Questionnaire Designer

Mandatory (required) questions

In Survey Solutions any question may be left unanswered for reasons beyond the control of the questionnaire designer. The respondent may refuse to answer a particular question, don’t know the answer, or a family member may be unavailable for answering. Every once in a while our support team is receiving questions on how to designate a question “required”, so that the interview may not proceed unless this particular question is answered.

September 15, 2020

Text substitution

In Survey Solutions it is possible to design questionnaires that use text substitution, denoted with an identifier enclosed in percentage signs, like so: %varname%. In other software this may be known under the term “text piping”, “answer piping”, “text propagation”, etc. The common situations when you may want to use this are: mention an answer collected earlier; display a calculated result; display reference values, etc. For text substitution it is important what may be substituted in, and where a substitution may be used.

January 24, 2020

Randomizing order of questions

In this example we will consider similar questions (all of them categorical single-select) rating different aspects of the stay in a resort hotel. Our objective is to present the questions in different order for different respondents. Our other objective is to avoid pre-programming sequences of questions, as this is tedious and creates questionnaires with just a few sequences of questions. We will rely on the following Survey Solutions elements: text substitution (text-piping) with the whole question text being substituted; random value to make the sequences of questions differ for different respondents; shuffling algorithm, we will use D.

July 17, 2017

Alternatives to Date Type Question

A date type question requires three components of the date to be specified: year, month, day. If any of them is not known, the interviewers may not enter the other ones, even if they are known. When this is not acceptable, date type question should not be used. Instead consider one of the following alternatives: Three separate questions; Patterned text question, with pattern specified as ####-##-## Categorical question with year-month combinations, such as: 2016-September 2016-October 2016-November 2016-December 2017-January 2017-February 2017-March 2017-April

April 20, 2017

Replacement strategies

Every sample-based survey is subject to non-response either for the reason of refusal or problems of locating the household: household has moved, person died, address recorded incorrectly, etc. Whichever is the reason, it must be properly reflected in the interview result code - a categorical variable set by the interviewer to indicate the outcome of the visit to the household. Survey Solutions doesn’t do sampling. A sampling specialist should perform sampling for your survey.

April 10, 2017

Selecting a person

For random selection refer to this article. Here an example of determined selection is discussed. Consider you wish to select a child attaining the lowest grade, with selecting younger children to break the ties. We define selname as a string variable: selname=PERSONS.Where( p=>IsAnswered( && IsAnswered(p.age) && IsAnswered(p.grade) ).Where( p=>p.age.InRange(5,15) && p.grade.InRange(1,98) ).OrderBy(p=>p.grade).ThenBy(p=>p.age).First().name Note that if there are two or more children of the same age and grade exist in the same household, then the one entered first will be selected.

February 23, 2017

Formatting Text

Question texts and static-texts can be formatted with a series of html tags. The html tags that can currently be used in Survey Solutions are described in this article. Line break Use <br> to insert a line break. Use <br><br>…<br> to insert multiple empty lines. Italic Use <i> to begin the use of italics. Then, use </i> when you want to discontinue the use of italics. Underline Use <u> to begin the use of underline.

June 22, 2016

Testing Scenarios

Survey Solutions scenarios represent a storage of responses provided during a testing session. The objective is not to collect the data (use Interviewer App for that), but to simplify testing of complex questionnaires, which require a certain time-consuming input. Two actions are available for a scenario in the Designer: view: review the answers entered in the scenario; run: start testing and apply the scenario to the questionnaire. Here is what you need to know about scenarios:

January 17, 2024

Testing Your Questionnaire with the Online Tester

After creating your questionnaire you will need to test how the questionnaire operates (enabling and validation conditions). There are two ways to test your questionnaire, 1) the Tester app on an Android tablet or 2) the online Tester using a web browser on the computer. This article will walk you through the process of accessing your questionnaire on the online Tester. If you would like to know how to use the tablet Tester application, please refer to this article.

