When designing a new survey, it is a good idea to think about the needs for the data and the final output. Will you export the survey records directly to PDF for your stakeholders, or will you be analyzing the raw data in Excel? Just because you have been using a paper form for all these years doesn’t mean that your survey has to be designed the same way. Think about ways to streamline your data entry with hide/show rules and to increase the accuracy with drop-down lists.

What works best on paper may not be the same on a mobile device. 

Pick the Best Question type for Efficient Data Entry

Take advantages of the tools that can help with accuracy. Use the best question type for the data that will be collected.

  • drop-down lists
    Great for a defined set of answers. Using a list ensures all entries will have the same spelling which will help with analysis. Remember to use the best list type for the data:
    For 2-5 Items Use: Check Boxes, Radio Buttons;
    For 6 or > Items Use: Single Select with Search, Multiple Select with Search.
  • locations
    Project Locations not only help with data entry, they can help you sort surveys and filter exports.
  • taxonomy lists
    Wildnote maintains pre-filled plant and wildlife taxonomy lists with up to date hierarchical categories.. The taxonomy lists speed up data entry with auto-filters as you type symbols, common, or scientific/Latin names. For more information see article "Using the Taxonomy List.
  • number fields
    Limiting data entry to numbers not only speeds up the data entry but it ensures the answer will be numeric.
  • counters
    When you need to quickly count items as you see a counter can be much quicker than a number field.

Note, for a description of each question type click on the "i" icon in the question edit box.

Use a Number Prefix to Force the Sort Order of Lists

List items are sorted alphabetically by default. If you need a different order use numbers or letters at the beginning of each item like this:

Confusing Sort Order

  • dead
  • healthy
  • struggling
  • vibrant

Better Sort Order

  • 01 vibrant
  • 02 healthy
  • 03 struggling
  • 04 dead

Hide and Show Questions to Speed Data Entry

To simplify survey forms it is helpful to hide questions unless they are needed. For example, you could have a question about the existence of site violation. If the violation exists then you can reveal additional questions about the type and details of the violation. 

For more details read "How to Hide and Show Questions"

Group Questions with Sections
Perhaps your survey has different sections with information that belongs together. The first step to creating a section is to:

  1. Select ADD QUESTION
  2. For 'Question Type,' scroll to 'Design' and select 'Section.'
  3. In the 'Question Text' field, name your section.
  4. Click SAVE.
  5. Now you can begin creating the questions that go inside your section.
    As you create the child questions, simply grab the 2 square icon, and drag the question on top of the section. You will see the section bar turn golden and the question will be indented under that section. You can put as many questions in a section as you wish.


Utilize Repeaters for Recurring Data

Another nice feature is the “Repeater” question type. If you are collecting a similar set of data over and over, then the repeater is the way to go. When using your mobile device to collect data, both Repeaters and Sections can be expanded and collapsed so that your form doesn’t get long and cumbersome. A repeater is similar to a section in that you place questions inside of a repeater “container."

  1. Select ADD QUESTION
  2. For 'Question Type,' scroll to 'Design' and select 'Repeater.'
  3. In the 'Question Text' field, name your section.
  4. Click SAVE.
  5. Then create your questions and drag them over the “Repeater” bar until it turns golden. Just as with the Section.

Speed up Data Entry with Default Answers

Presetting a question with a default answer on your survey form can speed up data entry when you expect the answer to be the same most of the time. 

  1. Take care to insure you have type the Default Answer correctly. This is especially important when entering default answers for lists. If the answer does not precisely match it will not be pre-selected.
  2. Default Answer Rules - Optionally you can set requirements to include the default answer based on answers to other questions.

For more information see article "Speed up Data Entry with Default Answers."

Sort your Question Order
As you add more questions, use the up/down arrow icon to sort your questions.

PRO TIP: To see how your survey looks while you are creating it, open the survey in another instance of Wildnote. See image below and steps that follow.

  1. Open up another tab in your browser and launch another instance of Wildnote.
  2. Open the project and to to PROJECT ADMIN > SURVEYS
  3. Put a check next to your new survey.
  4. Make sure you scroll to the bottom of the list and click the SAVE button.
  5. Now you can create a survey record with the new survey form and check the changes as you edit. Select MANAGE DATA > REPORT & EDIT.
  6. Select your new survey from the drop-down list labeled 'Surveys' to see the survey.
  7. As you make changes and build your survey, you can simply switch browser tabs and refresh the screen to see those changes.

Balance the Survey Design between Efficient Data Entry and Final Output Goals

Consider the final output when you are creating your survey form. If you want the columns of your Excel Export in a certain order you may want to order them that way in the survey. The trick is to always consider the impact on the data collection. If you have to scroll up and down the survey when you are collecting data you may lose valuable time in the field. 

Did this answer your question?