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How to present your survey: on one page or on multiple pages?

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3 ways to present surveys to your audience

One of the first things to decide when setting up a survey is the general design and presentation style for your questions and answers. In this context, you have to choose the so-called format of displaying your survey. Essentially, this means you can either show your entire survey on one page, which is called scrolling survey design in the research world, you can show your survey on multiple pages, i.e. one question per page, which is called paging survey design, or an alternative hybrid format offered exclusively by LimeSurvey that allows to show one question group per page consisting of several questions, which we will call categorising survey design.

What seems like an easy decision at first, will require some further consideration when looking closer at this design topic. Especially in the light of the availability of different technical devices to take surveys on nowadays such as desktop computers, tablets or smartphones, formats may appear more advantageous on one device, yet more disadvantageous on another device. This adds extra complexity to survey design.

Researchers have been testing and evaluating this design question for years now by examining key metrics such as bounce rates, completion times and rates as well as item nonresponses. Insights indicated that surveys taken on desktop computers do not differ significantly for scrolling and paging designs with regard to completion and bounce rates. Merely, a tendency to skip certain questions was discovered for scrolling survey designs which could have had any number of reasons such as a mental overload, boredom or other problems connected to survey fatigue.

Tips for different survey design formats

One thing has to be stated clearly: there is no general best strategy that will apply to any type of survey. Ultimately, it comes down to the survey characteristics with regard to survey length in terms of time and number of questions as well as technical equipment and connectivity.

Nevertheless, scenarios can be created within which a certain design format may be more suitable than others due to the underlying survey conditions. This will lead us to the following tips for the usage of different survey design formats:
  • In general, if your survey is short in terms of the time it requires to be completed as well as a low number of questions, the recommendation will always be to use a scrolling design to keep the survey short, regardless of the device used. A paging or categorising design will spread questions over several pages and require respondents to click on the next button as well as to adjust to the subsequent page(s) which prolongs a survey. This will almost always exhaust or lower respondents’ interest potentially resulting in lower completion or higher bounce rates.

  • A paging design usually only makes sense if you have a long survey that is to be taken on either a desktop computer or a laptop as these devices possess larger screens as well as allow for faster cursor movements and clicks. This way, surveys can be completed in a more convenient manner when shifting from page to page.

  • Obviously, the aforementioned paging design can also be replaced by a categorising design which is the more elegant way as it groups question subtopics to facilitate respondents recognising logical connections between questions.

  • Tablet and smartphone devices with their smaller touchscreens ought to be confronted with a categorising design in case of a long survey as it would minimise the negative effects of both pure paging and scrolling designs. In the categorising design, less clicks and new page loads are required than in the paging design, as well as less scrolling and information overload are present than in the scrolling design.

  • The advantage of paging and categorising design is perfectly clear: every time a respondent completes one or a few questions on a page and clicks the next button, this data is submitted and saved, even if the respondent drops out on the subsequent page. If a respondent completes the same amount of questions in a scrolling design and drops out without submitting, all that data is lost. In this scenario, paging and categorising designs are more valuable as partial data may still deliver important insights.
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⇨ All in all, we do however recommend to try and avoid creating long surveys with many questions as these will oftentimes lower completion rates and increase bounce rates due to survey fatigue. Try and split longer surveys by subtopics into multiple shorter surveys. This way, you will make sure to increase survey relevance to your target audience and earn more valuable data to analyse.

In the end, it all comes down to how well you know your target audience. The more you find out about devices used and survey perseverance, the better you can suit your survey design to achieve the best results.

Mots-clés: Survey Science, Survey Design

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