5 Best Practices for Designing Mobile Surveys

Mobile Survey Example Welcome PageWhen online surveys came on the scene for the first time in 1999, there was initial hesitation. Was online really going to replace phone and mail surveys? As online has become the norm over the last decade, we've learned there's still a place for multi-mode feedback collection. In fact, with social media and mobile gaining ground quickly, we're facing another shift. Now, we need to optimize the online experience to be both desktop and mobile friendly.

According to research conducted by Litmus, 15% of email opens are on a mobile device. Return Path's research shows 23% of email views occur on mobile devices (up 34% compared to the prior six month period). Still, other research says 74% of Americans send and receive emails on their phones. It's clear, even though the exact numbers differ between studies, that mobile is playing a much more important role in the way we communicate and conduct business. I do not go to a meeting without my smart phone in hand. I'm not watching TV without multitasking with a couch companion (normally an iPad).

Most of our clients rely on email to solicit survey responses, so what happens if our potential respondents receive and view our survey invitations on a mobile device? There's likely only one of two outcomes: (1) The survey doesn't work properly on the mobile device, so the respondent abandons and forgets to go back when they're on a desktop or laptop computer; or (2) The survey works on their mobile device and they're allowed to respond immediately.

Our online survey software tool is designed to make it easy for users to create web surveys that get the response rates they need to confidently make business decisions. As such, we are rolling out new features designed to do just that. As I shared in November, the ability to launch Mobile friendly surveys is coming to the Cvent Web Surveys software solution!

Our technology team did a great job trying to ensure the web survey builder for mobile was as easy as possible. However, as mobile is a new animal for most of us, the following is a brief 5 tip online survey design guide for mobile:


Any of us who have a mobile device know how difficult some emails can be to read. This is because people who are designing those emails aren't thinking about reading it on a smart phone. I could spend an entire post on designing emails for mobile, but for now, let me just give you a few tips you can start implementing across all your email marketing campaigns.

  • Use larger fonts. Mobile email clients will automatically adjust the size of your fonts (often smaller). To avoid this, start with them a little bigger than normal.
  • Think about your scale. Not all mobile devices will scale down your email, which means your user needs to scroll left to right to read it. Painful. To help, you can either design your emails so they'll scale themselves (aka percentages instead of defining pixel widths) or simply design a skinnier email (instead of 720px wide do 300-500px).
  • Cut down on your image usage. We already know that Outlook 2007 and higher blocks images by default, as do other webmail clients like gmail. Mobile email clients are blocking them too, and even when they don't the load time for your email can be slow. When there's too many images in emails I receive on my phone, I hit delete before reading the first line. I simply don't have the attention span to wait for the download.
  • Most importantly, remember your Call to Action! Put it front and center and don't be afraid to make it big! You want it to be an obvious and tappable link. Litmus suggests a minimum size of 44x44px. I suggest testing it out and finding what works best for your audience.


We tout our ability to let you have full control over the respondent experience, including your survey look exactly like your website either through the use of pre-designed survey templates that come out of the box, or by customizing the CSS to your standards. Doing this gives your survey credibility. You still want to care about the look and feel of your mobile survey, but how you approach it needs to change. You're not going to create the same experience on a mobile device as on a desktop. When designing for the confined space of mobile, less is more!

  • Don't use a lot of images. In fact, Cvent makes this really easy for survey designers because we will automatically remove any images (except the header image on select pages). However, if you're using a different tool to conduct a mobile survey, remove the images.
  • Include a header image designed for mobile. We recommend a 480x80px header so it scales nicely to most devices and loads quickly.
  • Think about color contrast. When we opened up the CSS to allow anyone to customize the desktop survey colors, we worried people would pick colors that were hard to read together on screen. You still want to customize the basic look and feel of your mobile survey but keep in mind how it will look on screen. Will the font be hard to read on that background? Can you see the buttons clearly?


Cvent's online survey application is one of the only survey tools currently supporting all question types (except file upload) on a mobile device. This means we give you, the survey builder, a lot of control. Use it wisely!

I recently tried to complete a survey on my phone with a matrix question that was hard to read because I had to scroll left and right to view the categories then the answer options, but then the question would not allow me to select any of the radio buttons! But I couldn't just skip the question either because it was required. I'm sure you can guess how that survey experience ended: I wasn't going to continue to monkey around with that survey, I abandoned.

We built various rules into the mobile experience to ensure this won't happen to your respondents. For example, to prevent the annoying scrolling, we'll always display answer options vertically and never horizontal. Even with this rule in place, the respondent experience is still largely up to you. You write the questions, you pick the format and you decide how long the survey is and the cognitive load placed on respondents. For example, I would strongly recommend against any more than one or two open-ended (comment boxes) questions because they're even less fun to answer on a mobile device than normal! (Side note: This is also a good tip to keep in mind for form builders.)


This is a favorite best practice of mine. We have a short attention span, and mobile is only making it shorter. This means our surveys need to be designed appropriately. The first step to creating an effective survey (online or otherwise) is to clearly define your goals. You should already be doing that. However, mobile introduces an extra layer to consider. You need to decide how many questions you want to appear on a page and what questions you want to show to mobile respondents. You read that correctly, Cvent allows you to turn off questions for mobile. (You can even ask mobile respondents to come back and answer the remaining questions on a desktop device when they have more time.) In the last survey design tip I recommended against using comment boxes and complex question types like matrix spreadsheet, however, they may be important to your overall feedback goals so you want to leave them in the desktop survey but turn them off for mobile.

When you're defining your mobile settings in Cvent, you can set how many questions you want to appear on each screen (as long as it's between 1 and 10). We'll still automatically insert page breaks automatically for questions with survey logic. The exact number of questions per page may vary based on your questions. If you have a lot of questions with many choices, you may want a single question on every page, if you have a lot of short single answer questions, you may want 3-5 questions per page.


This brings me to my last mobile survey design tip: it's important to test your survey! This is ALWAYS a survey best practice, and I really do warn against ever launching a survey without first testing it. When you're testing a mobile survey, keep in mind the previous four tips. Can you easily read your survey invitation email on your mobile phone? If not, try changing the width or the font sizes. Do some questions just not look right because they're too long? Consider turning those off or changing the mobile display text. Does it take too long to scroll down the page with 10 questions set to display? Take the number down. Do you like the way a thank you text appears? Create additional Thank You pages text just for mobile devices.

In my opinion, organizations should no longer be debating whether mobile should be part of their strategy. They should be figuring out how quickly they can optimize their communications and interactions with customers, prospects and employees to be mobile friendly. While surveys are only one touch point, they certainly need to be optimized. Doing so increases the likelihood of a completed respondent, and we all know that more responses increase the accuracy and validity of your survey data. So when you take your survey report to the next senior management meeting, you'll know you did everything possible to maximize your response rate.

Want to learn more about how to create a mobile survey with Cvent, or interested in learning about our other new features? Request a personalized demo!

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