Build a Survey

The first step to collecting quality data for a longitudinal research is building the survey or form. Follow the steps in this user guide to create a complete survey or form using DatStat Illume. Learn how to add questions, images, and text; define response options; add show-if logic; and more.

1.Creating a New Survey

To get started creating a new survey, open DatStat Illume Survey Manager by either double clicking the icon on your desktop, or going to your start menu. Once llume Survey Manager is open, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Survey > New
    6.5 - Step 1 - Design Survey 1
  1. Select the Survey Template in which you’d like to build your survey. Survey templates in Illume Next determine how your survey will render in a participant’s browser.
  • Default Templates will render the same across all devices.
  • Responsive Template will render responsively according to the size of the device/screen (Desktop, Tablet, and Mobile; this tutorial is using the Responsive Template).

If the default template is chosen, the rending style can be altered to responsive from within the survey designer, thus users requiring responsive design are not required to use the responsive template.

6.5 - Step 1 - Design Survey 2

  1. You need to create a name for your survey. There are some rules regarding the format of survey names:
    • They must begin with a letter, and can contain only letters, numbers, and following characters:
      ( ) _ ‘
    • They must be at least 5 and no more than 64 characters long.

 Once you have chosen your survey’s name, click Create survey.

  1. As seen in the image below, Illume Survey Designer resembles Windows Explorer, with a tree or organizational view on the left, and a building environment on the right. Every Illume survey contains a built in collection called “LOGIN”, which is utilized to collect the unique identifier(s) associated to the participants. For now you can ignore this icon, as you will start by focusing not on authentication but on building survey questions.

6.5 - Step 1 - Design Survey 3


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2.Adding Questions

  1. Add questions to the survey by clicking the Add Question icon 6.5-DatStat Illume Survey Manager-Survey Designer Example Tutorial-Adding Questions with Response Options 1 in the Designer toolbar. This brings up the Question Editor.
  1. On the general tab, there is a poplist for Display Type.  Toggle between the different options and notice how the image in the yellow box to the right changes to show you generally how that question will render.
  1. In this example we want to add a question that asks a participant’s age. To do this, type the question What is your age? in the prompt field. For this question, we want participants to type in a number, so we change the Display Type from Select One to Text. This will present participants with a text box in which to enter their age. You may also copy and paste text into the question editor from other documents by using ctrl+c for Copy and ctrl+v for Paste.


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3.Choosing the Right Data Type

  1. To choose a question’s data type, click on the Response Options tab. This tab contains a list of Data Types. Since we’re asking for a participant’s age, we will want the data type to be a number–preferably a positive number. Choose Whole Numbers = 0 as the data type.


  • A Default answer may also be entered for the question. If set, it becomes the pre-selected answer to the question, but does not prevent participants from choosing another answer.
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4.Adding Display Properties

  1. Click the Display Properties tab. This tab lets us control some details of the text box that will appear in the survey.
  1. Since we’re asking about a participant’s age, let’s add the label “years” to display after the text box, so that participants know what kind of age measurement we’re expecting.
  1. Let’s also narrow the width of the text box. The default value of 60 characters will create a wide text box. We only need the box to be wide enough to accept a few digits, so we change Display Width to 5.


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5.Defining Response Guides

We want to be sure that participants tell us how old they are, and that they give a valid response.


Let’s click the Response Guides tab of the Question Editor to set up some rules to describe what constitutes an acceptable response to our question.



  1. Make this item required by clicking “Always use the following setting for this item:” and checking the ‘Required’ option.
  1. Assuming that anyone taking our survey is at least 1 years old, and at most 100 years old, in the Numeric/Date/Time Bounds, we’ll set the Lower Bound for this question to >=1 and the Upper Bound to <=100.
  1. Now let’s set an error message for this question: “Please enter a number between 1 and 100“. The error message appears whenever a participant provides an answer that does not meet the criteria we have just defined. The error message also appears when a participant tries to submit a page of the survey without answering a required question. This error only applies to this specific question.

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6.Naming and Describing the Question Variable

Click on the ‘Data Dictionary’ tab of the question. Here you’ll see two fields: Unique Name and Description. When a new question is created, Illume assigns a Unique Name to the question. This question’s unique name is “Q1.”

