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Five Tips on Optimizing Your Surveys for Smartphones

Five Tips on Optimizing Your Surveys for Smartphones

Surveys on the go!You’ve got one, your friends each have one, heck, even your tween-aged cousin has one. What are we talking about?

The smartphone.

These devices have not only made life easier but quick access to information is now just a mere finger tap away.

Watching the Olympics and need to know why a triple axel got fewer points than the triple-lutz-triple-toe-loop-jump combo? Just check your phone. Want to whip something quick and tasty up for dinner tonight? There’s an app for that. There’s practically an app for everything and anything you can think of nowadays.

Smartphones have truly become a regular part of most people’s daily lives. As the number of smartphone ownership has increased, the kinds of activities that people engage in with their phones has followed suit. This includes an activity near and dear to our hearts of course–taking online surveys. The number of people taking surveys while on the go is definitely on the rise. For example, about a fifth of the millions of people currently answering a SurveyMonkey survey are doing so on mobile devices.

If you think that a significant proportion of your respondents might be taking your survey on a mobile device, then you need to make sure their experience is easy, quick, and above all else, designed to give you the best possible data. In addition to the tips that Kelsey mentioned in her blog post, here are five more ways to help you optimize your survey for smartphones.

1. Stick with the default–one vertical column is best.

When formatting your response options, keep them vertical. For response options that go across the screen horizontally, the text wrapping may make it difficult to read the answer choices. Also, drop-down response options are harder for respondents on mobile devices to read because they require them to click AND scroll to see all the options. This means respondents may not see all of the options you’ve provided them, or scroll through them too quickly, which could bias the responses you get.

Mobile Tip

2. Split up your questions.

Scrolling is hard on the respondent and someone might inadvertently click on the wrong response option while trying to reach questions towards the bottom of the page. So if at all possible, try and limit the number of questions per page to one or two so that smartphone respondents don’t have to scroll too much to get to the next question or to return to a previous question.

3. Use small logos or avoid using them altogether.

Logos can take up valuable screen real estate, so for a survey that you expect lots of people to complete on their smartphone, take out the logos or use ones that are small so they don’t overwhelm what is really important–the actual survey question.

Mobile Tip #2

4. Beware of bandwidth issues.

Videos load in a snap when you’re connected to an Ethernet cable or a fast wifi connection, but often mobile survey respondents are relying on cell phone networks to load data. A video that instantaneously plays on a laptop or desktop could take an eternity to load on a smartphone. These respondents may get frustrated, so you might want to consider limiting the amount of multimedia to make it a good survey experience for your mobile-survey takers.

5. Put yourself in the respondent’s shoes.

The final check in any survey is to test it out in order to catch any typos and confirm you’ve properly programmed your skip logic. Also, don’t forget to test out your survey on BOTH your desktop computer and your smartphone. By experiencing the survey experience in the mobile environment, you’ll be able to see first-hand which questions or pages require excessive scrolling and identify the questions that aren’t ideal in this platform. This allows you to make changes before you start collecting responses and not after. Doing this will gain you any valuable data you would have lost because you had to edit your survey after collecting responses, and also lowers the chances of respondents dropping out.

So with these tips in your back pocket, you won’t have to worry about your smartphone outsmarting your surveys!

As always, don’t hesitate to leave your questions or comments with us below and thanks for reading.

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  • Thomas Hockey

    Are there any plans to make your surveys completely mobile responsive?

    • kaytek

      Stay tuned here!

  • Christy West

    Good point… but rating scale questions appear horizontal by default and that appears unchangeable. I use several of these in a long-standing survey. What are the chances of your system making rating scales vertical lists instead of horizontal?

    • kaytek

      Hi Christy- great feedback! We’ll share this with our mobile Product team. We’re always looking for ways to continue to improve. Thanks so much.

  • Melissa Wong

    My survey is surgical evaluations where each possible response is quite long. I had a drop-down before, but I noticed that recently instead of the text wrapping for each answer option that they’ve started just having an ellipsis at the end and ending. Has something changed in the formatting (survey) side? Or is on the smartphone side?

