While your survey analysis software can do a lot of the heavy lifting with surveys, it still can’t make a fundamental decision on your survey format. That choice is up to you, and your main options are using either paging design or scrolling design.
- Paging design: One question per page, with respondents heading to new page to view the next question
- Scrolling design: Several questions per page, with respondents scrolling down the page to view the next question
Both formats have their advantages and disadvantages, and there’s no straightforward answer for which is the best to use for all circumstances across the board.
Computer Online Surveys
Researchers have been comparing the two formats for more than a decade, finding that survey break-off and response rates tend to be about the same for either format when surveys are completed on desktop or laptop computers.
Other studies show respondents are more prone to skip questions on surveys using scrolling design, perhaps due to having too many questions on a single page.
Mobile Online Surveys
Add smartphones and other mobile devices to the mix, and the survey design decision gets even more complex. While the devices’ smaller screen size may seem to better accommodate paging design, you have other factors to consider.
When a survey has a lot of questions on paging design, it can get tiresome for respondents to keep hitting the “next” button after each question to advance to the next page. Mobile devices are also not as reliable with their internet connections as desktops and laptops are. This may slow down response time dramatically, or even cause survey break-off.
A study that compared the two formats for surveys completed on mobile devices found it took significantly longer for respondents to complete the surveys presented in paging design. Paging design also caused more technical difficulties throughout the survey experience, resulting in lower user satisfaction rates with the survey.
The numbers of questions respondent skipped were about the same with either paging or scrolling design on mobile devices.
Which One to Pick?
Scrolling design is an ideal choice if:
- Your survey is extremely short.
- You’re expecting most respondents to answer on mobile devices.
Paging design can be preferable if:
- You have an extremely long survey that would overload respondents if all questions were on a single page. Break it up into several pages, with several questions on each page. Never put only one question on a page with an extremely long survey, or you’ll end up with way too many pages that folks are unlikely to complete.
- Your survey uses randomization, skip logic or question and answer piping. These methods definitely require more than a single page to accommodate the questions.
One more factor to keep in mind with paging design is the ability to capture at least some information if people drop out halfway through the survey. When using paging design, your survey analysis software will still be able to capture data from all the pages completed prior to the dropout.
When all questions are on a single page with scrolling design, your survey analysis software won’t be able to capture any data if respondents drop out halfway through. You’re only able to collect data when a full survey page has been completed.
No matter which format you pick, you still want to make sure your surveys are user-friendly. They need to be short enough to retain interest yet in-depth enough to gather enough data for your survey analysis software to provide meaningful insights.