Items on Your Survey Page- Is there a Magic Number?

When we design web based questionnaires, we have the freedom to vary our design in a range of ways, including the distribution of questions on the screen, and the navigation methods used to move from question to question.

One method can be to use a form-based survey design, which is where surveys are presented as one long form in a scrollable window. At the other end of the design spectrum we can choose a screen-by-screen questionnaire that will show only a single item at a time, participants using the Forward and Back keys to move from question to question.

So on which end of this wide range is the optimal questionnaire design for your participants?

Well studies show that web survey respondents use the closeness of question items to other items as a cue to their meaning. Sometimes leading to surveys which are sped through quickly, at the expense of reading each item carefully.

Looking at your surveys non-response rate and the mean and median time to complete for all participants can lend other clues to whether you should opt for multiple items on one page, or space questions out over many survey web pages. Studies indicate that a one-page design results in higher item non-response, and that a multiple-item-per screen design takes less time to complete than a one-item-per-screen design.

Asking your participants for their feedback and evaluation of your survey instrument design at regular intervals throughout the year can show whether respondents are comfortable with a particular survey design.

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