Survey Fatigue: 5 Ways to Avoid Ruining Your Research

In a nutshell, survey fatigue is a respondent's state of exhaustion as a result of boredom or indifference toward taking surveys.  This can be due to a number of reasons.  Survey fatigue is an omnipresent issue nowadays. Due to vast global digitisation and virtually 24-hour reachability of people on their mobile devices, organisations and other institutions have been increasingly leveraging this opportunity to retrieve feedback data via online surveys.

Types of Survey Fatigue

There is widespread consensus across the web that survey fatigue can be subdivided into two types, depending on when this state of fatigue is triggered.
  • survey responding fatigue:
      This type of survey fatigue sets in before a potential respondent can even start taking a survey. The overwhelming number of survey invitations or frequency of survey reminders lead to a decline in attitude toward taking surveys.

  • survey taking fatigue:
    This type of survey fatigue occurs while a respondent is in the midst of taking a survey. If a survey takes too much time and/or survey questions are complex and incomprehensible, the same decline in attitude toward continuing and completing a survey will be the result.

Hence, survey fatigue will leave you either with no survey data or low-quality survey data to work with and, therefore, poses a giant risk to your research.

Reasons For survey Fatigue

There are numerous reasons that can lead to the aforementioned types of survey fatigue, some of which were already mentioned alongside the survey fatigue type.  The following list of causes keep recurring in discussions and publications on survey fatigue.
    • Surveys are too long: If participating in a survey takes too much time or consists of too many questions, people will lose interest, as their time is a precious resource.

    • Questions are too long and complex: In line with the first reason, long and complex questions will require more concentration from the respondent and make it harder to understand how to proceed, thus resulting in the survey taking too long to complete. This will drastically increase bounce rates.

    • Frequency of survey invitation/reminder is too high: Receiving too many survey invitations at once or receiving very frequent survey reminders can be overwhelming and frustrating for the recipient. Response rates will drop as a result of this.

    • Questions are too sensitive in nature: This is especially applicable to personal and demographic questions. Respondents may not want to divulge private information and abandon the survey.  


    • Questions have little or no relevance to respondents: If a survey does not target the right audience, its topic will not be relevant to the respondents and evoke boredom.

Nevertheless, there are ways and best practices of ensuring that survey fatigue can be avoided or at least minimised.

Measures for Tackling Survey Fatigue

  • Keep your survey short.
      Most people will avoid taking a survey that is longer than 5 – 10 minutes, as well as one more than 10 questions long. Keeping your survey short will help ensure that your respondents do not lose focus or interest. A good way of checking the length of your survey is to have someone else test it beforehand and time it.

  • Create questions in simple language.
      Keep questions nice and short, avoid confusing or misleading question content, and abandon any double negatives or other ambiguous phrasings. Have someone revise the wording of your questions to make sure they are intelligible.

  • Find the invitation sweet spot.
      Test the timing of your invitation and frequency of your reminder emails to find the ideal strategy to get people to take your survey. In most cases, this is a matter of trial and error.

  • Know the privacy boundaries.
      Retrieving good and the proper amount of data is great, but you need to make sure not to cross your respondent’s personal boundaries when it comes to sensitive questions. Have someone check your questions to help ensure that they are appropriate to ask your respondents.

  • Ask the right questions.
    If you’re targeting a specific audience with interests that should match the topic of your survey, make sure to stick to the point. If you’re mixing your survey (sub-)topics, split them into different surveys to get the best possible data from your respondents. If you’re not targeting a specific audience, your survey topic may quickly become irrelevant to your respondents. Offering certain incentives can help mitigate this problem. However, incentives must always be chosen with caution.

Advanced Tip: Implement a question that asks for permission to get in touch with your respondents to discuss anything that was unclear and get feedback on the answers provided. As this is a voluntary declaration of consent, you have nothing to lose.

To sum up, you can help avoid respondent survey fatigue by paying attention to these four keywords: Time, Relevance, Appropriateness, Comprehensibility, that’s all.

Ready to go obtain some amazing survey data from your respondents?

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