Overcoming the Challenges of Mobile Surveys

Hello survey enthusiasts! Lately we have been receiving several questions from mobile survey users, asking how to avoid long page download times. Because of this, we thought it was about time we wrote an article containing tips on making effective mobile surveys.  Today, we’ll go over some key factors that hinder survey navigation speeds and as a bonus we’ll give a couple tips to improve a respondent’s mobile survey experience.  So let’s jump into it!

Why is My Survey Navigation so Slow?

No one likes being held up by long wait times, especially when it comes to technology.  But when conducting a mobile survey, prolonged loading times can be catastrophic to response rates and will put respondent fatigue through the roof!  Don’t worry, there are two major reasons that loading times can be slow on mobile and they are easily avoidable:

1) The Number of Questions per Page:  Unlike computer surveys, it is common for mobile surveys to place a large number of questions on the same page.  This limits the number of times a respondent must wait for the next survey page to load.  However, the number of questions per page can significantly slow down a survey’s loading times.  Placing any more than 10 questions on the same page can result in long waits between pages.  To find the correct balance, a good rule of thumb is to place no more than five questions per page.

2) The Number of Options per Question: Much like the number of questions per page, the more options per question the longer the loading time.  This only starts to become an issue when there are more than 20 options.  Limiting your number of options will ensure that the transitions between pages are much more fluid.

Some Tips for Transferring Surveys from Computers to Mobile

Though mobile technology has made great leaps in their user interface, most of this innovation has created a large gap between how we use computers and mobile devices.  These differences have to be acknowledged and addressed by surveyors, because directly transferring an online survey that was effective on computers to mobile can result in many problems.  Instead, you should make modifications to the survey that will make it more applicable to a mobile interface.  Here are a few rules you can stand by when improving the mobile respondents’ experience:

1) Fewer Open-Ended Questions: In most online surveys a healthy mix of closed and open-ended questions is the best way to collect data.  This provides the researcher with both quantifiable data through closed-ended questions and rich exploratory information through open-ended questions.  However, open-ended questions do not transfer well on mobile devices for two major reasons.  First, some of these devices are difficult for respondents to type in, which will result in respondent fatigue for answers that require a couple sentences to explain.  Second, people using a mobile device to fill out a survey will most likely be ‘on the go’ somewhere (riding the bus, lunch break, etc.).  This means that your survey will probably not have their full attention, making it difficult to ask for in depth and unique responses that require a lot of critical thinking.  Instead stay very straightforward with your questions and provide clear options to choose from.  In other words, stick to well organized close-ended questions when creating a mobile survey.

2) Customize Questions to Mobile Capabilities: When creating an online survey for computers, it makes sense to provide links and images to make the respondent’s experience more interactive and fun.  A researcher has to be wary about trying this tactic for mobile surveys.  Mobile devices vary greatly in their capabilities and different user settings.  This makes it hard to tell if your links or pictures will work on every device.  That is why keeping your survey simple and leaving out external resources is usually the best policy for mobile research.  Otherwise, you should provide a testing page for the respondent to see if their device is compatible with all aspects of the survey before they begin.

3) Pretest Your Mobile Survey Separately: It can’t be stressed enough that an online survey transferred from a computer to a mobile device could have many unforeseen problems!  For example, light settings are usually lower on mobile devices to save batteries, which can lead to changes in colour contrast.  In some cases, colours that are clearly different on a computer screen can blend together on a mobile device, making questions difficult to read.  The easiest way to avoid problems like these is to pretest your survey on various mobile devices and make modifications to the survey based on the feedback.

4) Go Outside the Computer Comfort Zone: When transferring a survey to mobile, most people do the bare minimum to make it compatible with both technologies.  Instead, make your mobile survey great by testing out the different options you have with our mobile app’s question types.  The FluidSurveys development team continues to create mobile specific questions, that make full use of the drag and drop style promoted in the touch screen world of tablets and iPhones.  By embracing unique mobile device options, you should be able to bring your survey to the next level!

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