I recently received an survey from an organization interested in learning about my charitable donation habits. Being in the survey biz I rarely turn down the opportunity to take a survey, but to my disappointment this turned out to be a survey I would not complete. Why? A few reasons. Lets start with the most obvious issue: too much scrolling!


Issue #1: Stop the Scrolling

Below is the second page of the survey. Right off the bat the scroll bar on the right side of the screen told me that questions 7-12 were just the tip of the iceberg for this page… and I say “page” lightly as I had two scroll my mouse wheel three times to reach the bottom.

Recommendation #1: Keep content “above the fold”

It is generally a best practice to keep important information “above the fold”, a term borrowed from print media that translates to the web as “visible without scrolling.” Having to scroll through a long list of survey questions can be daunting for a respondent and minimizes the likelihood that they will complete the survey. Try to keep the number of questions on a page between 1 and 5 to ensure your navigation buttons (next, back, submit) are in view. Having the buttons visible encourages respondents to continue. If there is no end in sight, respondents may abandon the survey.


Issue #2: Make “Not Applicable” not applicable

The survey page above contains 12 questions. Of those 12, exactly half contain the answer choice: “Not Applicable.” After answering the first 6 questions a respondent must then scroll down and answer 6 more questions that may not even apply to them! These questions are the reason this page requires respondents to scroll down and the reason the response rate for this survey is likely very poor. Why should a respondent have to waste their time reading through questions that aren’t “Applicable”?

Recommendation #2: Use Conditional Logic

Don’t force respondents (who are generously taking time out of their busy lives to complete your survey) to work harder than they need to. Use conditions and branching to tailor a survey to respondents based on their answers. In the example above, all of the questions with a “Not Applicable” answer option have to do with making charitable donations online. If I were building this survey I would first add a qualifying question asking whether or not the respondent has ever made a donation online. I would then place those 6 “Not Applicable” questions on their own page and set a condition to that page so that it will only display in the survey when a respondent indicates on the qualifying question that they have, in fact, donated online in the past.


Issue #3: Where Am I?

If you have a lengthy survey like the one above, it may seem like a good idea to keep respondents in the dark about how long your survey actually is. As a respondent however, I find it comforting to know where the finish line lies. I always like to know what I’m in for before starting the survey and how much farther I have to go at any given time while completing the survey. That way I can set my expectations and determine how much time I”m willing to invest.

Recommendation 3: Progress Markers

Include a “Page __ of __” marker or a progress bar on every page of your survey so respondents can track their progress. BONUS: These features also give you another opportunity to brand your survey with company colors!


Other Issues:

– Sore Thumb Matrix – A pet peeve of mine.  Not only does it stand alone as the only Matrix in a sea of Radio Button questions, but the column widths seem disproportional to the amount of text in each column.

Lack of Branding – Other than the name of the organization at the top of the page, there is no company branding anywhere in the survey that makes it clear to respondents who the survey is from and what it is for. It never hurts to take a little extra time to customize a survey to reflect your brand.

– Third Party Branding  – Having the Survey Company’s logo on every page downgrades the professional appearance of the survey and may confuse respondents as to which company the survey is actually from, especially since the organization deploying the survey  in this example has not included a company logo. I didn’t complete the survey but I’m willing to bet there was also an ad for the survey company at the end. Be careful, you don’t want someone else’s company logo to be the last thing respondents see.


Final Recommendation:

The next time you create a survey try building it from the respondents point of view. If you don’t want to take your survey, neither will they.

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