One page per question syndrome

A common design for surveys is to make them like a PowerPoint slide show, with one question on each page. In practice, what this does is make the survey longer for respondents, which is a good way to irritate them and increase your abandonment rate. For illustration, let's consider a modest size survey:

  • Five individual questions
  • Two Five question grids
  • Five demographics

The one page per question approach will add a break after each of the 10 individual questions and each of the two grids. A more moderate approach will group questions, with breaks after the first set of 5 individual questions, each grid, and then again after the set of 5 demographics.

The Respondent Experience
One question / page One section / page
Click to answer Question 1
Click to submit Page 1
Wait for Page 2
Click to answer Question 2
Click to submit Page 2
Wait for Page 3
Click to answer Question 3
Click to submit Page 3
Wait for Page 4
Click to answer Question 4
Click to submit Page 4
Wait for Page 5
Click to answer Question 5
Click to submit Page 5
Wait for Page 6
Click 5 times to answer Grid 1
Click to submit Page 6
...
Wait for Page 13 - Thanks
Click 5 times to answer Questions 1-5
Click to submit Page 1
Wait for Page 2
Click 5 times to answer Grid 1
Click to submit Page 2
Wait for Page 3
...
Wait for Page 5 - Thanks
Total Scores
  One question
/ page
One section
/ page
Question answers 10 10
Page submits 12 4
Total clicks 22 14
Waits for page loads 13 5

Even in a best case scenario where the respondents are on broadband and the Web server is lightning fast, a page load will take a couple seconds. You may think that's short, but any time someone is asked to sit twiddling their mouse pointer can seem long—especially when the wait is longer than the preceding action. Google perceived wait time if you want to learn more about how people view time and how it impacts satisfaction.

The best survey page lengths tend to be somewhere in the middle. Respondents do know how to scroll, but a page that goes on and on and on can be awkward as well. Try to create pages that break at logical places such as section headings. You also want a similar number of questions on each page (or as much as you can with skips) as this makes the pace feel smoother for respondents.

And whatever you do, add a progress bar! Any survey over two pages should have a graphical progress bar or "Page x of y" at the top of each page.

Need a Hand?

A little help can add a lot of polish—or just save hours and headaches:

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Ann worked with us on an accelerated project... helping us ‘soup to nuts’ in defining our research objectives, methodology, survey design and ‘out of the box’ survey promotion ideas. She was a very fast learn, interacted beautifully with our client, and truly delivered on all commitments... exceeding expectations in a very short time period.

Bruce Scheer
Partner, CMO
MAARK