A free tool to help you write better survey questions (and the typeform behind it)

How Bellini Slushie validated their idea for a free, open source bank of survey questions.

  • Challenge: Ali and Tzeying make a lot of market research surveys, but writing the questions was always a frustrating process.
  • Solution: They decided to create a free, online bank of common survey questions.
  • Obstacle: It would be a lot of work to build an open source database, so Ali and Tzeying needed to check if other researchers would use it. They used a typeform to validate their idea.
  • Result: With juicy data to support its product-market fit, Bellini Slushie was born!

In the same way that 800 words make up 75% of spoken English, a handful of common questions make up the vast majority of surveys. Ali Grimaldi and Tzeying Cheng from Bellini Slushie are on a mission to stop researchers from needing to rewrite those questions every time.

Survey writing at breakneck speed

In 2018, Ali and Tzeying were working as a UX Researcher and a UX Designer in an innovation lab in Singapore. As they recall, it was an exhausting, exhilarating, creative, frustrating cycle. They’d develop solutions to problems and new ideas for products: ideas dreamed up on Monday and pitched on Wednesday could be canned by Friday. The turnaround was dizzying, and each new concept needed to be validated. As a Researcher, Ali spent a lot of her time creating customer surveys to prove that these projects were likely to be well-received. However, no matter how many surveys she created, the writing process was always chaotic.  

Creating a market research survey usually involved rejigging older surveys. It was a scavenger hunt through spreadsheets, typeforms, buried files, and emails to localization specialists. There was invariably one crucial question lost down the side of the (digital) sofa.

It was less of a lightning moment than a slow realization: there should be an easily navigable database of survey questions. It would save Ali loads of time. In fact, maybe it would save a lot of researchers loads of time. 

“I was always trying to recall how to ask certain questions, or the right context. I thought I’d just get through it, but Tzeying kept telling me, ‘You need a knowledge management tool.’ Eventually I said, ‘OK, let’s make something.’ ”

Ali Grimaldi

Perhaps building a public question bank could be Ali and Tzeing's first independent project together. But first, they'd need to see if all of their work would be worth the effort. They needed to be sure that other researchers had this problem, too.

Researching the researchers 

Ali and Tzeying needed to understand:

  1. Whether other researchers needed a question bank too

  2. Who were the researchers who would use a question bank

  3. Which types of questions should be added first

After spending countless hours building market research surveys, Tzeying and Ali knew how to craft a form. And more importantly, the best ways to engage users and get them to respond. For UX designer, Tzeying, choosing Typeform for the job was non-negotiable. 

“For me, there aren’t many good forms out there. They're mostly horrible, which is a problem that UX designers spend years trying to solve! Typeform is best in class in terms of user experience.”

Tzeying Cheng

Always conscious of digital-age attention spans, they kept their survey real simple. Just 10 multiple-choice questions and a field to enter your email address. It was easy to build too. 

Once they'd created the typeform, they promoted it with a Twitter ad. It ran for a couple of weeks, targeting folks in the market research and UX community. 

The ad only cost about as much as two cups of coffee per day, and received more than 100 responses. Most of them also signed up to be Bellini Slushie’s first users. 

Then they connected their typeform to Slack so that a notification came through every time there was a new response.

“I was really surprised that people were interested! We received so many slack notifications that I had to turn them off.”

Tzeying Cheng

The first 100 questions 

The results of the typeform shaped Bellini Slushie's roadmap, and contradicted some of the partners' initial hypotheses. Since Ali and Tzeying work across international markets, their biggest headache was usually translation and localization. They guessed that their fellow researchers would probably feel the same. 

However, when the results came in, translation was pretty low down the list of priorities for most respondents. Up at the top? Likert scales and the like(ert)... questions to understand customer behavior. 

The typeform also gave Ali and Tzeying concrete information on the kinds of people they were creating this database for, which helped them to build out four different user personas

They named the unfinished database after a craft beer in their favorite bar, and in March 2021 their MVBS—Minimum Viable Bellini Slushie—went live. 

The big dream: democratizing research 

It’s still early days, but the initial signs are promising. The Bellini Slushie question bank has a loyal and growing following. The partners have added an option for researchers to submit questions, and hope that this will become an autonomous online community.

“Our long term vision is something close to Wikipedia. Completely open source, with a lot of people contributing. Including big companies, many of which already have knowledge bases of survey questions of their own.”

Tzeying Cheng

If Bellini Slushie continues its trajectory, then everyone from newbie researchers to huge agencies will have access to the kind of well-considered questions that generate meaningful data. Oh, and there will be fewer eye-wateringly bad surveys on the internet. We’ll raise a pint of fruitily-named beer to that. 

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