Illume uses this name in various places to refer to the question “What is your age?” For example, when you use Illume’s Data Manager to download the survey data, responses to the question “What is your age?” will appear under the variable name “Q1.” Let’s give the variable a more descriptive name.


  1. Change the Unique name from “Q1” to “AGE”. Type “AGE” into the “Unique name” text box.illume9
    NOTE: A unique name must start with a letter, and can contain any combination of letters, numbers, underscores (_), or hyphens (-). Unique names must be between 2 and 30 characters in length.
  1. The description field enables you to describe the data submitted in response to this question. The description you type here will appear in the Data Manager’s data dictionary, and in the data dictionary for any data you download in SAS or SPSS format.  The Description field may be left blank, and Illume will use the question prompt as the description. In this case, the question prompt works well as a description, so we will leave it blank.

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7.Adding Questions with Response Options

Let’s create two more simple questions. First, let’s ask if our participants are employed.


  1. Click the Add Question iconquestion to create a new question.
  1. Choose “Select One” as the display type, and type “Are you currently employed?” for the prompt.ill2
  1. Click the Response Options tab. Notice the response options tab is different from the way it appeared the last time we looked at it. When we created the age question as a text box, we were allowing participants to type in a response. Now we are creating a “Select One” question, and we have to define a set of options from which participants can select.
  1. Keep the default “Whole numbers” as the data type.
  1. Under “Add/Edit Response Option“, you’ll see two text boxes separated by an equal sign (=).
  1. Type the number 1 in the box on the left side of the equal sign, and then type “I am not currently employed” in the box on the right side of the equal sign. Click Add.
  1. The Response Option you just entered appears in the list of response options with a value of 1 and a label of “I am not currently employed.”
  1. Type the number 2 into the text box on the left side of the equal sign, and “I work part time” in the text box on the right side. Click Add to add the option to the list.
  1. Follow the same steps to add a response option with the value 3 and the label “I work full-time.”
  1. For option 4 enter the label “Other”. Checking the Text Field box next to the Other option will add a text box after the Other in which the respondent can specify the Other.
    Note: If you have a long list of response options, rather than typing them in one by one, you can use the Import from Clipboard function to copy the list onto your clipboard from another document, and then have the Import function populate the entire scale with one click.  To try this, copy a long list from a word document using cntrl+c.  On this tab pop open the Import option and select Import from Clipboard.
  1. Go to the Data Dictionary tab and set the question’s unique name to “EMPLOYED“.ill4
  1. Click OK. The Question Editor closes, and you will see your new question in the survey editor, just below the age question.

Another Example

  1. Let’s also add a question about gender.
  1. Click the Add Question iconquestion to create a new question.
  1. Choose “Select One” as the display type, and type “What is your gender?” for the prompt.
  1. Click the Response Options tab.
  1. Choose “Whole numbers” as the data type.
  1. Under “Add/Edit Response Option“, add the following response options:
    1. 1 = Female
    2. 2 = Male
  1. Go to the Date Dictionary tab and give this question the unique id “GENDER.”
  1. Click OK. The new question will appear in the survey designer.

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8.Authenticating the Survey

An authenticated survey is one in which there is a known list of respondents who will be taking the survey, with each respondent having a unique identifier. Each respondent can take the survey once and only once with that identifier. Surveys can also be unauthenticated, in which case any person can take the survey without entering any credentials.  Let’s make the survey authenticated.


  1. Click on the ‘LOGIN’ collection in the left-hand navigation pane.
  1. Click the Add Question icon to create a new question which will reside in the login collection.  This question will be our authentication field.
  1. Change the Display Type to ‘Text Field’.
  1. Type ‘Please enter your ID’ for the Prompt. When creating an authenticated survey you can choose whether respondents will see the login question or not.  For surveys delivered via an email link, the respondent will never actually see the login question – Illume will enter the authentication credentials automatically just from clicking on the URL, as the URL in the received email will have the unique identifier embedded in it. Whether respondents will or will not see the login question, it is built the same way.
  1. The Response Options, Display Properties, and Response Guides tabs can remain unchanged.
  1. Click the Data Dictionary tab and rename the question to ‘DATSTAT_ALTPID’. This is the variable we will use to authenticate the survey. It is a built in variable to illume used to specify the participant’s “Alternate Participant ID”, thus “ALTPID”.


