A progress bar allows respondents to keep track of how much progress they’ve made completing a survey. Looks and sounds simple enough, right? Maybe not. There are actually lots of different options for where to put your progress bar.
When you make a survey in SurveyMonkey, you have lots of options related to whether and how to include a progress bar.
We offer all of these options in SurveyMonkey so you can specify your survey to your exact needs—pretty darn convenient, eh? But, as survey scientists, we want to find out if there’s a best way to do it.
Conveniently enough, the two of us and another of our coworkers each had different theories about the best way to use a progress bar. Because we’re data nerds, we decided to test these hypotheses with a real life experiment run using SurveyMonkey, make a little wager, and then find out who’s right.
Nick: I think the progress bar at the top will keep respondents informed of how much progress they made. Respondents will be able to know exactly how far they are in the survey, which may lead to a better survey taking experience. After all, isn’t having more information better?
Otherwise, respondents will always wonder where they are, and that may discourage them from completing the survey.
Laura: I’m a bit skeptical. I don’t think any clear trends will emerge from this experiment. A recent meta-analysis based on 19 progress bar experiments shows that a constantly moving bar neither increases nor decreases a survey’s completion rate. I don’t think there will be any difference between surveys with progress bars on the top or bottom or surveys that don’t have progress bars at all.
Mingnan: It is true that the literature shows no effect of the progress bar on completion rate but all the experiments have put the progress bar on the top of survey page. No one has tested a progress bar at the bottom of each web page so I’m betting the progress bar at the bottom will minimize break-off rate.
My theory is that when respondents reach the bottom of a webpage, since they’ve spent their time and efforts on responding to questions on that page, they are more likely to continue with the survey and go on to the next page.
We’re playing mainly for pride! Bragging rights! But in all seriousness, the loser(s) of the bet must recite a fresh knock-knock joke whenever he/she is requested. So, the stakes are clearly high.
Stay tuned! Who do you think will win? Take our survey below—it’s just one question—and we’ll present our findings next week with the results. We promise this will help you design the best progress bar for your next survey.
Comments for our intrepid survey scientists? Leave them below and see you next week!