Kill Survey Pages: Scroll On!

To scroll or not to scroll? Is that the question?

There is some debate in the user experience industry over scrolling vs. flipping pages. And that debate has spilled over to marketing research. Should we design our surveys with discrete pages that each respondent must flip, or should we just let respondents scroll from one page to the next?

There are drawbacks to flipping survey pages online, they take more time to load and switch pages, which can be a drawback to survey completion. Additionally, the more pages that must be opened, the higher the probability of the connections being dropped (particularly important with phone apps.)

And then there are some positives as well. Flipping requires less movement of the respondent’s fingers to move exactly one page. You can easily reach a specific page forward or backward by the number of flips. Older respondents may prefer flipping (e.g., e-readers).

Scrolling, however, is recognized to be faster and more suited to scanning or moving quickly through a large amount of text or content. And of course, younger respondents (the upcoming generation of respondents) are more used to scrolling (e.g., Facebook, etc.).

Surveys are Not Text

One of the key considerations of flipping over scrolling is that we are talking about respondents completing surveys. Given all of the challenges marketing researchers face in getting – and keeping – respondents involved in surveys, the question of scrolling vs. flipping must be answered in that context. On the one hand, given the smaller screen size of smartphones, presenting one question at a time through a paging design might be a good idea. On the other hand, when flipping pages, respondents must click a button every time they finish a question, which can become tedious, especially when surveys have many questions and pages.

The SurveyMonkey blog reported on the results of 2014 research as follows: “The study compared the two survey designs that were taken by mobile phone respondents only. So what’d they learn? People took much longer to complete a survey when it had a paging design versus a scrolling design.

Also, when presenting questions page-by-page, instead of on a single page, respondents experienced more technical difficulties and expressed lower satisfaction with the survey. Interestingly, the numbers of questions skipped by respondents were similar between the two survey design formats.”

Scrolling Wins

Scrolling will be the way to design surveys in the future. Today, there are still some factors you should consider before you choose scrolling or page flipping for your survey.

  1. Is your survey super short and taken on a mobile device by most respondents? Scrolling is the way to go.
  2. Is your survey long (but hopefully still within reason)? Don’t use the one-question-per-page approach or you’ll end up with too many pages. Divide the questions into related topics and only flip pages from one topic to the next, so that you end up with a few pages.
  3. Does your survey include skip logic, randomization, question and answer piping, and other programming? Use a combination of pages and scrolling to accommodate your design.
  4. Does your survey include graphic stimuli or links for the respondent to view? Again, a few pages will be better than scrolling.
  5. An added benefit to having more than one question per page is that you will probably be able to capture at least some data from respondents who break off the survey without completing. If you use scrolling, the data will not be collected unless the respondent clicks the submit button.

As we discussed in a previous blog, the future of marketing research will be more passive data collection and fewer surveys. The surveys we will be designing through mobile apps will be shorter, and scrolling will be the norm. There is no time like the present to start getting used to scrolling within your survey design. Your respondents will thank you.

Just as scrolling will be the way of the future, think about SMS. Research shows better results using SMS over email invitations.

If you’d like to speak with one of our experts about the best Survey Design for you, send us a note!


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