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9.Adding a Header

The Survey Header appears on every page of the body of the survey.  It does NOT appear on the Login page or on the End Page. Users may input the title text and control the placement, and optionally choose a logo and progress bar.


  1. From the Survey Designer, click Survey: Header
    adding a header 1
  1. The Header editor will open.
    adding a header 2
  1. Click ‘Header Builder’ to open up the wizard.
    adding a header 3
  1. In the Title portion of the editor type or paste the desired survey title and select the Placement (Left, Right or Center).
  1. Under Logo, you have not uploaded a logo to your library of resources called “Survey Resources”, so do not check Show under Logo.
  1. Specify the desired Vertical and Horizontal Placement of the logo.
  1. Under Progress Bar, check to indicate whether the Progress Bar should show, and if so, whether the progress bar should show the percentage completed in addition to the bar.
  1. Specify the desired Vertical and Horizontal Placement of the Progress Bar.
    adding a header 4
  1. Click the Reset button to remove any of the preferences set within the page
  1. Click the Apply button to apply the preferences set within the page

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10.Editing the End-Page Content

The End Page is the page participants see after they submit the survey. Users may alternatively set up Redirects, in which the respondents are automatically sent to a specified website on submit.  For this survey, we will show all participants the same end pages (though note that it is also possible to have multiple end pages that each show under unique conditions you specify).


  1. Click Survey: End-Page Content.
    edit end page content 1
  1. Double click the default end-page content to open it up for editing. Notice it is just a Text Object with some default text already present.
    edit end page content 2
  1. Edit the end-page message. Typically the header and end-page content styling should be the same for consistency purposes.
    edit end page content 3

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11.Adding Show-If Logic

Some questions are not relevant to all users. For example, a survey about lifestyle and health habits may include several questions about a participant’s tobacco use. If a participant indicates that he doesn’t use tobacco, you don’t want to spend the respondent’s time asking about their tobacco use. Illume surveys include Show-if logic to allow you to show the right questions, text objects, and tables to participants based on who they are and how they respond to survey questions.

Let’s assume we are not concerned with the employment status of participants under the age of 18 or over the age of 70.

Illume relies on “show-if” logic, rather than “skip logic”, as it is more robust to changes being made to a survey.  And we all know that there’s rarely such thing as a “final version” of a survey!  We’ll define a Show-if condition for the employment question so that it appears only for participants who indicate an age between 18 and 70.


  1. Double click the EMPLOYMENT question in the Survey Editor
  1. Click the Show-if tab in the Question Editor
  1. Under “Show State,” choose “Only show if….”
  1. Click on the Root folder in the list of collections on the left side of the Question Editor. You’ll see a list of all our survey questions a participant would answer before reaching the employment question.
  1. Click on the question “What is your age?
  1. To show this question only to participants 18 years or older, select >= (greater than or equal to) from the operator list, and type 18 into the text box next to the list.
  1. Click the Add button to add this Show-if condition to the employment question. The new Show-if condition now appears in the list of conditions at the bottom of the Question Editor.
  1. Now let’s add the second condition. Select <= (less than or equal to) from the list, and type 70 into the text box next to the list. Be sure the list at the bottom of the screen labeled “Group all expressions with” is set to “And.” We want the EMPLOYMENT question to appear if the participant is at least 18 AND at most 70 years old. The Show-if editor will resemble the image below:
    show if logic 1
  1. Click Add to add the second condition. Click OK to return to the Survey Designer.

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12.Previewing Your Work

Let’s take a look at the questions you just created.


  1. Click the Save button to save the survey first, as Illume does not auto-save as you go along:
    previewing 1
  1. Click the Preview Survey button to look at the survey:
    previewing 2
    The Survey Preview window appears, displaying an HTML version of the survey.  The preview works just like the real survey – all the logic, styles, and validations will be in the preview version.Note that it may take a few seconds for the preview to appear the first time you use it. This is normal. Subsequent previews will appear more quickly.
  1. Click the Start button to begin the preview:
    previewing 3previewing 4

Remember that we added some requirements to this question.

