Survey Design & Outreach Tips

5 Tips for Creating a Visual Survey for Urban Planning (Examples Inside)

March 9, 2021
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Survey Tips

Have you tried using icons, smileys or other emojis, and photographs as answer options in your questionnaires? It is a great alternative if you don’t want to use a lot of (complicated) text. A more visual survey is a great alternative to a “normal”, text-based one – especially if you want to overcome language and literacy barriers.

  1. Think visually.
  2. Think about the image or icon that represents what you would normally write as plain text, and use those images as answer options (in addition to text).
  3. Don’t forget audio & video.
  4. Remember that you can incorporate instructions and information in audio and video clips in Maptionnaire. It doesn’t always have to be in a written format.
  5. Let respondents think beyond text.
  6. Allow respondents to leave voice and image messages with the ‘File upload’ element available in the new Maptionnaire.
  7. Remember cultural differences.
  8. Be mindful of cultural differences when designing your visual survey. For instance, in some parts of the world a thumbs up is considered a rude gesture.
  9. Keep your visual survey short.
  10. Cut down on text and keep it simple!

But making a survey visual and engaging won’t always guarantee you sufficient response rates and outreach. Have a look at the 12 tips for survey design and the practices of stakeholder engagement with a questionnaire before you publish your survey!

Here are some (highly visual) examples from Maptionnaire surveys — but they're applicable for other platforms too.

Bring in emotions with smileys and explore new answer options (for example, audio)

Smileys are a great way to describe emotions. Leaving feedback in an audio format is also possible in Maptionnaire.
Smileys are a great way to describe emotions. Leaving feedback in an audio format is also possible in Maptionnaire.

Use icons for visual summaries of the answer options  

Using icons to complement and explain the text makes understanding easier.
Visual surveys include icons to complement and explain the text to make understanding easier.

Rely on images as answer options

an example of a visual survey for a pubic participation project
Using images can sometimes be more descriptive than a piece of text could ever be.

Show plans and maps — and explain complicated terms

an example of a visual questionnaire from Jyvaäskylä
In Jyväskylä, respondents were also explained what urban and city planning means, and what effects their opinions have on plans.


These particular examples are from a visual survey that was created with Maptionnaire platform to engage especially the immigrant communities in the City of Jyväskylä, Finland.

Instructions to the entire survey were provided in a video clip, and respondents could leave answers as voice messages and images in addition to text. The project also came with its own, easy-to-navigate webpage, where citizens could watch videos on the project and learn how planning works in a Finnish city.

More useful materials about designing surveys:

Maptionnaire is perfect for designing spatial and visual surveys.

Do you want to learn more or give it a try? Get in touch with our team and they’ll show you around Maptinnaire and answer your questions.
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