    • kaytek

      Hi Melissa! That sounds odd. Let us check with the team and we’ll get back to you asap.

  • Does it work on Android phones? I saw an announcement about IPhones.

    • KTsurveymonkey

      We’re hoping to have it available for Androids asap! We are workin’ on it!

  • We have a bank of iPads that we have been using to collect Survey Monkey responses for almost two years, so I can attest to the effectiveness of the tips provided in the above post. However, I would also add that the frustration factor for respondents using mobile devices is also increased by the number of pages used in the tool. Mobile data download speeds are not the issue; it’s the upload speed (or lack of speed to be precise) that causes the drama, resulting in time-outs and drop-outs mid survey. A mobile device user will see a decent mobile connection signal strength on their device and blames Survey Monkey for the drop-out. During analysis, we see a lot (up to 20%) of ghost and partial responses from mobile devices, corresponding to the reports of upload drop-outs from users in the field. We’ve asked our telco provider to assess our site’s dismal mobile upload speeds (we don’t have a WiFi network…long, sad story), but I’m not holding my breath 🙁

    We get between 15,000 and 20,000 responses a month on our account, and can put hand on heart to say that the benefits of using online survey methodologies are key to providing better quality AND saving lots of time. The new App is great, as is the responsiveness of the new Analyze on the desktop – clearly a lot of work has been done at Survey Monkey HQ. It would be great if we could actually collect data via the App interface too, particularly if the device could store responses and sync at a time of our choosing! Failing that, I’d like to find out which mobile browser works best with Survey Monkey scripts – Safari is less than satisfactory.

    • KTsurveymonkey

      Wow, thanks so much for sharing these insights, and the compliments! We will definitely continue to work on our new app, and accessibility on mobile devices! Please feel free to provide us feedback via our app as well!

  • Kelli Wolfe

    Thanks for the article on optimisation for mobile technology. It was really helpful in improving our latest end of year course survey for our students!! It did mean, however, that our survey is now VERY long as we’ve done away with matrix answers and created a separate vertical page for each set of questions. (Judicious use of question logic keeps it a reasonable length for the respondent…)

    I’ve customised the view in the Analyze section, but it would be helpful to be able to skip or collapse entire sections when scrolling responses. For example, our course survey gives students the opportunity to rate individual tutors if they want, but even with the charts hidden, I still have to scroll through 80 or so tutors’ pages to get to see the final section of questions. Any chance you could build in “collapsable” sections or bookmarks in some way? Or is there another appropriate option already existing that I should use? I’d like to be able to just look at the main questions at a glance and deal with individual tutor ratings at a later date.

    Similarly, it would also be useful in the design phase to be able to look at the whole survey at a glance (such as in Tree View a la WordPress), and ALSO be able to copy / move / add pages in Tree view instead of scrolling back and forth through many many many pages in order to reorganise a section (like with my tutors)… I spent an entire day copying/pasting /moving to reorganise the tutors into a student-friendly (and good skip logic) order. It’s doable, just incredibly time consuming and most importantly rife with error potential!

    Just a few suggestions, really… I love Survey Monkey and your clever service has improved our response rate tremendously since we started using it… Fingers crossed the new design gets even more accurate results this year! Best wishes.

  • jrumbol

    Great article but this does not help me, I want to write the survey and complete it on a face to face visit at an upcoming expo. I realized that I had to send the survey out to people and so have deleted it. If you can tell me how to use the app on face to face meetings I might re load it.

  • AmericansUnite

    I have been taking some surveys online and noticed that if I get interrupted by a phone call say and go back to my computer 3 minutes later, it tells me the survey is filled and locks me out. This has happened a few times already. Is there some mechanism where if a person hesitates to answer or gets interrupted, they no longer want you for the survey? Thanks@!

    • KTsurveymonkey

      Hmm, that certainly sounds odd! This may be a case for our support Monkeys! Could you contact them here: They will be happy to investigate!

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