  • The question is required to be answered
  • The answer must be a whole number within a defined range

Testing your Question

  • Try clicking Submit Results without answering the question. You’ll see the error message that you typed in earlier.
  • Type some nonsense into the text box, and try again to submit.
  • Try again with an invalid number, like -4 or 800.
  • Try again with a valid number– any whole number between 1 and 100. This time, when you click Submit Results, Illume will accept your answer and display a generic end page message. Or it will just allow you to continue on with the survey if you have more questions in your survey.

Additional Information about the Preview

The login page, the thank you page, and all of the images are part of Illume’s default template. All of these items can be customized for each survey created. Illume surveys can contain images, Flash animations, Java applets, or any other media type that current browsers support.

Note also that there is a Reload button at the bottom of the Previewer. Click this any time to go back to the first page of the survey or when you have made edits to the survey and would like to see the changes.

The employment question no longer appears on the same page as the other two questions. Illume automatically moves this question to a new page because Illume has to know how participants answer the AGE question before it knows whether or not it should even present the EMPLOYMENT question. You’ll notice now that if you enter a number less than 18 or more than 70 in response to the age question, you won’t see the employment question.

Viewing in Default Browser

You can also view your survey in your default browser by going to the Preview menu and selecting In Default Browser.

Additional Information about Show-if Logic

  • Multiple Show-if conditions can be applied to each question in a survey.
  • Show-if conditions can be applied to entire collections of questions.
  • Questions and/or collections that include Show-if conditions are marked with a yellow circle in the Survey Designer, like ‘EMPLOYED’ and ‘C1’ are in the image below.
  • Questions and/or collections that are set to be “Never shown” are marked with a red circle in the Survey Designer, like the ‘C2’ collection in the image below.  For those items, the column is retained in the database, but the question will not appear on the screen.
    previewing 5

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13.Creating a Collection

Collections are groups of related questions. In the Survey Designer, collections appear as folders in the left pane. The items they contain appear in the right pane.

Grouping questions into collections provides three benefits:

  • Easily reuse collections of commonly used questions: simply drag and drop the collection into a new survey.
  • Apply show-if conditions to entire collections.
  • The Data Manager has features to simplify querying and downloading data that have been grouped into a collection.

Let’s create a collection called “Employment” with some questions about the participant’s job.

  1. Click the Add a collection icon
    creating collection 2
  1. Next to Unique name, type EMPLOYMENT.  We cannot call the collection employment, because there is already a survey variable called employment.
    creating collection 1
  1. We want to show the questions in this collection only to participants who indicate they are currently employed. Click the Show-if tab. Under Show State, check “Only show if…
  1. Click the SURVEY folder to show the questions in the Root collection.
  1. Click the EMPLOYED question.
  1. Under EMPLOYED, select > (greater than) from the list of tests, and (1) I am not currently employed from the list of responses.  The is essentially the same as only show this question if they select any other option but I am not currently employed.
  1. Click the Add button.
    creating collection 3
  1. The new collection appears in the Left pane of the Survey Editor with the label “Employment (0)“. The zero indicates the number of items in the collection.
  1. Click on the collection. The folder icon opens, and the right pane of the Designer window is blank.
    creating collection 4
  1. With the EMPLOYMENT collection still selected, click the Add Question icon  in the tool bar to add a question to this collection.
  1. In the General tab, set the Display Type to “Text Field“, and type “What is your job title?” for the prompt.
  1. Click the Response Options tab and set the data type to “Text“.
  1. Click the Data Dictionary tab, and type “JOBTITLE” for the unique name.
  1. Click OK to add the question to the survey.
    creating collection 5
  1. Now click SURVEY on the left pane and find the Employment question on the right pane. Click on the employment question and drag it into the EMPLOYMENT_COLLECTION.  Drag it over the folder icon on the right pane and the folder will open, showing that you can drop the question into that collection.  You now have two questions in the collection.

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14.Adding a Question Table

A Question Table contains questions that share the same display type and the same set of response options. Illume makes the creation and display of these questions very simple and efficient. Let’s end our survey with a question table of questions about job satisfaction.

