Easy Surveys Generate Tons of Errors
There is a “user-friendly” feature that some survey platforms now offer, and almost certainly you should avoid it. It is called auto-advance. I had an unpleasant encounter with it in a customer survey I just took.
The idea is that, after clicking on an answer, instead of having to move a mouse or finger all the way to the bottom to the CONTINUE button, the survey advances automatically to the next page. Seems nice, because it can start feeling pretty tedious going back and forth between entering responses and hitting a CONTINUE button. The problem is that the without using a back button as well, errors are forever recorded as answers.
In my case, the question asked what kind of subscriber I am. My subscription has multiple components so I assumed the response options would be multiple select. The first option was “digital subscriber,” and I clicked that, thinking I would find “print subscriber” as an additional option below it. Not so. In a split second my eye saw the next option was “both digital and print” … and the survey auto-advanced to the next screen. There was no going back.
Curious to learn more about this feature, I found a user group sponsored by the platform this survey was built on. A programmer asked the group how to enable the auto-advance feature so that it is triggered only by the last question on a page. Another programmer wisely answered:
… honestly I warn against this functionality if you have multiple questions on a page. Respondents often times look at all the questions on a page and don’t always answer in order. Auto-advancing may also lead to problems for respondents who accidentally clicked the wrong answer. When we attempted to do this, it was our number one complaint.
Offering a back button could help alleviate the no-going-back problem, but why not avoid the problem in the first place? Survey respondents are fully comfortable clicking the continue button on their own —and by the way, if you are trying to make your survey ADA accessible, auto-advance violates the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
As for the survey I just completed, I appreciate that the designers and researchers leading the effort tried to make the survey look beautiful (which it was) and reduce “user friction.” But I was probably not the only respondent who made a mistake, and now there is almost certainly a lot of garbage in their data.