As mobile research continues to gain a broader appeal and acceptance in the market research field, it also forces the industry to revisit how surveys are written.  Not that they were ever overwhelmingly popular to begin with but many firms are choosing or have already chosen to do away with mail/paper surveys in favor of online methodologies.  The cost and time-saving advantages are difficult to dispute.  But is that tide now beginning to turn yet again, as mobile devices are becoming the norm?  Are traditional online surveys conducted on desktops and laptops becoming a thing of the past as more respondents are using their iPhone and Droid to access the Internet?

mobile research survey tips

Early Prototype for the Apple iPhone

With these industry shifts in mind, we can’t help but evaluate what we as research analysts can learn from this trend.  So I considered four key points that mobile research participants would gripe about with regards to partaking in a survey on their mobile device, and what we can learn from them.  In reality, a lot of the things that make a mobile survey good can in fact be applicable to any survey you write – whether it’s designed for CATI, paper, or traditional online modes.  These tips cast across all methodologies.

1. Don’t elaborate on the point, just get to the point and move on.”

Time is off the essence with mobile research.  You can argue that is the case with all methodologies but never more so than in this one.  It’s equivalent to trying to conduct a mall exit interview, while the person is driving off in their car as you run alongside.  You better make it quick and ask just the essentials.  Being concise here is the key.  Much like Twitter, you have to get your message across in 140 characters.  It forces you to be succinct.  Use that same mindset when designing a mobile survey.  The longer the question, the greater chance of dropout (or being run over).

2. “If you have to choose between sounding smart and sounding stupid – choose stupid.”

This goes along with the concise style of writing.  Although you may be an expert in a particular field, not all of your participants who take your survey will be.  The questions need to address your needs, but should not confuse the survey taker in the process.  So instead of using a phrase like “assessment and examination of your purchasing practices,” just write “we’d like your feedback on your purchases.”

3. “Make it fun.  Sorry, selecting bubble after bubble on a grid just doesn’t do it for me.”

I know it’s difficult to make a survey appear universal for all mobile devices, but grid after grid after grid will not keep most mobile respondents on the go engaged in the survey.  Grid questions are not designed for mobile surveys.  Although there may be no getting around asking grid questions on traditional online surveys, try to split up questions on mobile apps and keep the respondent moving along (preferably not in grid format).  Make them feel like they are making progress.

4. “Invite me at the right time, and I might choose your survey over Angry Birds.”

Again, think on the go with mobile participants.  What better time to take a quick survey than when they are commuting on that half hour metro or subway ride to work?  How about on the way home?  Just not while you’re driving!  Whichever audience you are conducting research with, think about when they might have some downtime and target the survey invitation appropriately.  With any luck, they may value your survey more than sling-shotting colorful birds at pigs wearing helmets.  And if they do, you are on your way to some insightful survey results.

For more survey design tips from Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS), a market research agency in Syracuse NY, visit our survey tips category here.