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FeatureFriday: Skip Logic and Branching – Equip your Survey Structure with Intelligent Paths

Author: Stuart Kondziella | Feature Friday | June 15, 2017

    What is skip logic and branching and how does it work?

    Skip logic and branching is typically used to customise each respondent’s "journey" through a survey. It is in the nature of surveys to offer participants different answer options to choose from which directly affect the relevance of any subsequent questions. This is where skip logic and branching come in to increase the quality of experience for survey-takers.
    Broadly speaking, there are two types of survey participants: there are those who are genuinely interested or impacted by the survey topic and there are those who are motivated by incentives offered. Either way, people who decide to take a survey hope to capitalise on it, be it due to the gain of knowledge or a compensatory reward. In order to draw your own profit from conducting a survey, i.e. receiving meaningful and complete information from your respondents, you have to consider the "journey" for your participants to be just as important as the "destination". Essentially, this means that you apply targeting-like logic to determine which questions are displayed to a specific survey participant and which questions aren’t based on previously selected answers. By doing so, you individually eliminate all irrelevant questions and place the greatest importance on the needs and interests of your respondents.
    The consequence? You will avoid survey fatigue (i.e. any obstacles people face before and during your survey that will lead to bounce behaviour, in this case irrelevant survey content), increase response rates and receive higher data quality.
    Simply put, skip log and branching in LimeSurvey works in the following way: a survey participant selects a specific answer A1 to a question Q1. This answer A1 may logically render the following question Q2 irrelevant and may require skip logic to hide question Q2 and instead move straight on to question Q3. Here’s a simple example: if a participant answers ‘No’ in the first question, thereby making clear that he/she doesn’t own a pet, the second question on which type of pet the respondent owns is automatically rendered moot. If you don’t use skip logic and keep showing irrelevant questions like in the example, you risk exhausting and losing your participant which results in a loss of potentially valuable data.
    Whenever setting up a questionnaire, bear in mind to act on the maxim that people are always looking for a great experience, as it also applies to the participation process in a survey.

    Skip logic example survey

    Skip Logic Example Survey Structure

    Condition elements and how are they applied in LimeSurvey

    The LimeSurvey skip logic consists of specific elements/operators which define the requirements of any condition.
    The tested value is typically the initial question that triggers the integration of a condition. In the above example, the tested value could be the question ‘Do you own a pet?’ when setting up a condition for displaying the second question ‘What kind of pet do you own?’. Alternatively, you may choose survey participants attributes as the basis for a condition such as first/last name, email address, token, language code.
    The comparison operator, in our example equal, links the tested value and the comparison value to create an equation/inequation for the condition.
    Last, the comparison value marks the counterpart of the tested value, in this case the answer options ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, thereby completing the condition equation/inequation. Alternatively, you may select constants, specific questions and token fields as comparison values.
    Thus, we end up with the condition Only show question ‘What kind of pet do you own?’ if: ‘Do you own a pet?’ equals ‘Yes’. As a result, the question ‘What kind of pet do you own?’ will be skipped if the answer to the question ‘Do you own a pet?’ is ‘No’.

    Condition edit mask

    Condition edit mask

    Discover basic and advanced logic-based conditions in LimeSurvey

    As already covered in the last paragraph, single conditions can be set up quite easily by choosing a previous question as well as the selection of a predefined answer and coupling these with a comparison operator.
    This method is especially useful for short surveys that have a rather simple structure with maximum two different question paths.
    Advanced tip: combine multiple conditions, either based on ...
    • a single choice question: in this case you set up two or more conditions the way it was done for a single condition, based on two or more previous questions with their respective predefined answers. For example, if you ask the question ‘What kind of black pet do you own?’, conditions based on two different questions have to be created. This can be achieved by the example as follows: ‘Do you own a pet?’ equals ‘Yes’ and ‘What colour does your pet have?’ equals ‘Black’

    or

    Multiple conditions based on single choice example

    Multiple conditions based on single choice example

    Multiple conditions based on single choice conditioning

    Multiple conditions based on single choice conditioning
    • a multiple choice question: in this case, within one of the conditions more than one answer option, i.e. multiple choices, can be selected when displaying the subsequent question. For example, if you ask the question ‘What kind of black and white pet do you own?’, conditions based on two different questions with potentially more than one answer option each have to be created. This can be achieved by the example as follows: ‘Do you own a pet?’ equals ‘Yes’ and ‘What colours does your pet have?’ equals ‘Black’ and ‘White’.

    Multiple conditions based on multiple choice example

    Multiple conditions based on multiple choice example

    Multiple conditions based on multiple choice conditioning (1)

    Multiple conditions based on multiple choice conditioning
    A modification of the latter would be to re-phrase the initial question to ‘What kind of black or white pet do you own’ and allow for the multiple choice question ‘What colours does your pet have?’ to at least be answered with one of the options ‘Black’ or ‘White’ among other potential colours.

    Multiple conditions based on multiple choice conditioning (2)

    Multiple conditions based on multiple choice conditioning
    Advanced tip: combine multiple conditions, based on multiple questions. Within this constellation, you have to use scenarios. In the aforementioned conditional cases, there was always just one scenario as the default setting.
    If you have different question paths leading to the same question at a later stage of the survey process, these paths need to be equipped with scenarios. Let’s take the following example: the initial question Q1 is still ‘Do you own a pet?’. If the respondent answers ‘Yes’, it will lead him/her to question Q2 ‘Would you like to have a second pet?’. If the respondent answers ‘No’ instead, it will lead him/her to question Q3 ‘Would you like to have a pet?’. Subsequently, if Q2 and Q3 are each answered ‘Yes’ (for this case we will ignore the answer options ‘No’), respondents end up at the same question Q4 ‘Are you planning on buying a pet soon?’. In order to build this logic structure, Q4 requires the conditional scenario 1 (Q1 = Yes and Q2 = Yes) or scenario 2 (Q1 = No and Q3 = Yes). So, despite respondents taking different paths from the initial question on, they may end up at the same question at a later stage of the survey due to the creation of different scenarios. These scenarios are automatically set up to be mutually applicable to reach Q4, i.e. they are separated by an ‘OR’.

    Multiple conditions based on multiple branches

    Multiple conditions based on multiple branches
    Advanced tip: simply copy conditions to other questions to save time. This smart function is a great way to reduce laborious and time-consuming condition set-ups by providing the possibility to easily copy existing conditions to other questions that require the same skip logic. Access a question’s condition that you would like to copy, click the button ‘Copy conditions’ at the top of the page, check all (sub-)conditions you are looking to copy and enter the destination question to copy these selected conditions to.

    Copy conditions

    Copy conditions

    Benefits of LimeSurvey skip logic and branching

    As you can see, LimeSurvey’s skip logic and branching feature offers a complex, yet incredibly powerful set of functionalities to keep your survey lean and interesting for your participants. In this context, you may benefit from a variety of advantages:
    • Reduce the amount of survey questions for the individual participant to answer
    • Skip questions that add no value when presented to certain participants
    • Keep your participants happier by making the survey quicker to answer and saving them precious time
    • Consequently, increase your response rates
    • Only receive completed surveys with relevant results that will benefit your statistics
    LimeSurvey offers all features to paid subscriptions as well as free users. Skip logic and branching is no exception here and can be used by anyone to add more intelligence to one’s survey structure.
    Give it a try and set up some basic questions and answers with our skip logic and branching! Simply click here to get started.
    If you want to learn more about skip logic and branching, simply visit our LimeSurvey manual.

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