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Survey Fatigue Causes Bad Data

Kipp Chambers Mar 01, 2016 2 Comments

In this article we'll be tackling the age-old researcher's dilemma: you want to gather as much data as you can, but the more data you ask for the less you get back.

And yet people constantly succumb to the temptation to over survey.

They build online surveys that are way too long, and they scare off their respondents in droves.

That sort of bad survey design can have even more serious side effects than a reduced response rate. If your respondents feel like you've wasted their time, it may negatively impact how they feel about your company or organization.

They may decide to ignore all online surveys from you in the future; or worse, they may decide they want nothing to do with your products or services.

But aside from those obvious problems, there's another survey fatigue issue that can arise: survey fatigue can give you inaccurate data.

Data Quality and Survey Fatigue

Let's say you've created a survey with survey branching or survey page jumping that either shows or hides a page or asks a different set of questions based on your respondent's answers.

And let's just say that one branch of your survey has more questions than the other.

If you were an online survey respondent and you were growing impatient with the survey, don't you think you might start to choose responses based on what you think will get you through the survey more quickly rather than the ones that actually reflect your feelings?

Granted, you might just abandon the survey. But if there's some sort of incentive on the line, or if you're really far into the survey, you might go ahead anyway.

Respondents who are just trying to get through the survey aren't giving you thoughtful answers. Their responses aren't generating data that you should act on with confidence.

Creating Surveys That Collect Better Data

Switching back to your role as the survey creator, in our hypothetical situation above you would yourself with corrupted data because people taking your survey chose the shortest route to get them to the end of the survey.

You could try to prevent all this by out-thinking your respondents.

You could keep the same number of questions per branch, or use a "Forward Only" feature that doesn't let respondents go back to previous pages, but that doesn't solve the root problem of survey fatigue.

The heart of the problem is that in this imaginary scenario the survey respondent started off with good intentions. It was the length of the survey caused the respondent to start looking for the quickest way to the end.

So all of this is to say: think about what you're asking on your surveys. Is it essential, or just a nice-to-have? If it's not a must-have, ditch it, and watch your abandonment rate decline.

guide to great survey design  

Harnessing the Power of Survey Logic

If you're looking for a a reliable way to show only the parts of your survey that apply to particular respondents, logic can save the day. Check out this guide to showing only relevant questions with logic for specific action items to help shorten your survey length.

Your respondents (and your survey data) will thank you.

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