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Six Inventive Ways to Create an Engaging Survey UX

Marika Tenhunen
4 min read
Six Inventive Ways to Create an Engaging Survey UX

Whether you’re conducting market research to solve a specific business problem or gathering customer or employee feedback, it’s more important than ever to try and create an engaging and enjoyable survey experience. Why is that?

Attention spans are shrinking, and these days your surveys have to compete with the myriad distractions and people competing for our attention. Consider this, globally we tweet 500 million tweets a day. We send 560 billion texts every month, and we spend on average 135 minutes on social media daily. Plus, as consumers, we’re all growing increasingly accustomed to expecting a first-class experience, whether shopping online or completing surveys. And, this applies equally to our business lives. We want a similar, intuitive experience when using technology or completing surveys at work. If we feel we’re not getting it, we’ll just move on.

Thankfully, with the right technology and tools, and by paying attention to some important best practice rules, it’s very possible to deliver surveys that are engaging and absorbing right to the finish.  Here are my six inventive ways to make sure your surveys deliver a superior user experience and as well as superb response rates.

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1. Give it the wow factor from the get-go

Most respondents form an impression within half a second of seeing a survey – and 94% of that is design related! In fact, there are more drop-outs from page one than at any other stage of a survey, regardless of the audience. So, getting the visuals right is key.

This is mainly about making your survey look credible, authentic and professional, especially as consumers are increasingly worried about online phishing and scams. So, a brand or agency should seek to immediately reassure respondents by using the correct corporate logos and recognizable brand colors and fonts.

Choosing an interesting mix of graphics, colors and background images can also help attract and hold people’s attention. These things sound obvious but are often still an after-thought in many surveys.


2.  It’s all in the planning  

There are some general “rules of thumb” to bear in mind when planning the structure of your survey:

  • Stick to around 15 questions for a 5-minute online survey. People’s interest tends to wain in long surveys, so resist the temptation to cram too much in.
  • Use appropriate filtering (or piping) to ensure respondents are only shown questions that are relevant to them, based on their previous answers. This helps respondents feel they’re being listened to, increasing completion rates.
  • Use grid and matrix questions sparingly. While they are really useful when you want respondents to compare a variety of options, they are hard work and can put people off.
  • Limit the number of open-ended questions. Some respondents like them because they provide the freedom to express themselves – but too many can be tiring. Similarly, make sure your open-ends are clearly framed around a specific issue so that respondents have adequate direction on the areas they should be commenting about.
  • Break up the flow. Ask something thought-provoking, challenging or add an image-related question mid-survey. Doing something slightly different at this point also helps to re-engage respondents whose attention may be starting to wander.


3. Make it interactive

With today’s survey technology, it’s getting easier to make surveys dynamic and interactive, to deliver a more immersive, effortless experience. You can make grid questions easier on the eye and less of a chore by showing each part separately and fading out the elements that have already been answered for example. Interactive sliders, over numbered scales, are an easier way for respondents to demonstrate their strength of feeling about a topic (e.g. how strongly do you agree or disagree). Asking respondents to click or sort a range of relevant images is a more involving way of asking multiple choice questions than ticking a number of text options.


4. Cater to the “always-on” culture

Given that around 40% of surveys are completed on a mobile device (this is even higher among Gen Z!), it’s a “must do” to make sure your survey technology can easily scale up or down, and re-orient or re-format itself for the device to keep people engaged. Responsive design as well, it’s equally important to bear in mind accessibility norms.  


5. Eyes on the prize

Offering monetary incentives such as vouchers or discounts can increase response rates by a fifth. Equally, you don’t always need to splash the cash. Some people, especially in a business-to-business context, might be enticed to complete the survey on the promise of some real-time results or benchmarking data during or at the end of the survey. So, take time to consider what might be most appealing to your target respondent. 


6. Think laterally

Don’t just limit yourself to the traditional online survey. Think creatively about the most effective and engaging way to capture the data you’re looking for. For example, a pop-up community or feedback portal allows you to mix traditional survey questions with forum style discussions and blogs, delivering both quantitative and qualitative insights. Or perhaps a simple quick poll will provide the data you’re after. And, remember that nearly 2 in 10 adults aren’t active online, so telephone, face-to-face and paper surveys still have a place. You can use different modes of data capture and put the information into one platform to merge, analyze and compare the findings.

The pressure is on to deliver a superior survey experience if you want to generate high response and completion rates. To focus on making this happen, you need to plan your surveys intelligently and use the right technology and tools. You can learn more about this topic, by watching our webinar, Mastering the Survey Experience.


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