Over the past year, I’ve observed an increase in talk about the importance of respecting research participants and ensuring they have positive experiences.  This is good.  And while I’ve seen many clients continue to nod their heads in these conversations yet write longer and less palatable questionnaires than before, I have also seen many more clients move from “talk the talk” to “walk the walk.”

Drawing inspiration from the aggregate data from our study, I’ve come up with are three key things to remember if you want to join those of us keeping user experience top of mind.  Come on in, the water is warm!

1. Design for Mobile

In our study we saw 25% respond on a mobile device (smartphone + tablet). In some markets, people responded on mobile devices at a higher clip, such as the US (39%), China (33%), and Australia (39%).  These numbers shouldn’t surprise anyone allowing and tracking mobile traffic into their studies.  It reinforces that it is absolutely crucial to use survey platforms that utilize responsive, mobile-optimized design principles and ensure questions can be easily answered on a smartphone.  If they are fit for a smartphone, they will be fit for a tablet or PC as well!

2. Write Questions Like a Human

One of the biggest challenges in designing for mobile is screen real estate.  The amount of words you can fit on a screen dwindles significantly from what you can fit on a PC.  This is a blessing and a curse.  It’s a curse for those wedded to big nasty grids (which to be honest are a chore on a PC too).  But it’s a blessing in that it forces researchers to write better questions.  Our study found that two key drivers of someone quitting a survey relate directly to poor questionnaire design.  41% would quit a survey if the topic was too boring.  And 51% would quit if the questions were too repetitive.  What does this mean?  It means that we need to break old habits of writing like a researcher and write more like a human.  Yes, researchers can be humans too!

Q1. Which of these questions would you rather respond to?

  1. Thinking about any advertisements (e.g., television commercials, blogs, magazines, online advertisements, etc.) you have seen in the past month, please select from the list below the brands which you recall seeing.
  2. Which brands have you seen ads for recently?

If you answered B, congratulations, you appear to be human, just like research participants.  If you answered A, I think we should talk.

3. Be Honest and Ethical About Time Commitments

62% of participants said that a survey much longer than they were told will drive them to quit.  Who can blame them?  We need to be up front on how long a survey will take – and I’d lobby strongly that estimated LOI should come from testing on a smartphone, not a PC, or at least be adjusted for device type.  If you want quality data, let people know how much time they can expect to devote to a survey.  Other research has shown that bad survey taking habits increase towards the end of long surveys.  Can you blame someone for speeding through the last 10 minutes of a 30 minute survey they were told would be 20 minutes long?  I can’t – and neither should you.

We’re looking forward to diving into the data from this study over the coming months and continuing to champion the importance of user experience and putting participants first.  Please join us in fighting the good fight.


Roddy Knowles

Director, Mobile Research Products, Research Now

Roddy champions how to (and how not to) leverage mobile technology to conduct market research.  He can often be found calling the industry to improve how mobile research is conducted, uncovering and encouraging ways to creatively integrate data streams, and pushing for forward-thinking and participant-centric approaches to research.