April 23, 2018

Testing Your Questionnaires Using the Tester Application

Although the web-based Questionnaire Designer application provides an easy way to create your questionnaire, sometimes you need to see what the questionnaire looks like on a device screen and how the questionnaire operates (conditions and variables). Depending on the mode of data collection, and the stage of testing you can choose to test the questionnaire with the Tester app on a tablet or the online tester. This article will walk you through the process of installing and testing your questionnaire using the Android Questionnaire Tester app on a tablet.

July 21, 2016

Variable names

A variable name (an identifier) must be assigned to every question, calculated variable, and roster in Survey Solutions. Additionally it must also be assigned to the whole questionnaire, and may be assigned to sections and subsections. Variable names are used for: referring to questions in the C# syntax expressions; naming the data columns in the export data files; referring to the origin of event in paradata events, errors and comments files.

October 6, 2022

Special Section: Cover Page

Every questionnaire in Survey Solutions shall have a special section called ‘Cover’ or it’s equivalent in the translation. The cover page may contain some of the information that is present on an actual cover page of a paper prototype (if it exists) and may also contain other information. The objective of the cover page is to include identifying information that helps distinguish one interview from another; helps the field staff reach the respondent.

July 20, 2020

Tabular presentation of rosters

Questionnaires of surveys administered in CAWI mode (web interviews) may include rosters that will be presented in table mode for compact overview of the information being collected, so that the questions become columns in the table and persons (or other roster items) form the rows of the table. Here is an example: Rosters can be presented in tabular view only in CAWI mode and not on the tablet, must satisfy some design requirements and will have some functionality limitations.

June 3, 2019

Question bank

Description The question bank allows users to search for questions in the question bank and, with a click, add them to their questionnaire. To do this, Click on SEARCH FOR QUESTION to open the question bank window Search the question bank via filters and/or full-text search Click on ADD to copy the selected question–as well as any associated enablement, validation, or filter conditions–from the question bank The question bank consists of all questions found in any public questionnaire.

February 5, 2019

Classifications library

Description The classification library allows users to draw from a library of public and/or private classifications (answer options). More than a convenience feature, the classification library aids with standardization of classifications–that is, alignment with intenational best practices and/or consistency with internal practices. How to search classifications From within the question design pane Click on SEARCH FOR CLASSIFICATIONS to open the classification library window Search classifications using the group filter, search field, and/or classification preview The group filter restricts search to the thematic group of interest.

February 5, 2019

Questionnaire hyperlinks

Survey Solutions questionnaires may include hyperlinks to permit the interviewer to jump to a particular question or section in the questionnaire. A typical use of the hyperlinks is in the error messages to allow the interviewer to jump to an earlier question in the questionnaire, the answer to which may conflict with the current question being validated. For example, when we validate the age versus the date of birth. Hence the error message may be something like “Error!

January 14, 2019

Plain mode roster

A plain mode roster is a presentation of the roster without buttons leading to a deeper level, but rather showing all the roster questions repeated in the same scrollable area. This is especially convenient when there are only a handful of questions in the roster, such as price-quantity-unit for many items, and going behind the button and back is very time consuming for the interviewers. In the example below a roster of expenditures on utilities containing questions on the amount and frequency for each utility consumed is presented in plain mode.

January 14, 2019

Questionnaire variable

Questionnaire variable field is a new mandatory field for questionnaires in Designer. Previously, the Questionnaire name field dictated the name of both the questionnaire and its main export file. Now, the questionnaires have two fields in Designer: the Questionnaire name field is a human-readable name that can contain any characters you wish, in any language, and can be rather large. The Questionnaire variable field is an identifier that will be utilized by Survey Solutions during export of the data for naming the main data file and should follow the same rules as applied to variable names and roster names.

