1 topic, 5 blogs: Rich Media in Surveys

Welcome to the first of five blogs wherein five bloggers chatter on aimlessly about the same topic. Where can one topic possibly lead? Well, just you read on to find out.

This month’s topic: How does rich media affect survey results?


Did you answer any surveys when they first came online more then ten years ago? I did my own HTML coding back then and was so proud of how I managed to code a 20 item grid on each of ten pages. Nice clean lines. Scroll bars down the side. Such technology!

Now, I hate grids unless they meet very specific criteria. One of those criteria is of course eye-appeal and interest with the goal being not to irritate survey responders. Though no longer a new technology, rich text features are still not widely used. Most surveys stick to the traditional “check the box” or “type in some words.”

But, rich media in surveys give users new ways of interacting with a survey. These new ways are interesting to survey participants. They provide variety, a component of fun, and for some people, even a sense of anticipation as they wonder what the next survey will have to offer them.

For me, everything comes down to data quality. If survey participants are bored, data quality takes a severe nose dive. If incentives are insufficient, data quality takes a nose dive. I see providing a variety of survey questions as killing two birds with one stone (sorry birdies). If surveys are fun, people don’t get bored and straightlining is less likely to occur. And, if surveys are fun, incentives are less important. The survey itself becomes incentive enough.

There are of, course, caveats. Any one who’s read a book on survey design or research methods will tell you that if you change the style of a question, you change the answers you will receive. If you’ve always used traditional grids, then switching to rich media “grids” means your data will change. You will need to be prepared to see trendlines adjust to the new layout. This is NOT a reason to avoid moving to rich media. There are ways to deal with changes in trendlines.

Why do these changes happen? Personally, I was raised in a world where words go from left to right. That’s what feels right to me. Same for traffic lights that are red, yellow and green. If stop signs were suddenly green, the city would turn to chaos. No matter how hard we try, any tampering with ingrained rules means that people will misinterpret something, even if conscientious efforts are made to interpret the new rules correctly.

And along those lines, there are many many other things that are inherently correct to me that I don’t even realize. For example, if I’m given a drop and drag likert scale, will I be able refrain from filling up each box equally? If I’m asked to draw lines between objects, will I disregard the patterns the lines are making? If asked to choose pictures and colours, will i be able to refrain from choosing those at the top left?

I think that using rich media in surveys is worth it. Anything that makes the survey experience more interesting to participants is worth the effort to make it work.
Green Means Go!
Green Means Go!‘ by Hyokano via Flickr
Image is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike licence

And the other four authors of this months topic are…
Bernie Malinoff
Joel Rubinson
Josh Mendelsohn
Brandon Bertelsen

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