Explainer: Survey Editor

Building a survey

To build a new survey from scratch, head to the Surveys page. On this page, you’ll find an [+ Add] button. Hovering over this will give you the choice to create a survey either from a template, or to add a blank survey – choose the blank survey option.

Survey details

Before you start to add your questions, first choose a title for your survey. The Survey Title will be shown to respondents. You may also enter a Description – the description is visible only to you and can be used to help identify the survey and document its purpose. Choose the Maximum respondents, or leave this field blank if you would like to collect as many responses as possible. The date that the survey will close on is automatically set for a month but can be adjusted using the date picker, the survey will close at 23:59 on the selected date (unless set otherwise in your instance default), alternatively clicking on the [x] button in the date picker will set the survey remain open indefinitely. Similarly, the open date can be set to a future date to automatically open the survey, or will be set when the survey is published; the survey will open at 00:00 on the selected date. These dates can be set and managed both from the Surveys page, and here at the top of the editor – use the toggle and date picker to update.

Status indicates if the survey is draft (being prepared), published (and collecting results), or closed.

Click the [Create Survey] button at the bottom right of your screen to begin building your survey.


To get started with adding your questions, simply click [+Add Question] and your first question tile will be created. It is created as a [Short text] question type by default, but if you click [Short text], you will be presented with a list of question types to choose from. Make your choice, input your question text, select any of the options outlined below, and you are well on your way! Any subsequent questions you add will take on the type of the question before by default - that way if you wish to add a list of likerts for example, you do not have to select the "type" each time. If your question type is different, simply select "type" and make your choice. Don"t forget you can also use the "repeat" button if you have set up a multichoice for example and only want to change perhaps a little of the question text – this will stop you having to reinvent the wheel every time!

SurveyOptic currently has over 30 different questions types with many permutations of each question - for example over 70 different likert scales, layout choices for multichoice or option questions, different length or numbers of inputs for text questions.

Questions and any relevant choices can easily be edited by clicking on the edit button or the question text itself. When you have finished and wish to collapse the question to just its text, simply hit [done] – you will now be able to see more on your screen. You can also delete a question using the delete button, and will be able to "undelete" until the next save.

Questions can be added in between existing questions simply by clicking the [+] button in the relevant position in the survey. Similarly, questions can be reordered by simply clicking and dragging. This is useful both for when you want to change the order of questions in a survey to help it to flow better, or also when you are building a survey and wish to [Repeat] a question and move it elsewhere.

Questions or entire sections can be copied into a survey where they have been used elsewhere in the system by using the [Copy from] button. Copied content can either be appended to the bottom of a survey or copied into a location of your choice by using the [Copy from] button in a new question tile.

Saving changes

To save your survey use the [Save] button at the bottom right of your screen. Do this as you go along, and when you have finished and wish to return to the Surveys Page click [Quit Editing].

If you forget to save your changes and either navigate away from the survey edit page or close your browser, SurveyOptic will store the latest changes in your browser. Upon returning to the survey a "recover" button will appear in the bottom right, this gives you the opportunity to restore the unsaved changes.

Clicking on the version number of your survey will open the version history logs. Here you can see the different versions of the survey and when they occurred. If you have overwritten some changes or would like to return to a previous version, simply click on the arrow next to the revision number and the previous version will be loaded. If you are happy with the previous version click the [Save] button; a new version will be created in the current state and you may continue editing. If however

you do not want to continue with the previous version, simply refresh your browser to return back to the current version.


You can divide your survey into sections using the section header question type. This breaks up your survey making it easier to follow and essentially paginates your survey too. If your questions are numbered, you can choose to allow the numbering to flow throughout the survey, or restart it at the beginning of your sections – or a mixture of the two if you prefer! A simple page break with no heading can be achieved by using an "x" as your header text. You can do the same with instruction text – use an "x" to create a horizontal rule on your page. A section that is left blank will act as a page number when set to numbered.

Instruction text

Messaging can be added, separate to questions, by using instruction text. Using the wysiwyg editor text can be input in the "normal" way with familiar formatting options.


If you wish to add conditional questions to your survey, this is also done in the question editor. Whilst you are editing a question you can click the [Logic] button and this will allow you to hide or display the question depending on the answer to any previous question – as long as this question is in a previous section – ie you must have placed a section header between the logic question and the question it is dependent on. You can "stack" the logic i.e. apply more than one piece of logic to each question. In this instance the last piece of logic will "win" if there are conflicting conditions. You can also have multiple logic questions dependent on the answer to one question. For example if you create a multiple choice question, you can set up a logic question to display for each different choice.

Question options

There are many different options for each question type and we believe that you will be able to create whatever combination of questions you wish to with these options. If you need any help with layout or styling, creating prompts, NA or anything else at all, let us know and we will guide you.

Required/Optional : use this toggle to set whether your survey answer is mandatory or optional

Numbered/Unnumbered : some questions may not require a number, for example perhaps personal data collected at the start of the survey. Toggle this button to switch numbering on or off

Displayed/Hidden : you may not want to display some questions, for example if they have had answers passed in which you will use later in your reporting, or if they will only be displayed conditionally. Toggle this button to hide a question, section header or instruction text.

