All Web Surveys Are Mobile

Modern mobile phone with customer service survey form on a screen. Red tick on excellent checkbox showing customer satisfaction. Isolated on white background.

Survey researchers can’t ignore mobile devices any longer. For surveys being administered through Survey Sampling International (SSI), the percentage of responses coming from smartphones doubled from 5% to 11% between Q1 2013 and Q2 2014. Responses on tablets saw a similar increase: from 4% to 10% during the same period. Almost all online surveys are capturing mobile responses, unless they purposely screen them out. With responses from non-PC sources increasing, what can we do to provide an improved user experience for mobile respondents? Jackie Lorch and Nicole Mitchell of SSI provided some answers, in an American Marketing Association webinar held on May 15, 2014.

Mobile Unfriendly? More Like “Mobile Hostile”

The majority of online surveys are still designed for either the laptop or PC and do not translate well to mobile devices. To determine how this affects response rates, SSI created three designs of the same survey: mobile-unfriendly, mobile-friendly and mobile-optimized versions. The mobile-unfriendly version, designed to be read on a PC, exhibited a five-fold increase in abandonment rate (21% vs. 4%).

SSI mobile unfriendly survey response rates

Similar differences were seen with the median length of the interview, which was highest on smart phones. In general, smartphone respondents took twice as long to complete a survey as PC respondents did, due to the need to pinch the touchscreen, scroll around, and the difficulty of typing in text boxes. Overall satisfaction with the survey experience was lowest for the “unfriendly” design.

Designing for mobile is at a critical turning point: mobile respondents skew younger, more ethnically diverse, and have lower income. (For smartphones, at least. The exception is for tablet respondents, which skew higher income.) If your research needs to reach these audiences, then mobile delivery needs to be part of the mix. Attitudinally, smartphone and tablet respondents tend to be earlier adopters of technology than the average consumer. They are also less likely to require assistance from others in setting up their tech. Multi-tasking is part of their culture, so expect them to be watching television or some other activity while engaging in your survey.

8 Tips to Be Mobile Friendly

The presenters provided eight useful tips for making your surveys more mobile friendly. They include:

  1. Design for the smallest screen first, then build upward
  2. Review both horizontal and vertical layouts for mobile devices
  3. Do not use Flash
  4. Shorten question length (e.g., the number of words)
  5. Make functional elements, such as buttons, as large as possible, with extra whitespace
  6. Format text boxes as large as possible for open-ended questions
  7. Minimize pinching and scrolling
  8. Shorten scales, when possible, to prevent scrolling.

Mobile is here, whether you like it or not, and now is the time to design web surveys as if they are mobile surveys. Time to go mobile!

Greg Timpany directs the research efforts for Global Knowledge in Cary, North Carolina, and runs Anova Market Research. You can follow him on Twitter @DataDudeGreg.

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