  1. If you are not currently in the EMPLOYMENT collection, click on the Employment Collection in the Left pane to open, so that you can build the table into that collection.
  1. Click on the Add a question table icon in the Survey Designer toolbar (or go to the Add menu and select Question Table). You’ll see the question table editor.
    adding question table 1
  1. Choose “Select One” as the display type. (It should be selected already.)
    adding question table 2
  2. For the Instructions enter “Please indicate how satisfied you are with each of the following aspects of your job
  1. Click the Response Options tab, and add the following response options, clicking Add as you enter each label:
    • -2 = Very Dissatisfied
    • -1 = Dissatisfied
    • 0 = Neutral
    • 1 = Satisfied
    • 2 = Very Satisfied
      adding question table 3
  1. Now click to the Prompts tab and enter the following Prompts, hitting Add after each:
    adding question table 4
  1. Click on the Display Properties Tab. For Display Width enter 90px.  This ensures the columns stay of equal width, at 90px wide.
    • Responsibilities
    • Challenges
    • Salary
    • Benefits
    • Atmosphere
  1. Click on the Data Dictionary tab and name this collection “SATISFACTION“. Click OK.
  1. Save the survey by clicking the Save icon.
  1. From the Preview menu select Preview in Default Browser to test your survey.  While testing, try shrinking the size of your window to see how the survey renders differently at different browser window sizes.

    NOTE: In Mobile Rendering, question tables are split into separate questions by prompt.

Additional Information about Question Tables

Question Tables can use other display types, such as lists, checkboxes, and text boxes. You can apply show-if logic to individual rows within a question table.

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15.Adding Custom Text and Images

You can add custom images, audio (for ACASI surveys), video, Flash animations, Java applets, and other items to any part of your survey.  You can also insert text objects.  Text objects are useful anytime you want to communicate information, but not collect data, such as a welcome page, interviewer instructions, consent form, or other text.

Let’s add a simple bit of text to appear right after login:

  1. Click on the SURVEY collection in the left pane of the Survey Designer.
  1. Click on the Add text/html item icon on the Survey Designer toolbar.
    adding custom text 1
  1. Type some simple text, like “Welcome to Our Survey!
  1. Highlight the text and apply formatting as you would in a word processor, changing font size, color, and other attributes. You can also add graphics and links.  Graphics can be uploaded into the Survey Resources and used throughout the survey, such as branding a survey with a logo.
    adding custom text 2
  1. Click OK to add the Text/HTML item to your survey. In this example, the Text/HTML page that was just created has been dragged to show after the LOGIN collection.
    adding custom text 3
    NOTE: This item will be displayed to participants exactly where it appears in the Survey Editor. Save and preview your survey. You will see that the page after the login includes the HTML you just created.

    adding custom text 4

Additional Information about Text/HTML Items

You can apply show-if logic to Text/HTML items, just as you can to questions and collections. You can also view and edit the HTML source code for any of these items by opening it in the Text/HTML editor and clicking the Source tab at the bottom of the editor.  Once the survey has been programmed, it should be published for live data collection.

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16.Publishing the Survey

Publishing a survey involves taking the survey from your local desktop and moving it on to the server where it can actively collect data.  Users can simply check in the survey, which places a copy onto the server, or users can choose to publish the survey during that process, which also makes it available on the web.  We are going to check in and publish our survey all at once.

  1. Go to the ‘Survey Administration’ tab (assuming it has been checked in), right-click the survey and select ‘Check in
  1. The Check-In Survey dialogue will open. Select the option Check-in, approve and publish.
    publishing a survey 1
  1. Start a new time period by entering a name for the time period – you can enter anything here, such as “Spring launch” or “Live”.
  1. You will need to select the Project into which you are publishing your survey. You may have access to one project or multiple projects.  Projects are a way to organize surveys, participant lists, email jobs, and studies, and control which users have access to those objects.  Select a project, and remember which Project you selected.
  1. Enter a Survey Description
  1. Enter Comments (optional)
  1. Click ‘OK
    publishing a survey 2
    The survey is now published and should show as running on the Survey Administration tab.  You can now actively collect data.
    publishing a survey 3
  1. You can find the URL of your live survey by right-clicking the survey on the Survey Administration tab and selecting View Published Survey. That will take you directly to the URL of the survey.
    publishing a survey 4

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Next Steps

Now that your survey is built, its time to upload a list of participants to send it out to. Click the icon to learn how to add participants.