Online Surveys: How Long is Too Long?

When it comes to online surveys, how long is too long? 

This has been a topic of debate in the research community for some time. Experts in the field will typically say 15 to 20 minutes of questioning is optimal. However, the answer is a little more complicated. While there are downsides to online surveys being too long and too tedious for participants, the quality of the survey is often a more important factor than quantity

Instead of focusing too heavily on length, researchers should focus on creating the best possible experience for participants to reduce abandonment rates, keep people engaged, and encourage high-quality responses. In fact, Invoke’s research sessions are often 60 to 90 minutes long and participants tend to stay for the entirety of our sessions and provide quality responses. 

How do we do it? Keep reading for ways to keep participants engaged for the entire duration of your survey whether they’re 15 minutes long or 90 minutes long. 

Set expectations. 

Let participants know right off the bat how long the survey will take. Managing participant expectations is crucial to completion. If your participants know that an online survey will take them 90 minutes to complete, they will be more likely to set aside 90 minutes to complete your survey. Abandonment can be avoided if participants know what the time commitment is for the survey from the jump. 

Recruit engaged participants. 

Use a participant screener to choose the best quality participants out of your participant pool. How do you identify a high-quality participant? Screen them with a question related to your research that allows them to display the level of detail they’re likely to provide in the survey itself. Those with more detailed, thoughtful answers are likely to provide more detailed, thoughtful answers during the online survey. 

eBook: 7 Steps to Get the Most Out of Online Hybrid Qual/Quant Research

eBook: 7 Steps to Get the Most Out of Online Hybrid Qual/Quant Research

Virtual qual/quant research solutions have helped researchers reach actionable insights faster, more efficiently, and more effectively than ever before. Read our eBook to start getting the most out of your hybrid qual/quant research today.

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Write engaging survey questions. 

Your questions, at a fundamental level, should help you answer a question or come closer to achieving research-related goals. However, you don’t want your participants to become bored during the survey. To keep them engaged, sprinkle in some more thought-provoking questions for more creative answers. These questions are less direct than the traditional open-ended question and use techniques like metaphor, visualization, and replacement to help participants come to conclusions. You’ll likely get more interesting responses for unique insights and keep participants immersed at the same time.  

Mix types of questions. 

Switching between open-ended and closed-ended questions can also help to keep participants engaged. Follow up a closed-ended question with something that digs deeper at the “why” behind the participant’s response. This way, participants are more likely to remain conscious of their answers. It can also help you to avoid the common pitfalls of too many uninteresting survey questions like satisficing and straightlining. 

Keep your online survey concise. 

It may sound like a given, but avoid questions that don’t add anything to the research. While it’s true that quality is a more important factor than quantity in ensuring participants complete your survey, you want to be sure to cut out any questions that don’t root back to your overall research goals. All questions should aid in your pursuit of insight. Anything beyond that is extra. 

Make sure questions are clear. 

While length is commonly cited as a reason for participant abandonment, confusion can provide a formidable obstacle to participant completion. Participants are more likely to leave a confusing survey than read it over and over until they understand what they’re being asked. Have your coworkers or friends take your online survey and provide feedback on clarity, among other things, to ensure that you’re providing participants with a survey they will want to complete. 

Leave room for on-the-fly questions. 

If your research platform or session allows you to ask participants additional questions on the fly, ensure that you’re leaving space for those as you draft your questionnaire. On-the-fly questions enable you to probe your audience further during a session as you catch interesting answers or feedback. 

Ensure a good experience for all participants

Conducting research on Invoke’s proprietary, virtual qual/quant platform is one way to ensure participants will enjoy their research experience and provide your team with optimal insights. How? We keep participants engaged with interactive 60 to 90-minute sessions combining qualitative and quantitative questioning for interesting questions and valuable answers. 

Start getting high-quality responses from engaged participants today. Contact our sales team for a demo to see how Invoke can work for you. 

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