October 19, 2018


Roster concept A roster is a group of questions and subsections that are repeated for a collection of similar items. The collection can be contained within that roster (Fixed roster) or it can be derived from a different question in the same questionnaire (numeric, list, or multi-select question), which is called a trigger-question. The type of the trigger question defines the type of the roster. When we say ’numeric roster’ we mean in fact ‘roster triggered by a numeric question’.

June 21, 2016

Static Text

Description A stat ic-text is not a question but a text that can also be accompanied by a photo. A static-text cannot be modified by the enumerator, and is not intended to capture data but to communicate information to the enumerator or the interviewee. The text can be comprised of alphanumeric characters (A-Z, a-z, 0-9), basic punctuation symbols and spaces. You may also use text substitution to reference questions and user-defined or system-defined variables in the text.

June 21, 2016

Unsupported question type

Description If a question is of a type that is not compatible with the current interviewing mode (CAPI or CAWI), then the user will see the message “Unsupported question type” and will not be able to interact with that question (enter, clear, or modify the answer). This may appear on the screen like the following: Any value that has been entered earlier is retained (for example, if a geography question was answered during a CAPI session, and then interviewing was switched to CAWI mode) and the question is considered answered or not answered accordingly.

August 4, 2022

Overview: Categorical question types

Question type/configuration Use # Selection Presentation Linked Ordered Cascading Single 1 Single radio-buttons To select from a small number of categories, such as Yes/No/Don’t know, or Urban/Rural. 2 Single combobox To select from a large number of categories, such as favorite dish, or name of the village where the person was born. 3 Single radio-buttons linked To select one of the values listed earlier, such as "Who is the head of the household?

September 13, 2021

Offline GIS Functionality Expansion

Question type earlier called area is now renamed to geography and supports capture of various geographic information: area (polygons), paths (polylines), single (point) and multiple (multipoint) on offline maps. Each selection is exported as vectors of points. This question type is now accessible from the syntax to be used in conditional and validation expressions. The following properties can be used in the syntax: double geography.Area double geography.Length int geography.PointsCount In addition, the IsAnswered() function also supports this question type now.

September 27, 2018

Validation warnings

Validation rules are an essential mechanism of improving the quality of data in CAPI surveys. However, not in all situations a check may point to a definitive problem with the data. In some cases the check may only request attention of the interviewer. In this case we are talking about warnings, rather than errors. Consider, for example, the following validation rules: In this case we are specifying that the wage must be positive, otherwise we should show an error to the interviewer.

April 2, 2018

Special values for numeric questions

Numeric questions may be enhanced with special values. For example, a numeric wage question may contain in addition to a numeric input, a selection of “minimum wage” and “last month’s wage” categories. They can be set up in the Designer by entering integer numeric codes and corresponding value labels: On a tablet, either a value should be entered, or one of the provided options may be selected (but not both):

April 2, 2018

Capturing signatures with a picture question

A picture type question can be used to capture signatures on a tablet. For this, the flag “use signature pad” should be set in the questionnaire Designer. On the tablet, a person will be able to leave a signature by writing directly on the screen: To store the signature, click the “Store signature” button. In the web mode interviews an image of the signature (picture file) can be uploaded as a file.

April 2, 2018

Audio Question

Description Audio question records sound using the tablet’s microphone. This can be used in surveys where the recording of the respondent’s voice may serve quality control purposes or be directly of interest to the researchers. Creating a audio question In Questionnaire Designer, Click on the Question Type text box. Select Audio from the list displayed. How an audio question works on a tablet To answer the question the enumerator has to:

October 12, 2017

Geography Question

Description A question of geography-type can capture various geographical information. For example, it can be used to define the exact location of the dwelling and the area of a land plot. Geography-type questions are available only on mobile devices. In web interviews the question will appear as unsupported. Geography-type questions are available only in the version of the Interviewer App with ESRI map support. While it may be possible to answer the geography questions without using the base layer imagery, for example, with the automatic mode, the work is considerably more convenient for the interviewers when a base layer is provided.

