Recommendations for Online Surveys on Mobile Phones

When creating an online survey, it is important to take into account that respondents can also access the survey via mobile devices (e.g. smartphones and tablets). In 2021, almost 60% of 1KA's respondents completed the survey via smartphone.

Therefore, when designing the questions in the survey, mobile respondents should be taken into account, both in the actual writing of the questions and in ensuring that the questions are displayed correctly regardless of the type of device used by the respondent. If surveys are not adapted to mobile devices, there may be problems related to data quality, e.g. incorrect recording of responses, satisficing, respondents skipping questions, etc. If respondents become dissatisfied, mobile respondents are much more likely to leave and not complete the survey.

To avoid these problems, PEW has developed eight recommendations for creating a survey that is also mobile-friendly:


1. Software must be optimised for mobile devices

Mobile optimisation means that the software automatically detects the device used by the respondent, in particular the screen size, and adjusts the layout of the survey accordingly. Fonts, spacing and buttons should be large enough so that respondents do not need to enlarge the screen. There should also be no horizontal scrolling, but vertical scrolling is acceptable.

2. Shorter is better

This refers to both the number of questions and the scope of the question. The longer the survey, the more likely respondents are to disengage - this is true for all types of surveys, but even more so for mobile surveys. This is because of the small screen sizes of smartphones, which can be solved by shorter questions and answers, which will make it easier for respondents to read and complete the survey, and should improve the quality of the data itself.

3. Avoid more advanced features

When creating a survey, it is important to try to keep it simple and not complicate things by including more advanced functionality such as sliders and the like. Research shows that respondents on mobile devices have difficulty using these features correctly as they require a high level of skill. It can also take more time than simpler formats. Thus, radio buttons, checkboxes or text boxes are the most recommended if possible.

4. Avoid tables

Surveys presented in table form are designed to make efficient use of space by formatting questions and response categories in a table or matrix. However, the use of tables on all devices has certain drawbacks. For example, researchers have found that with tables, respondents often choose the same, usually middle, answer for each item in the table, leading to nondifferentiation, also known as straightlining. This data quality problem is even more pronounced on mobile devices, as tables often require horizontal scrolling in addition to vertical scrolling, which can mean that all questions and answers may not be visible at the same time. This may cause respondents to leave the survey.

To avoid problems associated with tables, many online survey tools, including 1KA, allow you to optimize the table question type for mobile devices. More >>

5. Multiple questions on the same screen

As tables are not ideal for mobile surveys, it is better to ask multiple questions on the same screen. In the past, it was popular for online surveys to have each question on its own page or screen. However, due to slower page loading on mobile phones, this can put unnecessary strain on respondents. This can be avoided by putting questions about the same topic on the same page or screen.

6. Making the most of the smartphone screen

Smartphones have limited screen space, which makes it even more valuable. Avoid embedding logos, advertising and graphics (which also take longer to load), as this can saturate the screen. Navigation buttons should be at the bottom of the screen to force respondents to scroll past all the questions and answer options; this way they do not miss anything.

7. Survey invitations should contain a unique URL

Respondents should not be required to enter an access code or password to complete the survey. This creates another barrier to completing the survey, which is especially true for respondents on smartphones, as entering the code means that they will have to switch between the survey invitation received in their email inbox and the mobile web browser. For a better user experience, it is preferable to use individualized URLs for each respondent, so that when the respondent clicks on the URL in the invitation, the survey will open directly and the respondent can start completing the survey right away.

8. Invite respondents to complete the survey by SMS

In case we have the explicit consent of the respondents to send text messages, in addition to invitations by email, we can also send an invitation to complete the survey by SMS. We include the URL to the survey in the message and the respondent just clicks on the URL in the message.

For further reading on this topic, see the report by the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR).


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