Respondent Centred Surveys: Putting respondents at the heart of survey design


27/04/2023 - 28/04/2023

Organised by:

National Centre for Social Research (NatCen)


Emma Dickinson, Laura Wilson and Jo D’Ardenne


Intermediate (some prior knowledge)


Emily Adams

video conference logo

Venue: Online


What is ‘Respondent Centred Design’? It simply means putting the respondent in the driving seat when it comes to the design of your survey experience. This includes, for example, the design of your communication materials and the questionnaire content. We must not underestimate the importance of doing this and the importance of the ‘experience’ aspect of the interaction when it comes to nonresponse in longitudinal surveys. Self-completion surveys no longer mean that we can rely on highly trained and dedicated interviewers to provide a good experience for the respondent and to achieve that response.

The data-user-centred approach has left us with questionnaires that are long, confusing, and sometimes repetitive. However, worst of all is that they often feel irrelevant to the respondent, leaving them feeling like they’ve not really represented themselves well enough or in the way they wanted to. This poor experience is a contributing factor to declining response rates; however, it can no longer be overlooked when the tables are turned, and the respondent becomes the interviewer and the interviewee in the online mode.

Throughout the survey design industry, we are experiencing a decline in response rates alongside the demand for push-to-web mixed-mode completion. The data collection world is changing and to respond to these challenges, it is necessary to combine established and innovative survey design methodologies.

We must move away from the traditional approaches that hinder us from achieving our goals, such as designing surveys at desk or in the boardroom. Instead, we need to start putting the respondent first and letting them drive survey design. This is Respondent Centred Design and it is achieved by heavily involving respondents in research to establish their survey participation needs and subsequently building to meet them. Only then can we develop a survey with low burden and high-quality data. 
This course one day course (run across two consecutive mornings) will explain why this shift in our design focus and practices is critical to the creation of successful surveys. The course introduces and explains an innovative methodological approach called ‘Respondent Centred Design’ which is showcased in the course leaders' book, ‘Respondent Centred Surveys; Stop, Listen and then Design’. The course demonstrates its application to survey development through use of frameworks, principles and an example from the transformation of the UK’s Labour Force Survey from the Office for National Statistics.

Attendees are encouraged to bring a design problem to course to work through using what they learn in each module.

The course covers:

  • Introduction and overview of Respondent Centred Design
  • Benefits of Respondent Centred Design for surveys
  • Design principles, frameworks and standards
  • Agile delivery and Respondent Centred Design
  • Levels of Respondent Centred Design for varying timelines and budgets
  • Activities to put learning into practice

By the end of the course participants will:

  • Understand the ‘why’: understand why Respondent Centred Design is important. They’ll have an awareness and understanding of the necessity to refocus efforts to the start of the data lifecycle and how doing so address challenges, leading to higher quality data and a better respondent experience.
  • Understand the ‘what’: understand the fundamentals of Respondent Centred Design and be equipped with an understanding of the tools, principles and frameworks that underpin it
  • Understand the ‘how’: understand how to apply Respondent Centred Design to survey development through case studies, practical tips and activities which help them consider how to apply the approach to their work to realise its benefits.


27 April – 9:30am –1:00pm

28 April – 9:30am –12:30pm



The fee per teaching day is £30 per day for students / £60 per day for staff working for academic institutions, Research Councils and other recognised research institutions, registered charity organisations and the public sector / £100 per day for all other participants. In the event of cancellation by the delegate a full refund of the course fee is available up to two weeks prior to the course. NO refunds are available after this date. If it is no longer possible to run a course due to circumstances beyond its control, NCRM reserves the right to cancel the course at its sole discretion at any time prior to the event. In this event every effort will be made to reschedule the course. If this is not possible or the new date is inconvenient a full refund of the course fee will be given. NCRM shall not be liable for any costs, losses or expenses that may be incurred as a result of its cancellation of a course, including but not limited to any travel or accommodation costs. The University of Southampton’s Online Store T&Cs also continue to apply.

Website and registration:


Greater London


Survey and Questionnaire Design, • Respondent Centred Design • Data collection • Research • Qualitative

Related publications and presentations:

Survey and Questionnaire Design

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