12 Simple Strategies for Avoiding Survey Fatigue

When constructing web-based research surveys, it’s important to construct your survey instrument in a way to avoid survey fatigue. Survey fatigue happens when the respondent becomes bored, apathetic, or just tired of completing a lengthy, often ill-constructed survey. This can result in survey abandonment and/or unreliable survey results.

To prevent survey fatigue, design your next web-based survey with these X strategies in mind:

  • Keep survey questions short and to-the-point. Don’t ramble. Find ways to shorten your survey questions using the least amount of words without losing meaning. When it makes sense, leverage matrix questions.
  • Leverage skip logic. Don’t force respondents to answer questions that don’t apply to them. Utilize your survey platform’s skip logic feature to jump the respondent to the next potentially applicable survey section.
  • Cut nice-to-have survey questions. Do your best to right-size the length of your survey by only incorporating must-have survey questions. If you’re ever on the fence, use this question as a litmus test: “How are we going to leverage these survey responses?”
  • Incorporate “Don’t know” responses. Unless you are 100% sure every respondent is able to effectively answer a given survey question, be sure to include a “Don’t know” response at the end of the list. Nothing is more frustrating from a respondent’s perspective than being forced to select an option that they know doesn’t truly apply to them.
  • Offer appropriate survey incentives. As a strong rule of thumb, it’s best to provide survey incentives to respondents. (If you’re going it alone, Amazon electronic gift certificates make a fine choice.) The longer the survey, the more valuable the incentive. You’ll find that properly rewarded respondents are less prone to survey fatigue.
  • Set appropriate survey completion time expectations. Ask a few colleagues to take your survey for a test drive. If it takes them an average of 12 minutes to complete the survey, then advertise your survey as taking 10-15 minutes to complete. Don’t underestimate the completion time simply in hopes of obtaining more survey completions.
  • Incorporate progress bars. Most survey platforms offer progress bars. Empower your respondents to know what percentage of the way through the survey they are at all times.
  • Structure similar style questions consistently. When posing similar style questions, be sure to structure them in a consistent fashion, such as:On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being highest, rate your overall satisfaction…
    Which if the following best describes your organization’s…
    Describe your agreement with the following statement: “Whenever I…
  • Structure similar style responses consistently. When posing similar style questions, be sure to structure the responses in a consistent fashion, such as:
  • Extremely dissatisfied
  • Somewhat dissatisfied
  • Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
  • Somewhat satisfied
  • Extremely satisfied
  • Incorporate dual-purpose survey questions. If you construct a given survey question the right way, you can obtain two pieces of valuable information within the same question. For example, let’s say you asked, “Which of the following pets do you currently own?” Then you list the usual suspects: dog, cat, fish, etc. If your final option is, “I do not currently own a pet,” then you gain two statistical insights: (1) breakdown of pets by type and (2) percentage of respondents who have pets. This is a more efficient approach then asking two separate survey questions.
  • Use consistent Likert scale point structures. When asking respondents to rate something on a Likert scale, don’t mix and match 5-point scales with 7-point or other scales within the same survey.
  • Test your survey on all platforms. Before launching your survey, take it for a test drive on all platforms – desktops/laptops, tablets, and smart phones. Be sure to test things like skip logic and make sure a proper message is displayed if a respondent misses a mandatory (usually flagged with an asterisk) survey question.

CyberEdge consistently applies best practices for avoiding both survey fatigue and survey bias in all of its single- and multi-sponsored survey reports. To learn more about CyberEdge’s survey reports, click here:

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