The Modern Research Respondent: Holding Their Attention with Dynamic Questions
By Aaron Jue
It’s a constant struggle in the world of market research – keeping an increasingly demanding respondent engaged. With attention spans at an all-time low, and technology innovations across the board, people expect and feel entitled to a certain level of interactivity while online. This includes the interface that they encounter when responding to market research outreach.
Dynamic element examples include:
- Drag and drop
- Card sort
- Rank sort
- Button select
The enhanced and flexible design capabilities of dynamic questions allows researchers to create question types that are suitable for different platforms. Traditional radio button designs may be too small for mobile device screens. We can use dynamic question to create larger, mobile friendly forms, such as ATM style boxes. Visual cues– like the illusion of a depressed button when it is selected–also enhance usability and help increase survey participation among the mobile population.
Instead of a pick list using checkbox forms, the survey researcher may employ a shelf test to better simulate a real-world shopping experience. Using a drag and drop interface, respondents can physically rank order a set of cards rather than typing in a rank number in a text box. In both of these instances the dynamic forms establish an intuitive and user-friendly way for survey respondents to express their opinions about a brand or product.
But dynamic questions executed poorly can increase dropout rates, reduce tendency to read questions, and even cause respondent confusion when not executed properly. We have seen designs where a respondent was navigating a space ship and had to “shoot” an item to indicate a response; or were timed to move objects through goal posts. In these instances, an additional layer of cognitive processing involved hand-eye coordination and manipulation with the computer mouse. The resulting data was sporadic as respondents focused more attention on the act of completing the task at hand rather than thinking about the question asked by the researcher.
There are common sense ways to avoid pitfalls when using dynamic questions:
- Pre-testing: This is a critical step for any elements that stray away from standard question structures. Does the question work on multiple platforms (PC, mobile, tablet)? Is it time intensive for the respondent? Is it self-explanatory so the respondent knows what to do?
- Teamwork: Good design also requires specialized expertise. While many market researchers may direct hired programmers on how they want their dynamic questions customized or setup, this task is better done in collaboration with a visual designer or usability specialist.
- Standardization: Data collected by using dynamic question may not be directly comparable to data collected using traditional formats. Any comparisons with previous norms should be done with careful consideration. When employing dynamic questions, develop standards and maintain consistency in how you customize them. That way you can properly interpret the relative value of your data without worrying that the question format is biasing results.
- Clear Benefit: Your dynamic question may require extra clicks, additional mouse movement, or dragging and physically manipulating objects across the screen. Is there a clear and substantial benefit to having respondents spend this extra time? In other words is your dynamic question that much better than a traditional HTML form?
Dynamic questions can improve the survey experience. As researchers build surveys on multiple platforms and screen sizes, dynamic questions allow the designer greater flexibility to meet this challenge. Dynamic questions offer additional functionality for online surveys where graphical and interactive displays allow the research to capture information in more engaging ways that are not possible in a traditional format. But understand, too, that if not done properly, building new question types can create confusion as respondents encounter something they are unfamiliar with and may use them incorrectly or not in the intended manner.