How to Design for Mobile Surveys

The Definitive Guide to Designing Mobile Surveys

How to Design for Mobile Surveys

Today’s consumers use a variety of devices for accessing online surveys. Depending on the sample source and target, estimates range anywhere from 30-60% percent of all survey takers are using a smartphone or tablet to access a survey, while the remaining use a desktop/laptop PC. While researchers are familiar with designing a survey for the PC device, how do we also optimize the survey experience for mobile users? The screen sizes and input methods for each of the devices are unique, and these differences must be accounted for in order to render the best possible survey taking experience for the participant no matter what device a survey participant uses to take the survey.

Here’s a summary of current understanding on how to make online surveys accessible and optimized for today’s multi-device consumer.

Mobile-First Design “Similarity”

As a rule of thumb, when thinking about online survey design, start with the lowest common denominator. For most studies, that is the smartphone. Content designed and sized to fit on a smartphone can, in most cases, be accommodated on the desktop screen. Then from there, build out your survey for the remaining devices (e.g. tablet and desktop).

Aim for design similarity among devices. This will help preserve data consistency among the different devices. This means keeping the fundamental structure of the question and input required to be generally the same, no matter if the survey is taken on a desktop, tablet or smartphone device.

Make It Big

Touch input and a smaller screen are among the most defining aspects that contrast PCs and mobile devices. Therefore, ensure the selection area of a survey is large enough to accommodate the needs of touch input. Traditional size checkboxes found on PC surveys are not suitable for mobile. Instead, use large buttons or adjust the spacing and layout for the checkboxes.

Also, don’t forget to ensure all text displayed is comfortable to read from a reasonable viewing distance. Enlarge the font if necessary.

How to Design for Mobile Surveys

Figure 1. PC–centric format

How to Design for Mobile Surveys

Figure 2. Mobile-friendly format, which can also be applied to the PC

How to Design for Mobile Surveys

Figure 3. If needed, enlarge the font size for better viewing

Cut the Clutter

Only a limited amount of content can comfortably be accommodated within the smaller-sized screens of the mobile device. Content must be simplified to make room for increased font size and selection areas for ease of mobile use. Here are some examples:

How to Design for Mobile Surveys

Figure 4. Grid questions typically do not render very well on a mobile device. Reduce the number of scale points and/or use an interactive question type

How to Design for Mobile Surveys

Figure 5. Simplify the wording within a question will reduce instances of text wrap around, and free up more space on the screen.

When considering how much content to cut, strive for these goals:

  • Minimize the amount of scrolling required. Vertical scrolling is acceptable, horizontal scrolling is not.
  • Input areas and font sizes should be large enough so that the user doesn’t have to zoom in to properly view and take the survey.
  • Minimize the amount of wrap-around text.

Survey length

The shorter the survey length the better, and it should not be longer than 15 minutes. Data quality due to participant fatigue starts to set in within the first few minutes of a survey, but signs of ‘satisficing’ becomes especially pronounced after the 15-minute mark. ‘Satisficing’ means to just do enough to get through the task at hand. Rather than providing thoughtful answers, participants do the minimum required to complete the survey.

Test and re-test

Finally, the only way to completely ensure that participants will have effective survey experiences is through direct and repeated testing. Every researcher should get into the habit of testing and taking their own surveys. This helps to pinpoint what may encourage participants to complete or drop out of a survey because it doesn’t render well. Experimental evidence is not needed to identify where the text is too small, or where input areas may be difficult to manage. If a survey experience is not good for the researcher, it won’t be good for participants either. And ultimately, a better, the more engaging survey also means better insights and more positive customer engagement with your brand.

This blog is an excerpt from the whitepaper: The Definitive Guide to Designing Mobile Surveys. For the full whitepaper, including a cheat sheet for specific survey questions.

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