Responsive Surveys Go Way Beyond Mobile
If you design surveys that adapt well to mobile devices, you can feel proud. Current estimates are that only about half of all market research surveys are mobile-friendly. According to Research Now, an online panel that fields thousands of surveys from research vendors like Versta, just 15% are fully optimized for mobile use.
But now it is time to think bigger and broader. Responsive and adaptive design goes far beyond mobile usage. It means any design feature that makes a survey tailored and responsive to the specific person taking the survey.
If you ask a question about where respondents send their children to school, a non-adaptive survey would offer an answer choice at the bottom like, “Not applicable — I do not have children.” An adaptive survey would skip this question for respondents without children. Skip patterns are an easy type of adaptiveness and responsiveness. (But, alas, even smart and effective skip patterns seem woefully lacking in most surveys.)
There are much fancier, complicated, and extremely useful forms of adaptation, as well. Consider these examples:
- Adaptive conjoint techniques that use early responses to serve up choice trade-offs specifically relevant to features the respondent says are most important
- Surveys that link to, and import, other data (potentially big data) so that skip patterns and text piping are minutely tailored based on a person’s known past behavior
- Stopping fieldwork when the accumulating data achieves specific levels of statistical robustness (versus stopping when pre-determined quotas are reached)
- Changing the order of questions and their sequencing dynamically in response to how respondents answer earlier questions
- Shifting fieldwork tactics (potentially over-recruiting specific groups) based on non-response patterns of sample subgroups
If you’re curious about all the deeper ways to think about these issues, take a look at a recent special issue of the Journal of Official Statistics. In the editors’ words, it highlights “the variety of research being conducted under the umbrella of responsive and adaptive design.” It provides a fascinating (if a bit academic) look at the leading edge of adaptive survey design.