October 12, 2017

Categorical: Multi-Select Question

Description A categorical: multi-select **** question expects one or more answers to be selected from a list of possible answers (categories). The list of possible answers can either be defined before the interview or it can be created during the interview. If you are defining the categories prior to the interview you can add the categories in the design phase one at a time or by copying and pasting them from a document.

June 21, 2016

Categorical: Single-Select Question

Description A categorical: single-select question expects one answer to be selected from a list of possible answers (categories). This list can either be defined before the interview or it can be created during the interview. To define the categories beforehand, you can add them one at a time, copy and paste them from a document, or upload them from a tab-delimited file in Questionnaire Designer. To create the categories during the interview, the categorical: single-select question must belinked to a previous question (text, numeric, date) in a roster or to a roster.

June 20, 2016

Migrating questionnaires from ODK and compatible systems

To simplify migration from Open Data Kit (ODK) or compatible systems (Survey123, SurveyCTO, KoBoToolBox, etc) we present the possible/recommended alternatives in Survey Solutions for: question types, operators, and functions. Individual system implementation of these features may vary. Online documentation for ODK was used as a reference when compiling the list of alternatives (accessed August 2021). For specifics of function implementation in different systems, refer to their respective documentation pages, e.g. for Survey123, for SurveyCTO, etc.

August 29, 2021

Design limitations by question type

When laying out the questionnaire in the Survey Solutions Designer, mind the following design restrictions by question type: Type of question Can be used as interviewer Can be used as supervisor Can be used in cover section Can be used as hidden Can be preloaded Can be used in substitutions Can be used in Web interviews Audio YES NO NO NO NO NO YES Barcode YES NO NO NO YES YES YES

March 6, 2024

Survey Solutions Limits

The table below summarizes some of the Survey Solutions limits. It is not advisable to design a questionnaire or rely on a work flow that is balancing on the margin of these limits. Limit Value Maximum number of questions in a section: 400 [questions] Maximum number of roster elements in a single roster (including rosters nested into it): 10,000 [items] Maximum number of roster elements in the whole questionnaire: 80,000 [items] Maximum question text length: 2,000 [characters] Maximum length of a variable label: 80 [characters] Maximum variable name length for most question types: 32 [characters] Maximum variable name length for GPS and some other question types: 20 [characters] Maximum number of GPS questions marked as prefilled: 1 [question] Maximum nesting depth for rosters: 4 [levels] Maximum nesting depth for sub-sections

April 23, 2023

Roster limits

Survey Solutions provides capabilities for building complex multilevel data structures and at the same time prevents these data structures from exploding uncontrollably. Earlier this has been done at design-time - when the questionnaire was checked during compilation, error [WB0262]:Roster has reached size limit. Reduce roster size or decrease nesting. was sometimes issued, when the structure may have resulted in a large (multiple thousands of) number of items. At design time the actual number of elements was not known, so the Survey Solutions applied the pessimistic strategy of taking maximum values for each trigger.

January 14, 2019

Recognized Barcode Formats

The barcode question allows optical recognition of the following barcode types: Aztec Code Codabar Code 11 Code 25, Code 39 Code 93 Code 128 Data Matrix GS1 DataBar MSI Plessey PDF417 QR Code EAN UPC The exact type of the barcode is determined automatically during recognition and doesn’t have to be specified during questionnaire design.

February 2, 2017

Multimedia reference

Survey Solutions from version 5.7 allows the users embedding images into questionnaires. These images can be presented by configuring the static text elements. For details on the use of the images in the questionnaires, see the article on Questionnaire Attachments. The following file types are supported: File type Extension Max dimensions Portable Network Graphics *.png 4096x4096 Joint Photographic Experts Group *.jpg 4096x4096 We recommend combined size of attached files not to exceed 2MB to avoid slow synchronization.

