The efforts to ensure quality in survey research have focused too heavily on the development of tools designed to detect and remove bad and/or fraudulent data. This approach is incomplete. As a full-service research company in business for almost 35 years we deploy the full arsenal of tools to detect and remove bad data. From digital fingerprinting to reliability tests to probability algorithms and open-end response validation and others, we cover a lot of territory to ensure we’re delivering a clean and reliable data set. And we’re not alone – most of the industry is engaged in catching cheaters and excluding poor data. It’s cost of entry in this business. Perhaps the industry is spending too little time on specific efforts to improve the survey experience through design and efforts focused on inclusion of underserved participant groups. We can flip the discussion and continue to push for better survey design and participant engagement, not relying simply on providing a better user experience but also ensuring specific design elements lead to more reliable data.
The Future of Surveys is not Mobile
Participants choose how and when they engage in research. Research organizations no longer make those decisions, but we do get the opportunity to optimize the participant experience. Focusing our collective efforts to provide the right experience for participants is our imperative and the purpose should be to facilitate survey completion across demographic groups and device types. The future of surveys is not mobile; the future is in designing a consistent experience to a participant regardless of device or platform. This means going beyond a simple Responsive Design solution for making surveys “mobile optimized” and instead focusing on specific designs which render consistently, providing the same question presentation, across devices. We began conducting research-on-research focused on multi-platform survey design 18 months ago, across project types and categories to determine optimal survey designs for multi-platform survey engagement. This process has resulted in data-supported designs which improve the participant experience and ensure sustainable data quality in online data collection. New designs ensure no difference in data across device types (laptop/tablet/phone) and reduce mid-term dropout rates by mobile-first participants, and allows us to get rid of troublesome questions types like grids to improve the experience.
ADA Accessibility and Participant Inclusion
Instead of looking for new ways to exclude participants, how can we bring more people into our surveys and encourage them to continue to participate in survey research? Do you know how many people with visual impairment or blindness are currently trying to complete your surveys? In the U.S. there are approximately 25 million people living with high levels of visual impairment or blindness and this number is expected to climb with the aging population. With ADA accessibility mandates expected in 2018 we need to start thinking about how to bring this group into the survey experience and how to do it in a way that goes beyond simple compliance for creating a good experience. It’s not easy. The challenges with survey design and for creating an engaging survey experience with the visually impaired and blind are significant and important for the future of representative survey research. Those with visual impairment require a high contrast solution while those with blindness need a solution which works with screen readers and braille pads, and the specific design solutions are unique. I would encourage you, if you haven’t already, to engage with this community to begin developing the solutions needed to be compliant and to ensure their needs for participant experience are being met. This is an under-served community when it comes to online participation, but they want to do research and we need them to be part of our research if we want true representation. And in this case and others, we simply need to try harder to create opportunities for research participation.
Participant Inclusion
So much of our efforts towards quality are focused on excluding participants. We’re starting to flip the discussion to engagement and focus instead on participant inclusion. Multiplatform design and ADA accessibility are two ways we’re moving the initiative forward. Better survey design with a renewed focus on the participant experience, and optimizing those elements which produce quality across projects and across categories should be our beacon for future industry efforts.   Bob_Graff Robert Graff Vice President at MarketVision Research, Inc