Join the Debate! How Many Questions per Survey Page?

Hello everyone! Today I wanted to take a look at one of the most hotly debated topics in online surveying. How many questions should be included on a given survey page? It is a question that most would assume has an easy answer, but when the subject comes up in a room full of survey creators (believe me I have been in a few!) it can turn into WWIII! In this article, I’ll jump right into this conundrum that faces our users on a daily basis. We’ll look at how the appropriate number of questions per page has evolved overtime and give some solid guidelines on the subject.

In the Beginning…

The rules of surveying have always been based on the technological capabilities at hand. Back in the prehistoric days of the internet, a time where computers navigated webpages at a snail’s pace and system crashes were common place, online surveying standards were quite different. Though the internet opened up a new medium of communication that allowed a company or researcher to contact thousands of people cheaply and gather responses faster than ever before, the unreliability of people’s connection and slow downloading time backed survey designers into a corner.

In essence, the old school strategy of survey design was to limit the number of clicks a respondent had to make. This meant creating a one page survey no matter how long. Responding to these surveys, participants would only have to load one page and then submit the survey, thus saving them time and avoiding more chances for their browser to crash. As computers continued to advance in speed and power, webpage downloading times dramatically decreased to the point of being nonexistent. This changed the game for online survey design forever.

Say No to Scrolling!

Today the major cause of respondent drop outs and therefore the bane of all survey researchers has shifted from slow download times and crashes to scrolling. With the current speed of computers, present day respondents expect surveys to be fast and easy. The more scrolling a respondent does the longer and more difficult a survey becomes. Compounding this problem is the variety of different desktop and mobile devices being used to answer a survey. Navigating survey pages by scrolling can be more problematic and tiresome with certain devices, those with touch screens in particular.

The answer to this problem is multi-page surveys that effectively limit the need for scrolling. Usually this strategy meant dividing the survey up into pages based on categories, like a page for demographic questions and another for feedback. However, having different numbers of questions per survey page has become viewed by many respondents as misleading. Imagine answering a survey where the first page has 4 questions and some scrolling, just to move on to a page with 8 questions. In this case you’re at the mercy of the survey design, never knowing what’s next. Frustrating? I think so! Most respondents, at this point, start to think, “How long is the next page going to be?” Leading to questions like, “When will this be over?” These are not very good questions to be having if you want high response rates.

The New Era of Online Surveys

The idea is to design surveys where each page holds only the number of questions that would fit comfortably on a normal screen size. Most of the time this amounts to one question per page, but in some cases you might be able to fit more. Using FluidSurveys options like side-by-side and append to previous makes optimizing screen space a lot easier, allowing you to position two or three short questions onto a page without forcing respondents to scroll.

TIP: If you are placing two or three short questions on the same page, ensure they are closely related. Beyond optimizing screen space, organization of questions is key. Most respondents will expect questions on the same page to be part of the same theme (ie: Contact Information, Demographics, a Registration Form, etc.)

More Advantages to One Question per Page Surveys

Beyond avoiding the negative effects of scrolling, there are a few more ways you benefit from a multipage survey.

  1. The Progress Bar: The progress bar is the researcher’s best friend. As the progress bar continues to be filled, not only does it show the percentage completed but it also gives the respondent a subconscious feeling of investment and accomplishment. This sense of investment will make the respondent feel more and more obligated to finish the survey.
    In the case of a one question per page survey, each time the respondent answers a question their progress bar has a bit more completion, making the bar more accurate and giving your survey a feeling of swiftness. If you have multiple questions per page, the progress bar will only change once the respondent completes the several questions for each page. This will give the respondent a feeling closer to stop and go traffic than speed. What’s more, depending on the amount of questions on each page, the progress bar may not accurately reflect the respondent’s place in the survey.
  2. Incorporating Survey Logic: Using survey logic like skipping, branching, extraction, showing and hiding, require multiple pages to function. By dividing your survey into different pages based on each question, you can use survey logic however you choose without changing the look and feel of your questionnaire. With multiple questions per page, incorporating logic can be more difficult and easier for your respondent to notice.
  3. Focuses Respondents: Moving to a new page is like resetting the respondents’ mind. A sole question on a page allows people to focus on the question by itself. Most respondents view each page as a stand-alone subject, subconsciously grouping all questions on the page together. If a respondent is answering their third question on the same page, they will be responding while reflecting on the former two questions. This opens the door for survey bias, which is definitely not a good thing.
  4. Using Extra Resources: Often you’ll notice that there is a bit of extra space on each page with one question. This is perfect for adding pictures, video, links or information (LINK) that might help respondents provide answers or understand the question. With multiple questions per page, visual tools, like pictures, can be more easily misinterpreted. Respondents may be confused on whether it relates to the entire page, a particular question, or a set of questions.

What’s Your Say on the Issue?

If you have ever checked out our FluidSurveys templates, you know that almost all our surveys are built one question per page. But many people still believe in the old line of thinking, ‘more clicks equal more drop outs!’ I want to know where you stand on the issue, let me know by answering the question below or by leaving a comment.

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