- Why is a good layout design important for online surveys?
- It is typical to want a great response rate. “One reason for the wide variation in response rates on Internet surveys is because of the use of varying methods to contact and encourage response to Internet surveys, with varying degrees of success” (Maronick, pg. 22). The layout design is the first method of contact and the first bit of encouragement (aside from the invitation email) that the user receives. Therefore, it is important to have a good layout to increase the response rate and limit the variation in response rates.
- We have discussed users with cognitive impairments or sub-par computer skills. Lumsden goes further and describes users with disabilities. “By their very nature, questionnaires include elements common to forms — that is, layout and the use of fields for data entry. Users with disabilities can find forms and fields problematic, and so it is important that the following guidelines — which are relevant across all respondent groups” (Lumsden, pg. 74). The guidelines that Lumsden suggests are ways to alter the perception of the effort required to complete the survey. For example, “so that respondents can easily make the association” and the submit button should be “easily identifiable to respondents.”
- What are the tools that you may use to design an effective online survey?
- “Effective” does not simply mean “good response rate,” rather it means “valid responses.” Therefore, it is important to have sample control. “Thus, once a response has been submitted from a particular computer, subsequent responses from that particular Machine Address Code or IP address are blocked (Frost and Sullivan 2007)” (Maronick, pg. 23). This is one tool to control submissions from the same user. I may use this tool but I am not yet trained on how to do so.
- The tool that Lumsden presents is more a set of guidelines (see below). Fonts, font size, sentence length, consistency of visual appearance, and logical flow are some of the areas that I must maintain focus on. As we dive into adding “bells & whistles” to our online surveys, it is important to remember that too many flashing colors may draw the user away from the content.
- What are the design ideas that are new to you?
- “Dahlberg (2007) ‘…it seems as it is the perceptions of the effort required to complete the survey that may be decisive in terms of whether a respondent chooses to participate or not’” (Maronick, pg. 24) Ok, I must say that the preceding point is not “new” to me. However, the first time I read it, I though it said that “perceptions of the effort ‘put forth to create‘ the survey” helped determine whether the user would complete the survey. Now that would be a new idea to consider!
- The idea of branching and piping is new to me. I look forward to testing that out.
- I had trouble with Lumsden’s statement that “online-questionnaires have the potential to reduce non-response errors as a result of questionnaire abandonment but only when appropriate measures are incorporated within the design of online-questionnaires” (Lumsden, pg. 82). I was surprised that Lumsden said only when because I believe that is going a bit overboard. Incentives, for example, might reduce non-response errors as a result of questionnaire abandonment. Maronick says “numerous studies have shown that incentives, including cash and non-cash incentives, pre-payment and promises of payment, have resulted in higher response rates and higher quality results in mail surveys (Church 1993, Collins et al 2000)” (Maronick, pg. 23).
In a previous post, I mentioned the “popularity” of the internet as a strength. I must admit, I deduced that from the article but I also assumed it statistically. Maronick gave some backing: “In 2007 approximately 71% of the U.S. population used the Internet, with 91% sending or receiving e-mail (Pew Research 2007)” (Maronick, pg. 20).
Also important from Maronick:
“There are six issues that relate to Internet survey designs that should be considered when deciding on an Internet research supplier and when designing an Internet survey. The factors are:
- whether to have single question per page or multiple related questions on a page,
- whether to have questions with mandatory responses and/or
- whether to rotate or randomize response options,
- whether the Internet survey platform permits random assignment of respondents to treatments in experimental studies,
- whether to employ piping or branching in questionnaire design, and
- whether to have a progress indicator” (Maronick, pg. 24-25)
Also important from Maronick:
“There are a number of issues of importance when designing the textual content of an online-questionnaire:
- Fonts used should be readable and familiar, and text should be presented in mixed case or standard sentence formatting; upper case (or all capitals) should only be used for emphasis;
- Sentences should not exceed 20 words, and should be presented with no more than 75 characters per line. If elderly respondents are anticipated, then this limit should be reduced to between 50 and 65 characters per line. Paragraphs should not exceed 5 sentences in length;
- Technical instructions (those being instructions related to the basic technical operation of the website delivering the questionnaire) should be written in such a way that non-technical people can understand them;
- Ensure that questions are easily distinguishable, in terms of formatting, from instructions and answers;
- For each question type, be consistent in terms of the visual appearance of all instances of that type and the associated instructions concerning how they are to be answered. In particular, keep the relative position of the question and answer consistent throughout the questionnaire. Where different types of questions are to be included in the same questionnaire, each question type should have a unique visual appearance;
- When designing for access by users with disabilities and the elderly, employ a minimum of size 12pt font and ensure that the font colour contrasts significantly with the background colouring. Text should be discernible even without the use of colour. It is advisable to test font colours and size with a screen magnifier to ensure usability prior to release;
- If targeting an elderly audience, provide a text-sizing option on each page, use bold face but avoid italics, and left-justify text. It is also advisable to increase the spacing between lines of text for ease of reading by this respondent group;
- Make sure that text is read (by screen readers) in a logical order. Specifically, set the tab order on the pages. This is especially true for actual questions in the questionnaire — think carefully about the order in which a visually impaired user will hear the elements of a question, including the instructions and response options” (Maronick, pg. 73)