Default answer : allows you to enter a default answer, for example a passed-in answer such as a course title, or a common answer that the respondent can edit if required. Sometimes this is used in combination with the hidden option to add information for reporting or segmenting/filtering responses later on.

PII : when checked the question and the responses gathered will be marked as pii data and handled accordingly.

Sensitive : when checked the question and the responses gathered will be marked as sensitive category data and handled accordingly.

Ordinal/Ordered : when checked the order of the answer choices will be honoured in reporting, instead of being sorted by frequency. A common example of this would be for an age question.

Display reversed : when checked the choices will be displayed in reverse order to respondents.

Icons - question options are represented by the following icons when viewing a collapsed question tile:

  • a star if required. The star will be coloured red if the question is hidden and has no logic to display.
  • an eye for hidden. The eye will be coloured red if the question is hidden and has no logic to display.
  • a text Shadow ('T') if a default answer is set.
  • a fingerprint if Pii or Sensitive.

Prompt Text : allows you to enter some Prompt text or explanatory text to give some context to your question. This text will appear below the question choices or answer input. This can be made into an information button by surrounding the text with html styling (see example)

<i> ..text.. </i>

Hint Text : allows you to enter some hint text or explanatory text to give some context to your question. This text will appear below the question text but above the choices or answer input. This is best used when the hint text is required to answer the question. Otherwise prompt text is preferable to avoid breaking the flow of the question.

Placeholder Text : allows you to enter placeholder text or explanatory text which appears in the input box of open text questions. For example, including 'example@emaildomain.com' as a format reminder.

Logic : a simple way to introduce skip and flow conditional logic to your survey (outlined above)

Repeat : repeats an entire question with any choices you may have entered. Useful if you have a series of similar questions where just a small element of text or choices need editing.

Style : allows you to modify the layout of a question from standard lines to a grid or columns, indent, full width and some customs styles – we can guide you if you need help with this.

Question Type : select your desired question type from this menu.

Factors : another way of grouping questions in your survey. If you have a series of questions that relate together but are not all grouped in the same section, you can use factors to help with the reporting.

Copy ID : this will copy the unique ID of the question to your clipboard so that you can paste it to a document or another part of the survey. This can be useful when using "variables" and text substitutions in questions and messages.

number step : for the number and number within range question types, the value of the step between numbers can be set. For example if set to 2, each click of the arrows when answering will increase or decrease the value by 2.

Decimal places : define the maximum number of decimal places for decimal and percentage type questions.

Lines/Maximum length : in text answer questions you can chose several lines of input (short text), or larger sized text box (long text). Max length will restrict the number of characters allowed in the answer, to prevent your respondent from getting carried away. If you have a word limit in mind, calculate the character limit by assuming an average of 5-6 characters per word in English.

Choices : input your choices for multi-choice, multi-select or choice list questions. Either type them in hitting enter between each choice, or paste them in from a list. You can drag to sort them if you need to reorder the choices. However, avoid reordering them if you have already started collecting data as this will confuse the results for some question types.

Maximum/Minimum choices : in multi select and ranked choice questions you can choose to limit the number of choices a respondent can choose. Multi select questions can also have a minimum number set. This is helpful in questions with a structure such as 'from the below options please choose three…' This option is set as 'unlimited' by default.

Mutually exclusive : sometimes you will wish to create a multiselect question with a mutually exclusive choice, eg "none". Do this by adding a ! In front of your choice text eg !none. Similarly you may wish to create a heading or a label in your list of choices. Do this by adding a : after your text, eg Food Selections: This item will not be selectable, but can be used to divide choice lists into sections.

Likert scale : choose from a list of over 70 predefined scales.

with "NA" : toggle to choose whether your multichoice, multi-select or likert question has an NA option. You can also define the text for your NA option e.g. "Prefer not to say".

Continue/Restart numbering : choose whether question numbering runs all the way through your survey or restarts from 1. at the beginning of a section.

Section button text : customise the "next" button found at the end of the section.

Range : number range and r-scale question types can have a minimum and maximum set. Both sliders will record answers from 1-100 by default. With the number range question type you can define the minimum and maximum range on your slider, and also specify a unit. With the r-scale question type you can use the min/max option to define left and right labels on your slider, eg from agree to disagree.

With other : questions that use the "other" choice have options to set an alternative label for "other", custom prompt text (next to the other input box) and a character limit.


The SurveyOptic system can deliver a number of different messages to your respondents at various appropriate points in their survey journey. Use this simple HTML editor to compose a Welcome message before the survey starts where you can welcome your user, explain what the survey is about, how you will use the data, and add any useful links. You can also add a Thank you message on survey completion, an Exit message if the user finishes before the end of the survey (and your logic sets the "exit" flag - please see exit logic guide). You can also set an individual Privacy policy for the survey here if you wish.


Scores are also set up within the survey editor and are useful if you wish to amalgamate the answers to groups of questions. They are simple to set up using the scores tab and any number of scores can be created. They show up in the responses table and dynamic reports, and they can also be used in custom reports.

