Many survey tools have been trying to improve the user experience for a while now as technology evolves. They not only try to make it better for respondents but also for researchers using the tools.
Some of the areas where survey tools have focused their improvement on are interactivity, question format, skip logic speed in data delivery, and survey distribution.
Different question types have emerged in an attempt to provide a more interactive experience to respondents, engage them, increase response rate and response accuracy. Examples include:
- Rating questions using sliders, images instead of numbers of text and gauges, among others
- Constant sum questions using draggable bars.
- Text Highlight and Heat Maps.
Technology allows us now to do on-the-fly analysis to personalize the experience and integrate survey results with other data sources in a timely manner.
We can use advanced skip logic to present relevant questions and capture session information to improve data quality (e.g. removing speeders).
Potentially Better Sample Selection
We can distribute online surveys in different ways to offer better access to the target audience. We can use a pop-up, pop-under, pop-over, feedback links, embedded links, and link redirects to share them. This may allow us, at times, to go where the respondents are.
Organizations can quickly conduct surveys with internal resources (DIY research). We can monitor survey results since the moment we launch a survey. Online reporting capabilities allow us to get updated results continuously. The extent to which we limit or extend result sharing is under our control.
There is no doubt that technology has made it possible to create more engaging surveys, clean the data on-the-fly, facilitate access to surveys, and provide quick results.
But There Is More To Consider
However, before you jump on the wagon of the cool question types, consider these issues:
Determine which interactive features are necessary, which ones are more of a novelty, which ones do not help respondents directly to complete the survey, and which ones increase respondents’ burden.
When introducing graphic elements like images (e.g. smilies) or graphic representations of objects (thermometers, gauges, etc.), consider who your target audience is and what cultural barriers may influence reactions to these questions. This is especially true in international studies.
People are used to traditional question types, so it may be unclear what is expected from them. Clear instructions about the scale meaning and actions the respondent needs to take are recommended.
This may not be a problem, once these question formats become the norm, but for now, we need to ensure respondents know how to interact with the questions.
Impact on completion rates and data quality
The time needed to get familiar with the new question format, process the instructions (even if it takes a few seconds) and question complexity may affect completion rates and data quality.
Research on this is a mixed bag. Consequently, to be on the safe side, test the questions with a few members of the target audience before a full launch.
Reaching people with disabilities
The new question types are often not 508 compliant, making it difficult for people with disabilities to participate in surveys. If you need to reach respondents that may have disabilities, stick to the traditional formats.
Don’t Forget Good Survey Design
I welcome all the cool features survey tools are offering to improve the user experience. However, you still need to know how to write good surveys. For more on this check the article: 10 Things To Consider in Survey Design.
(An earlier version of this article was originally published on July 21, 2011. The article was last updated and revised on September 9, 2019.)