October 3, 2016

Sharing a questionnaire

Survey Solutions Designer tool allows collaborative use of a questionnaire document by multiple users. The modes of sharing: Edit means that the collaborator will be able to make changes to the questionnaire: add or remove questions, sections, options, revise logic and any other changes to the questionnaire. Any user that have edit mode access to a questionnaire may share a questionnaire further with another user. View means that the collaborator will be able to view the questionnaire contents, but not be able to modify it.

January 15, 2024

Anonymous questionnaire access

A Survey Solutions questionnaire is an electronic document that outlines the structure and the content of the survey and logical relationships between its elements, such as conditional question skips, validation rules, repetitions, etc. The work on development of a good quality questionnaire often spans several weeks if not months and involves multiple persons. Some of them will be working as objective setters, some will be implementers, some will do testing and quality control, and it can be taken as granted that there will be multiple revisions, improvements and changes over the course of its development.

June 15, 2022

Registration and Signing In

You do not need to install anything on your computer to start creating questionnaires in Survey Solutions. Questionnaire Designer is an online tool, which can be reached at To log in for the first time, you need to create an account. To create an account: Click on the Register link and complete the form displayed. Check the email account that you used for registration. Open the confirmation email from admin@mysurvey.

June 19, 2020

Recent Changes to the Questionnaire

To see the record of all recent changes made to the questionnaire, click on the History button located on the top right of the page. This page will list the question that was changed along with the username of the person who made the change, and the timestamp for when the change was done. The Action button allows access to the menu with the following choices: View - open the questionnaire in the state corresponding to this revision.

November 19, 2019

Find and Replace

In this article you will lean how to use the search, and find and replace features in Designer. These features are particularly useful when making systematic changes to your questionnaire. Search To search within a section, Click the search icon (or press Ctrl + F). Enter a text in the search box that appears. To search within the entire questionnaire (including conditions), Click the search icon (or press Ctrl + F).

November 4, 2016

PDF Export

The PDF file of the questionnaire provides a convenient overview of the whole questionnaire, detailed presentation of the options, conditions and instructions with a smart trimming of long texts and options’ sets. The exported document includes the attachments (images) and a convenient legend page explaining various elements of the preview. To export as a PDF, click on the Export as PDF button under the Action menu button. If you have a multilingual questionnaire, it will ask you to choose a language.

June 22, 2016


To check the questionnaire for errors and system warnings, click on the Compile button located below the questionnaire name. You can also use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + B to compile the questionnaire. If no errors and warnings are found, a green text OK will display. If no errors are found, but system warnings are present click on the blue Warning link to see a list of system generated recommendations for your questionnaire.

June 15, 2016

Questionnaire Settings

To update the settings of the questionnaire, click on the Settings button located at the top right of the page. The settings of a questionnaire contain these parameters: Questionnaire name - a visible (human-readable) name of the questionnaire, and Questionnaire variable - a name that will be assigned to the main data file when this questionnaire is exported. Hide element when it is disabled - a flag that enforces all disabled elements in the questionnaire to be hidden when disabled regardless of their individual visibility settings (hide-if-disabled flag).

June 15, 2016

Questionnaire Edit Screen

The main components of the Questionnaire Designer edit screen are: Settings. Enables you to add and edit collaborator privileges, alter the questionnaire name, and enable or disable the availability of the questionnaire in the public repository of questionnaires in Questionnaire Designer. History. Keeps the record of all recent changes made to the questionnaire, with the corresponding username and timestamp Test, provides access to the online questionnaire Tester. Compile. Checks the questionnaire for errors, and provides a list of errors with the corresponding links to their location in the questionnaire.

June 15, 2016

Questionnaire Designer Homepage

The Questionnaire Designer home page will appear after you login. This page consists of: ​My Questionnaires. Lists all of your questionnaires (both those that you have created and those that have been shared with you). Click on the name of the questionnaire to open and edit it. Public Questionnaires. Provides access to a number of exemplary questionnaires and tutorials. Create New. Used to create new questionnaires. Action button. Allows you to open, copy, export as PDF, and delete a particular questionnaire.

