ideation is to generate as many ideas as possible that are relevant to the research topic. Ideas developed during this process can be broad and include everything from how certain questions should be asked to how different mediums like video and virtual reality can be incorporated to how survey results are blended with other types of insights.

Prototype the survey: The researchers must evaluate the ideas generated and select the best options. The best ideas should be used to develop a prototype of the research study.

Test the research: Testing the survey is imperative for success. This can be done by conducting a pilot project with your survey to gather participant feedback. The feedback received can be used to make adjustments and refinements to the survey before launching to the wider audience.