Do you take survey length into account when creating your surveys? If not, you probably should—and we have the research to prove it.
For our 2023 state of surveys report, we analyzed all surveys taken on our platform from as far back as 2012 and uncovered some fascinating insights on top trends. This included everything from when to send your survey to how gender answer options have changed over the years—as well as essential data on survey length.
The long and short of it? Survey length matters, and the more you know about its potential impact on your respondent experience, the more likely you are to get results you can really use.
Let’s walk through some of the survey length findings from the report, what they mean for your surveys, as well as a few survey length tips that will help you create even better surveys.
How long should your survey be? Here’s what our research says:
When you’re building your survey, its length should always be one of your considerations. You might have tons of questions to ask and a wide range of insights you want to get, but the truth is, respondents generally have a limited amount of time and attention they’re willing (or able) to devote to your survey.
Depending on your survey—for example, whether it’s mandatory or not—you risk losing your respondents if it goes on too long.
Intriguingly, as covered by our state of surveys research, the best survey length can depend on where you are. We found that in the US, nearly half (48.8%) of surveys were one page or less. In the rest of the world, however, this number was slightly lower (46.5%).
There were also discrepancies when it came to longer surveys. In the US, for instance, 29.4% of surveys stretched to six pages or more, whereas in the rest of the world this number was 3.5% higher, or roughly one in every three surveys at 32.9%.
In general, our survey methodologists strongly recommend keeping your surveys as brief as possible. Survey fatigue is real, and it’s in the best interest of your response rate and the reliability of your data to be concise.
So whenever possible, aim for one page with ten questions or fewer. That said, it’s fine to send longer surveys if needed. Just be sure you understand why, and consider grouping questions strategically (e.g. thematically) to reduce the number of questions per page and prevent respondent fatigue.
5 survey length tips
Nail down your survey goals
Having clear goals for your survey—that is, knowing exactly why you need to ask questions and what you’ll do with the responses—is one of the best ways to stay concise.
Pinpointing the goals of your survey, and making sure all your collaborators and stakeholders are aligned, will help make any unnecessary questions stand out. Cut anything that doesn’t directly support your goals and you’ll be well on your way to keeping things short and sweet.
Watch out for satisficing and straightlining
Here are two survey phenomena to watch out for when it comes to survey length:
- Satisficing: If respondents feel like your survey is too long, something exacerbated by unnecessary questions, then they may speed through their answers just to get to the end—this is known as satisficing.
- Straightlining: Ever given up on a multiple-choice test and just picked “C” for every question? That’s an example of straightlining, or when a respondent picks the same answer repeatedly. Like satsificers, straightliners race through surveys without careful reflection.
Limiting your survey length will help reduce the possibility of satisficing and straightlining. If you want to be extra sure the length of your survey hasn’t sparked these undesired responses, you can do a bit of survey data cleaning and eliminate any responses that might fit the bill.
Provide context with your survey introduction
It’s common for surveys to feature an introduction and/or be sent to respondents with some form of context. Use this to your advantage! If your survey is on the longer side, this text is an opportunity to clarify why.
For instance, an HR director could use this introductory text to explain that the results from an employee survey will be used to optimize the benefits offered by the company. In this case, those employees are likely to be more willing—even eager—to respond to a longer survey. It's never a bad idea to provide background information that will incentivize respondents to provide accurate and thorough responses.
Don’t get too image-crazy
Adding images to surveys is a great way to get feedback on things like logos, packaging, ads, and more. That said, a survey with lots of images can feel longer than it really is, especially if respondents have to refer back to an image or compare images.
For example, imagine a survey asking respondents to look at eight different packaging designs, rank their individual characteristics, then answer questions comparing each image. That survey experience may feel overwhelming, confusing, or just plain boring. If your survey is based around images, be sure to preview the respondent experience and prioritize the images that are essential for the feedback you’re looking to get.
Don’t forget mobile device usage
In addition to survey length, our state of surveys report also revealed important data on survey responses by mobile device usage. Among other must-know findings, mobile responses rise dramatically for surveys completed over the weekend.
Why’s this mobile usage data so meaningful? Well, if you’re sending a longer survey toward the end of the workweek (or on the weekend itself), then you should absolutely ensure that it’s optimized for mobile responses. Play the odds of mobile device usage and you’ll boost the chance of providing the best possible experience for your respondents.
Check out the full 2023 state of surveys report for yourself to learn more about our findings on survey length, international trends, the principles of modern survey design, and more.