Best Practice Tips for Mobile-Friendly Survey Design

Cell phones: they can be used as video cameras, for shopping lists, as gaming platforms, to keep up with friends, as a news source, in place of a weather station…and…Oh right, they can also be used as telephones. Mobile devices are already ubiquitous. Many of us sleep with them beside us and the phantom notification of a text message is a hallucination nearly all of us have at one time experienced. Mobile devices have changed the way we live in a major way. More importantly for the market research industry, they are often the device used to complete our research surveys.

At Insightrix, we’ve kept an eye how many respondents complete our surveys on a mobile device, and that number has been steadily increasing over the last few years. The change in how respondents are participating in research is especially important for the younger demographic where smartphone penetration is high and participation in surveys tend to be lower. Making surveys more mobile-friendly has become an imperative to make sure that we get participation from these key demographic groups.

Size Matters
survey design mobile screen best practiceScreen sizes vary considerably between mobile devices. For a survey researcher, this means that careful consideration must be given to making sure that the question and answer options display correctly for the respondent. The best practice is to detect the screen size and adjust the way the question displays accordingly. It is generally preferred to have the scrolling vertical-only while avoiding the horizontal scroll. This means that scale questions may have to be altered to become drop-downs, vertical sliders, or an open-ended response text box.

And let’s face it, we’ve all probably had the misfortune of having to scroll and zoom into a non-mobile-optimized web page in order to click the link we wanted – resulting in significant frustration, and more often than not, an uncompleted survey. Similarly, usability is important for surveys as well. Give thought to how respondents will answer the survey questions. Most devices have a touch screen, so it’s best practice to make sure that the selections are finger-sized or otherwise easy to select. If they need to type a text answer, if possible, ensure that the question remains visible as they type.

Size may also be an issue with regards to bandwidth. Although nearly all devices today support videos and pictures, it may take time for the media to download which can be a pain-point for the respondent. Also, including videos in a survey can cause the respondent to use a significant portion of their data plan. Be choosy. If including multimedia questions, warn participants before they get into the survey that there are large data requirements to participate. This could alter the decision in which mobile device the respondent may use.

Streamline the Survey
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More often than not, respondents are reluctant to complete a long survey on a mobile device, which can result in a high drop-off rate and difficulty getting the participation needed. To make your survey more mobile-friendly, be prepared to take a serious look at what issues are most important to include on the survey – and which can be cut.

There are many important components to making sure that respondents have a positive survey experience. Because it’s difficult to type lengthy answers using a mobile device, keep the number of open-ends to a minimum. Tighten up the wording as much as possible for both the questions and answer options. Consider the question style. See if there is anything you can do to simplify it. For example, it may be enough to ask a respondent to choose one item from a short pick list, rather than rate each item on a scale. At times it may be better to allow the respondent to provide the answer in text format, rather than choose from a drop-down list. Endeavor to modernize the look of the survey as well as the questions themselves – extra nice-to-haves like unnecessary introductory sentences, logos, or footers should be eliminated for an improved respondent experience.

If your research absolutely requires a long survey, consider the option of a split sample approach. You can use an abridged list of questions for those completing on a mobile device while sending those on desktops through the longer survey or send all respondents through one of two optimized versions.

Take advantage of the methodology
Researchers may need to give up on some things, like certain question styles, multimedia elements and lengthy or comprehensive questions to make sure that the survey experience is mobile friendly. But that doesn’t mean that catering to respondents completing surveys on their mobile device is necessarily a net-negative for the depth or breadth of data quality. In fact, the methodology also has a lot of positives that can be advantageous to market researchers.

Because mobile devices are often with us out-of-home, it provides the opportunity for researchers to get top-of-mind insights, wherever the respondent happens to be. This can be especially fruitful when using SMS survey invitations. Nearly all mobile devices are equipped with a camera and microphone, which means that using video recording, audio recording and picture capabilities can be used to gain insight that would be difficult or impossible using other methodologies.

Integrating survey research into the respondents’ lives by allowing them to use the device that’s most natural for them makes for a positive experience. We hope that this will lead to increased participation in market research in the long run – whether that participation takes place on the telephone, desktop computer, mobile device, or whatever new technology the future will bring.


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