The Challenge with the Mobile Device Explosion: Engagement, Consistency or Reach?

Confirmit Team

Confirmit Team

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Confirmit’s dedicated teams work to deliver world-leading customer experience, Voice of the Employee and Market Research solutions. 

Author Bio

I've had the pleasure of attending a few conferences this autumn, but it's been a busy period with the release of the Version 16 Feature Pack as well, so I am just getting around to blogging about it!

Late September I was in Bristol for the Association for Survey Computing's International Conference. Alex Johnson, Director, Innovation at Kantar Operations, gave an interesting presentation about the challenges in trying to balance conflicting interests when adopting new technologies for online research.

He presented a triangle where the sides were engagement, consistency and reach. His point was that we can leverage new technologies to increase engagement by giving respondents an improved survey experience. But this comes at expense of reach, because all respondents will not have access to this technology unless we are willing to sacrifice consistency by providing a different experience based on what kind of technology the respondent uses to access the survey.

Of course this is not a totally new challenge. For years we’ve had the possibility of improving engagement by using technologies like JavaScript or Flash to provide alternative interfaces to radio buttons and check boxes in traditional online surveys on PCs. However, some respondents will have disabled JavaScript in their browsers or do not have Flash installed. Then you have to choose between dropping those respondents, or providing them with an alternative solution with regular radio buttons and check boxes.

Similarly, respondents with certain disabilities may be accessing online surveys using screen readers. If you want to reach those respondents as well, this requires the survey rendering to follow certain standards for it to be accessible. Obviously these respondents will have a different experience.

The challenge has not decreased with the explosion of smart phones and tablets in recent years. Many claim that the future of the web is mobile, and as I have stated before, since people are now increasing their use of mobiles and tablets to access internet, online surveys will more often be opened on mobile devices.

So what do you do? It's really not possible to provide a totally consistent experience across devices, both because of differences in screen size, and the ways of interacting with the device: touch or keyboard on mobiles and tablets versus mouse and keyboard on PCs.

You could try to make your surveys as consistent as possible across devices by choosing a very basic rendering with simple forms (radio buttons and check boxes), but then we are talking about a relatively low-end experience compared to what respondents with high end devices are used to.

You could choose to prevent respondents accessing the survey from mobiles at all, and try to convince them to move to a PC to do the survey instead, but this will probably mean that you will lose many of those respondents.

Alternatively, you could provide an experience that is optimized for the device. You would then sacrifice consistency, but you would be able to reach respondents regardless of what device they use. And especially on high end devices like touch phones, you can take advantage of a really nice experience for respondents. For regular coded questions like single and multi-questions, it is much easier to respond by tapping your finger on a touch screen than moving a mouse to the right position to select your response.

In Confirmit, we allow users to decide which of these strategies to implement. If you choose, the survey experience can be optimized for the device the respondent is using to access the survey, with differences in rendering between different types of mobile phones, tablets and PCs.

Try it out for yourself by opening this demo survey link on different devices.

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