June 14, 2016

Compile errors

Survey Solutions Designer conducts analysis of your questionnaire for many common problems and design errors. The following table summarizes the messages issued by the Designer when the questionnaire is compiled. Some of these messages indicate a situation of an error, where the current questionnaire is invalid and may not be used for data collection until the indicated problem is fixed. For example, these are the syntax errors in expressions (see WB0002 or WB0003 below) or duplication of identifiers of variables (WB0026), and other similar problems.

May 8, 2024

Circular references

Circular references is a computational problem, which cannot be resolved by a computer because it has no logical beginning and end, for example: Enable question Q1 if question Q2 is enabled, and enable question Q2 if question Q1 is enabled. In this example each of the questions Q1 and Q2 depends on each other, and there is no way to establish whether both should be asked or none at all.

April 2, 2018

Lookup Tables

Overview Lookup tables are reference tables that may be used in the syntax expressions, for example in validation and enabling conditions. Lookup tables are prepared as external tab-delimited files and uploaded to the questionnaire in the Designer. We use lookup tables to find content by some code and apply that content in validations and enabling conditions as part of larger expressions. Lookup tables contain numeric data: the lookup code must be integer, while the content may be integer or a floating point value.

March 13, 2024

Reusable Categories

Survey Solutions provides two question types that make use of categorical selections, which are the Single-Select Categorical and Multi-Select Categorical questions. Each of them allows the user to select from a list of categories with the difference of whether only one selection is allowed (single-select) or more than one selections (multi-select) are permitted. Each of these question types has multiple presentations, such as with choice buttons, or with a search option, etc (see Overview: Categorical question types).

August 11, 2023

Panel of Advanced Instruments

The panel of advanced instruments located at the left side of the questionnaire Designer interface provides access to the additional tools for configuring the questionnaire: Table of contentsDisplays a panel showing all the sections within the questionnaire. Questionnaire description and survey informationAdditional meta information about the questionnaire and the survey. TranslationsManage translations in multilingual questionnaires.(more info) Reusable categoriesAdd, edit, and delete sets of categories used in categorical questions.(more info) ScenariosManage testing scenarios.

April 19, 2021

Comments in Designer

Comments in Designer are an essential tool for collaboration of multiple users working on the same questionnaire. Each of the collaborators may leave comments to questions, indicating potential problems in implementation, or suggesting improvements. For example, It is common for the reviewers, that have a shared access to a questionnaire to leave the comments for the original author. The full list of comments in all sections of the questionnaire can be seen in the comments tool, which is accessible from the toolbar.

April 2, 2018

Multilingual Questionnaires

This article describes composing multilingual questionnaires. For switching the language of the Survey Solutions software itself and supported languages refer to the localization overview article. Often times researchers work in contexts where respondents of a survey speak different languages. Therefore, to administer surveys and collect higher quality data it is important to have questionnaires in the corresponding language. In Survey Solutions, you can create multilingual questionnaires directly in Designer as follows:

November 2, 2016


Macros simplify writing complicated expressions with repetitive sub-expressions. Consider for example, that several questions in the questionnaire are applicable to one group of persons, such as women of child-bearing age (let’s say 15-44 years old, exact numbers are of no particular importance here). Suppose the variable for age is age, and for gender is sex with values 1 corresponding to males, and 2 to females. Then the following macro can be defined:

June 15, 2016

Questionnaire Attachments

In some situations pictures become an indispensable tool to establish the true meaning of e.g. categories: small, medium, large. Pictures can be added to the questionnaire wherever a static text element is possible (including inside rosters and subsections). The same attachment can be displayed in multiple places in the questionnaire. Check the supported formats in Multimedia Reference. To add an attachment (image) to your questionnaire: Click on the paper clip icon on the toolbar on the left hand side.

June 15, 2016