Post on 09/02/2016 by Sealia Thévenau

Questionnaires are often seen as a chore by a large number of people.  It is therefore extremely important to encourage the small percentage of people who start your survey to fill it out all the way to the end. 

Here are a few tips to encourage your respondents to participate:

Take advantage of multimedia:

Your questionnaire is online, it’s dynamic! So take advantage of that fact by adding short video clips or images to your questionnaire.  Images can optimize your questionnaire’s design or be used to illustrate a question.  Videos can add much needed pep to a questionnaire.  I do suggest your video stay under a minute long – that’s just enough time to peek your respondent’s interest, but not so long that they lose interest for your questionnaire.  And, of course, your video should be interesting, engaging, and not a simple explanation of something like the life cycle of marine mollusks and nudibranchs.  (I’m just making up that subject as an example! If you like nudibranchs don’t get offended. I mean my mom loves those crazy colorful slugs! You can, by all means, add this type of video to your questionnaire… if it’s appropriate that is…) 


Use interactive question types:

Certain question types have a greater capacity to make respondents interact actively with your questionnaire.  For example you can replace simple radio-button scale questions with slider type questions.  Ranking questions also have a good capacity to involve the respondent thanks to its use of drag-and-drop technology.  And if it suits your questionnaire, you might want to consider adding heatmap type questions as these can be interesting and fun for the respondents to answer.

Here’s an example: 


The reason these types of questions are more dynamic is actually fairly simple – they force respondents to actively participate using the mouse.  It may seem like a mere detail but the act of moving a slider is more dynamic and engaging than clicking to select a radio-button.  Clicking on a heatmap type question is more interesting than seeing an image and responding to a multiple choice question about it. 


Bring on the incentives!

The introduction to your questionnaire is a perfect place to motivate your respondents by adding a little incentive… a promotional code at the end of the questionnaire, perhaps? All respondents who finish the questionnaire are entered into a raffle to win a prize, you say?  Add a little somethin’, somethin’ to entice the respondent and motivate them to finish your questionnaire once they’ve started it. 

Another thing to include in your introduction is the amount of time it will take the respondent to complete the survey.  Oh, and if it’s going to take them 5 minutes don’t write: “This will only take a couple of minutes of your time”. A “couple” is 2 – not 5.  You need to be realistic and honest about the amount of time the respondent will need to spend filling out your questionnaire, otherwise they’ll drop out of the questionnaire before finishing.


Things to watch out for:

  • Open text question types are not what I would call “interactive” questions. Sure, they require you to spend a little more time and think about your answer, but… this is mostly a negative aspect, especially if you make them mandatory – that’s a no-go. Open text type questions can provide you with useful information, however, you should not add too many of them to your questionnaire and you certainly should not make them mandatory.  If there is even one mandatory text question that your respondent doesn’t really feel like answering, or doesn’t have time to fill out, you’ve just lost a respondent. 
  • As I noted earlier, multimedia can be a positive addition to your questionnaire, making it more dynamic and enjoyable for the respondents. However, you need to be careful not to overload your questionnaire by bombarding your respondent with too many video clips and images everywhere distracting them from actually answering the questions you wrote.  There’s a thin line between engaging and “too much!” You need to find the right balance for your survey.
  • On a similar note, it is also important not to turn your questionnaire into an advertisement. Your questionnaire should give out a positive image of your company. Try to avoid making your respondent feel like you’re just sending them an ad with a couple questions forced in as fluff.
  • Lastly, make sure your questionnaire stays short and sweet and that the questions themselves are not convoluted. Respondents need to feel like they aren’t wasting their time. It is really important that your questions be clear and precise – if your respondent is going to have any doubts as to what a question really means, that’s a bad sign.  Make sure it is crystal clear. 

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