Post on 12/02/2016 by Sealia Thévenau

Categories : Your online surveys

The “Matrix” question type is a multi-dimensional version of “multiple choice” or “scale” type questions.  It is presented as a table and the respondent must give an answer per line.  In this post we’ll go over the positives and negatives of using this question type to further help you optimize your surveys.


This can be very useful question type if you need to ask the same question for several different aspects of the same thing (see the above examples). This can improve the look of your questionnaire as well as making it more fluid for your respondent. 

However, there are situations where the matrix can have a noxious effect on humanity… I mean your survey! Despite its ability to give your survey a dream-like appearance … Just kidding - I’ll stop with the movie references soon I promise… this question type’s limits lie principally in the data analysis phase.  This is because the matrix, though it is made up of many parts (each line of the table representing a part) is considered ONE question. 

Taking all this in, let’s choose between the red pill and the blue pill – or the Pros and Cons:


  • Matrix type questions can simplify the look of your questionnaire and help give it an attractive layout.
  • Using sliders in your matrix make the question dynamic and fluid for your respondents. This also helps to avoid having a mine-field of radio-buttons your respondents then have to navigate – which tends to end badly for you because the respondent will lean towards pattern filling (trying to make a perfect diagonal for example) or randomly ticking off a column of radio-buttons (giving you perfect 2s).
  • By separating satisfaction of an element into several of its aspects you’re able to collect an overall satisfaction (by calculating the average), while also allowing the respondent to express their satisfaction concerning each aspect individually.
  • If your questionnaire includes a slider (or Likert scale) question and a matrix question (highlighting the different aspects) which will allow you to calculate and average, you’ll be able to compare the two results during your analysis. Are they the same? Is poor satisfaction in one aspect of the matrix question bringing down your average? …


CONS (red pill?): 

  • Because the matrix question type is treated as A SINGLE question with many parts, it is not possible to analyze the different parts (or different lines of the table) independently.
  • A matrix with too many lines can become overwhelming for the respondent, which will either encourage them to drop out of the survey or to answer randomly without reading the question or the lines of the table which falsifies your results.
    • You can partially avoid this issue by using sliders instead of radio-buttons. The former being more dynamic but also they do not allow respondents to simply “click, click, click, click….” down a column. However, a better way to avoid these problems is to limit the number of lines. 
  • The types of analysis available for matrix question types are limited. If you plan on performing advanced or complex data analysis, remember that the matrix is treated as a single question.  This makes it incompatible with certain types of analysis – notably cross-tabulations – because it is not possible to analyze a single part of the question. 


In conclusion: Matrices can add fluidity to your questionnaires, however before you add them here, there, and everywhere you need to think about the types of analysis you hope to perform and the types of results you hope to glean from them in order to avoid any bad surprises once you’ve already collected all your data and there’s no turning back.


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