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  • Writer's pictureLiviu

Doing online surveys? Think thoroughly about it.

Updated: Feb 27, 2023

Hi folks, today we’ll have a short chat about a key aspect of online questionnaires design.

It may look like I’m beating a dead horse, but the horse is very much alive.


Researchers and/or clients sometimes seem to forget that survey consumption and survey design are very different beasts.

  • Time – survey design takes quite a lot of time (spent with back-and-forth feedback between researchers and clients, scripting, testing)

  • Words – many; survey design involves a lot of talk around sometimes pretty complex subjects

  • Interaction – survey design it’s done on large screen devices (usually desktop; laptop computers), using a mouse and a physical keyboard and scrolling through many pages it’s a common occurrence.


Survey consumption is not similar in any of these respects:

  • Time – Takes a short time (ideally, no more than 15 minutes)

  • Words – the fewer and easier to understand, the better

  • Interaction – It’s mostly done on another kind of devices.

I think you’re starting to guess where I’m heading to.


Recently, we asked our panel members and they too confirmed what is already well-known, but too often is forgotten: Smartphone is, by far, the preferred device for completing surveys.


Just think about what most people do when commuting in the subway or in any other public transport vehicle. Or what many people do during work breaks – coffee, cigar beaks and even lunch included – that’s right, if not literally glued to the smartphone, at least they check it quite often.

Smartphones give respondents the chance of completing a survey whenever they take a small break from whatever are they doing.

Also, keep in mind that the option to complete surveys on large screen devices – desktop & laptop computers or tablets – is available only for a certain proportion of the population, which varies from country to country. For many people, especially in the least developed countries, the smartphone is the only computational device they have access to.


So, the survey consumption is done on small screen devices, using mostly a touch one-page interaction. If really necessary, a bit of (virtual) keyboard and scrolling are fine; too much of any of them is a big turn-off.


Optimizing for smartphones has an additional side benefit: it really forces researchers to pay close attention to the Friendliness side of the questionnaire (first, Simplicity). And if it makes you think harder about Shortness too, even better – there’s more to be gain here: you will increase the overall Easiness of Use and it will be easy for your respondents to remain focused on the task at hand, while at the same time it will decrease the dropout rate. When also taking into account the fact that it’s easier to

find 10-15 minutes of spare time than 20, 30 minutes or even more, there’s much to be gained: you will enjoy visibly higher response rates.


So, if you still think you can develop long and complicated surveys, better suited for large screens, and still be able to reach an as wide as possible part of the population as possible and, on top of that, to get the most relevant answers, you’re deluding yourself.


If you want to obtain the best results: Think Simple, Think Easy, Think Short – THINK MOBILE.

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