Want A High Survey Response Rate? Don’t Do This!

Why Is Our Survey Response Rate So Low?

response rate will be lower with this display  on a 21 inch screen

Here’s how it looked on a 21″ screen with 1920 x 1200 resolution

I’ve worked in market research for much of my career, and I’m a proud Canadian, so it really pains me to see a Canadian market research firm mess up like this. But you need to know, so you can avoid making the same mistake.

The survey request above (company names blurred out by me) popped up when I was visiting a website. I do website assessments for a living, so I am generally pretty open to answering surveys like this. But, as you can see, there was no way for me to either:

  1. Answer the survey, or
  2. Exit out of it.

Scrolling simply moved the site behind the pop-up; it didn’t let me move the pop-up itself to see if there was anything after the privacy policy link.

That was on a 21 inch screen, with a 1920 x 1200 resolution, the recommended setting for this screen.

Would it Work on A Laptop Screen?

Nex I tried it on my laptop screen, which is 15.5 inches at 1920 x 1080 pixels. Here’s what that produced:

survey on a 15.5 inch screen

Here’s how it looked on a 15.5 inch screen with 1920 x 1080 resolution

Yep, even less was visible. Still couldn’t scroll or move it on my screen.

What About On A Mobile Screen?

Curious, I decided to test it on my cell phone screen. I have a Nexus 5. (I got fed up with Apple when my perfectly good iPhone 4S stopped working after an iOS update.)

Got a good news/bad news result.

Here's how it looked on a Nexus 5 mobile screen

Here’s how it looked on a Nexus 5 mobile screen

The good news was that it displayed in the centre of the screen, as it was no doubt intended to do.

The bad news is that it was so tiny that it was unreadable, and trying to enlarge it simply moved it off the screen.

So What’s A Non-Programmer To Do?

This is a scary post to write, because it is quite possible that I also have things on my site that don’t display properly. It is hard to know, especially when you are a non programmer.

I tried this problem survey in a couple of screen emulator tools, but they didn’t display it the way it actually showed up on my screens. So I think your best options are:

1. Ask Your Programmers or Vendors How They Test

Many of them simply don’t test. Get them to show you what tools they use for testing and try out a few different websites in those tools.

2. Test Anything New and Important on Your Website With a Large Sample Size

This is where a service like our Web Mystery Shoppers® approach to usability testing comes in handy. We have anywhere from 30 to 300 testers do real-world testing of your site and give you feedback on what roadblocks they are hitting. Problems like this one would almost certainly be caught.

3. Ask Everyone You Know to Test it For You

Not ideal for full usability testing, because your friends and family are not you typical customers, but they can probably tell you about this sort of display issue. Speaking of which, please tell me if anything isn’t displaying right on this site!

4. If Your Response Rate Seems Low, Cross-Check The Data!

It’s getting harder and harder to get decent response rates on unpaid surveys. Everybody’s busy. But if you suspect a display issue may be happening, see how the display sizes of those who answered the survey compared to your overall site visitors.

Google Analytics can tell you about your site visitors. The survey software should be able to give you data on survey respondents. Make sure it can before you commit to using that software or service.

Are Your Surveys Getting A Low Response Rate Lately?

What have you tried to get more responses?

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