Start by giving your score a name, choose a score-able question (ie a likert/number/percentage etc – not a text answer) and choose how each answer to this question will score. You can add multiple questions to each score. Scores can be used in reports to yourself or to your respondents on the thank you page for example.


SurveyOptic can pass text substitutions into the survey using a variable. This can have a variety of different uses, for example for a privacy note – if this is updated you can simply change it once centrally and it will be changed in all places you have used it throughout the survey. It can be used to pass the answer to a question in via the url, for example a name, or whether your respondent is a business or charity, or a research panel participant id, to track rewards and payment. Substitutions can be used in surveys, templates and also reports.

First, give your variable or substitution a name. Then define its default value i.e. what it will look like with no substitution. Then define your logic: If the answer to a chosen question is equal to a chosen value, then pass in what you define here. You can stack your logic for each substitution, and add as many substitutions as you need. Please see our Substitutions logic guide for more detail.


The email module allows emails to be sent from within the survey system. Here you can set up a number of automated mails for welcome, reminder, completion, approval and report sending. It can also email any given email address with a copy of each response as it is submitted. For more information on this, please refer to the 'How To – Email Invite Survey' document.

There is also an "allowed" list functionality for emails whereby you can specify a list of domains that your SurveyOptic system may send emails to. All other domains will be blocked. This is a data protection and security feature ensuring that reports and reminders only go to approved email domains.


The SMS module allows messages to be sent from within the survey system to mobile phones. Here you can set up a number of automated messages for respondent welcome, reminder and completion. For more information on this, please refer to the 'How To – SMS Invite Survey' document.


Permissons are used to control access to surveys and their data. Please see our Roles and permissions guide for further information.


This allows you to set up 'webhook' and API based integrations, to trigger response updates, or update other systems when a response is submitted, or a survey closed.


A few remaining options are gathered here

Previous Survey : allows you to link a historic data set for comparative reporting purposes

Add HTML header/footer : allows you to customise the header and footer of your survey

Survey Theme : where you have more than one theme set up on your instance, you can toggle between them here

Test mode : when conducting a live pilot of your survey, you can turn on test mode. Any responses gathered are marked as test, these are identified with a yellow highlight. Remember to unset this before you send it to your users. Users will be able to complete a live response once test mode has been turned off. (Please see our 'How To - Testing your Survey' guide)

Hide unstarted sections : you can choose to hide or show unstarted or completed sections. This will depend on whether you wish users to be able to skip back in the survey or be able to see what is coming up. If you wish them to focus on and complete one section at a time, hide both. It is wise to hide unstarted sections if you have used conditional logic which may affect which sections are shown to your respondents.

Back button : you can show a Back button in addition to the Next button at the foot of each page of questions. This can be useful for navigation if you have hidden all section headings.

Invite only (uses prefills) : require respondents to use a unique link to access the survey, usually sent via email, and prevent public access to the survey.

Show progress bar : you may sometimes wish to show a progress bar, although think carefully about this if you have used conditional logic.

Multiple responses per person : for most surveys you will only wish each user to complete it once, however you can choose to allow multiple responses here

Only complete responses for report : if you wish partial responses to be excluded from reporting, this can be managed here

Respondent identifier question : if your respondents have a unique identifier – for example an employee number or email address, you can mark this here. This can be useful for panel based surveys, or if you may need to update a record.

Respondent label/name : respondent label is used in forms where a "friendly" label is useful for responses – ie a name where the identifier is a number.

Manager or group identifier : works in tandem with permissions and identifies who is managing each set of responses, when using the forms editor.

Pretty Url : chose the url for your survey instead of using the default string. Please only use alphanumeric characters for this, and particularly avoid using a space, /, &, %, any accents or special characters. These "illegal" character will be replaced with a – if they are used. If the input pretty URL is already in use by another survey in SurveyOptic, a warning will appear to notify you and prompt for an alternative URL. For more information on this, please refer to the 'Explained – URLs' document.

Password protect survey : require respondents to use an email address and password to access the survey, using the SurveyOptic Respondent Portal module.

Hide from search engines : prevent the survey Url from being listed in common search engines. Often used for internal surveys for organisations for example where it is important the survey is not seen by third parties (such as competitors) or responded to by individuals not within the organisation.

Default section : when displaying the survey as a form you can set a particular section or tab to display as default

Minimum reporting thresholds : minimum reporting thresholds can be set for general responses, open text questions and those marked as sensitive data

Translation text : this shows all the language you have used in your survey. SurveyOptic is currently translated into 15 languages and we are happy to add more as they are required.

Manifest : this produces a "human readable" summary of the survey questions and settings which can be used for change management or for storing with project documentation.

Facets : allows you to pin facets to your responses and reports

Thresholds : here you can set colours or labels used for reporting and displaying responses ie likert colours, percentage scores or averages

Prefills : allows you to determine that some answers will be prefilled from an import or some questions will be prefilled with a default response – creates a new tab for this. For more information, please refer to the 'Explained – Special Question and Data Types' document.

Summary report : allows you to quickly create a custom summary report based on the dynamic report.

Blocked words : this allows you to redact specific words or phrases used by respondents in open questions from your reporting

Last updated: January 26, 2024
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