Finding the Correct Survey Length

Lately, we have been discussing various tips on how to write a great online survey and have been receiving a lot of positive feedback. So FluidSurveys University decided to stay on track and tackle another highly debated survey topic.

How Long Your Survey Should Be

Your survey’s length could be impacted by the nature of your respondent, such as whether they are part of the general public, panel sample group, or internal group (like your employees!).

General Public
When conducting survey research on the general public, whether through conducting in person interviews with a tablet or through providing some sort of incentive online, the length of your survey is a definitive factor in the respondent drop-out rate. In the last blog, we discussed the necessity of revealing the estimated length of the survey to participants in the introduction. However, if the length is deemed too long for the respondent, they will be likely to drop-out of the questionnaire immediately.
So the real key to finding the correct survey length isn’t in its number of pages or questions, but the length of time it takes to complete. Well, the answer to this question has been highly debated for years. A good rule of thumb is to never go over 15 minutes for a general public survey. Anymore and your response rates will begin to decrease dramatically.

Panel Sample Groups
In today’s online marketing research world, many companies have come to depend on panels to gain their responses. Panels are basically set groups of respondents who are registered with a company and required to fill out surveys in return for monetary compensation. Many researchers see panels as an excuse to make longer and sometimes more tedious surveys, believing that panel members will fill it out regardless.
This sentiment is somewhat true, however providing panels with long and possible boring surveys will allow for other problems to arise. Instead of dropping out, panel respondents will streamline through a boring and lengthy survey by doing the bare minimum to finish the questionnaire. Usually this is accomplished by clicking answers on each question without reading its content. This will destroy any legitimacy to your research and should be avoided at all cost! Therefore, it is much safer to be cautious and remain within the same 15 minute time frame of survey length as you would for a general public survey.

Internal Groups
When conducting a survey using and internal sample group (for example a company’s employees or a landlord’s tenants) many surveyors make the questionnaire compulsory. Usually you can get away with a more time consuming survey as your respondents are forced to answer and also recognize that they will be directly affected by the outcome of the information revealed in the study. Regardless, it is important to be as brief as possible. Though an internal respondent group may be more motivated to take part in the study and make more allowances for a tedious survey, the same rules that apply to a general public survey still apply here. A boring or lengthy survey will only end with lower response rates or participants causing unreliable data by clicking through questions without reading!

How Do I Make Sure My Survey is the Right Length?

If you are having trouble judging the length of your survey, look at each closed question as roughly 15-30 seconds. Then allow for more time based off the number of options and the complexity and length of the question. As for open-ended questions, these can range from 30 seconds to a few minutes depending on what is being asked of the respondent. To help you gauge the length of time it will take for respondents to answer a survey, you can check the ‘Estimated Time’ field that appears after clicking on the survey in your account. However, as the name suggests, this is only a rough estimate and does not take into consideration the complexity of your topic or the familiarity of the sample group on the topic.

The only way to ensure your estimated time is as accurate as possible is good pretesting. FluidSurveys records your respondents’ various completion times and creates an average based on the results. This information is then placed under the ‘Average Time Taken’ field, which can be found in the same table as the ‘Estimated Time’ field. Before launching your survey, conduct a pretest and refer to the ‘Average Time Taken’ field for the length of your survey. With this input you will be able to identify whether the survey can include more questions, or needs to be altered to be less time consuming. Remember to ensure that your pretest group reflects your sample of respondents to make certain their average completion time will correctly reflect the study’s final average completion time.

FluidSurveys Presents

Free Survey Q&A

Join our survey & research expert Rick Penwarden as he answers all of your questions every Wednesday at 1PM EST!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *