Please Do Not Gamify Your Surveys
Which of these two questions do you find more annoying, question A or question B?
A. Foodie TV has announced a competition to select the best destination for food. What can your city do to win?
B. In terms of the restaurant choices, what is important for a city to offer?
Now which of these two questions do you find more annoying, A or B?
A. Wanna find out what your restaurant preferences say about you? We’ll show you several features of a city’s restaurants. Tell us how important each feature is to you and we’ll tell you what kind of person you are.
B. Below is a list of features of a city. For each feature, please indicate how important it is to you for a city to have this feature.
And how about these last two – which is more annoying?
A. Ready for another game? Name five adjectives – no more and no less – that describe the food culture in Birmingham. You have 15 seconds starting when you click ‘Continue’ below.
B. Thinking about food culture, what are five adjectives that you would use to describe the food culture in Birmingham?
If you think the “A”s are more annoying—indeed, annoying enough that you would ditch a survey that asked questions this way—you are in good company. Researchers at Piedmont College in Georgia recently published findings on “survey gamification” and found that questions like this turn people off and result in substantially lower response rates.
Among panelists who opened the survey invitation, response rates dropped from 49% for the B version (which was presumably boring) to 39% for the A version (which was supposed to be fun and engaging). This drop in response rates happened for both men and women, and regardless of age. “If the idea of gamification is to reduce the burden of survey-taking by creating a more entertaining experience,” the authors write, “the simple techniques we tested failed.”
This doesn’t surprise me. The problem with today’s surveys is not that the questions are simple and boring. It’s that there are too many surveys, too many questions, and all of it is too self-centered (“Hey, tell me how I’m doing!”)
Keep in mind that most people who take surveys are willing to give direct and thoughtful answers. So when it comes to writing questions for your not-too-frequent, not-too-long, and not-self-centered surveys, there is no reason to make your questions more fun and entertaining. Just make them simple and direct.