Getting bogged down in Questionnaire Quicksand


The best surveys are those where respondents move through the questionnaire smoothly being presented with varied questions and answering them at a nice even pace. Respondents feel they are making progress and maintain their interest. We need to avoid them falling into what I’m calling "Questionnaire Quicksand", those all too familiar parts of surveys where respondents get trapped and unable to move on quickly.

Large grids are the most obvious, but not the only, example of Questionnaire Quicksand. The occasional grid in a survey can be acceptable, as long as it is easy to answer and not overly long. Used well and sparingly grids are an efficient way to collect information. However, large grids with a seemingly unending number of rows where respondents have to keep scrolling down (or across and down if they are using a mobile phone) suck the energy and goodwill out of respondents. They become more likely to drop out or continue through the survey in an unconsidered fashion, just giving answers to get through to the end. The impact of Questionnaire Quicksand can be catastrophic.

Large grids and batteries of endless attitude statements are often symptoms of an unfocussed survey. Do you really need to collect all of that information? Will it be valuable, even if respondents answer your questions properly?

Before you launch your surveys go through the questionnaire and identify any areas that slow the pace of the survey. Better still get other people to test it. Watch them complete it and ask them about their experience. Ask them where the survey was boring or difficult to complete. Identify the pain points and remedy them by streamlining your survey so it is focussed on meeting your research objectives.

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