Gamification for Better Quality Questionnaires

We talk a lot in our industry about the need to make questionnaires shorter – especially in the age of mobile. It takes about 25% longer to take a survey on a mobile device than on a PC – and taking a survey longer than a few minutes on a smartphone is awkward and unappealing.

Although there are many ways to make surveys measurably shorter, the reality is that the median online survey length we see at SSI is still a too-long 13 minutes.

If we struggle to make questionnaires actually shorter, are there ways we can make them seem shorter to those taking them? ”They” say that time flies when you’re having fun, so how can we apply this principle to questionnaire design? Can incorporating gamification help?

Gamification doesn’t have to mean creating avatars, adding CGI effects and making a questionnaire into a Hollywood production. It’s about identifying the elements of gaming that keep people engaged and motivated to continue to play, then understanding how those elements can be incorporated into research surveys. Simple, practical approaches using the right wording and reimagining some basic elements of questionnaire design can make a real difference. Game designer Danny Day says “I don’t necessarily believe games have to be fun to be games. I think a game is chiefly the decision to keep playing and the context of that play.”

By using gamification techniques, we are aiming to make the activity more absorbing, engaging and less tedious.

Deci’s self-determination theory of motivation states that motivation is encouraged by reinforcing people’s feelings of:

  • Autonomy
  • Competence
  • Value
  • Relatedness

We can appeal to these feelings by using relatively simple wording changes in our questionnaires:

  • Thanks for choosing to complete the survey so far. Or: Please press the > button when you are ready to continue with the survey. (Autonomy)
  • Hundreds of people in your town are also taking part in this survey. (Relatedness)
  • Our client will be able to learn so much from your answers. (Value)
  • You really are the expert on this topic. (Competence)

We can also frame questions to make the survey more interesting: instead of “What did you do?” ask “Can you estimate what you did?” or “Can you guess what you did?”

Instead of asking someone to “Please describe yourself” perhaps ask “Please describe yourself in 10 words.” The specific nature of the instruction makes people think about their answers, and can be especially helpful in improving responses to open end questions.

These few suggestions are meant to encourage your thoughts on how gamification could be used in your next questionnaire design. As researchers, we should keep in mind that we are not in the entertainment business. Guarding against introducing bias with these techniques is key. Simple gamification techniques can help us to keep the promise we make to research participants to provide an interesting, perhaps even enjoyable experience when taking our surveys.

Learn more:

SSI White paper – Questionnaire Length and Fatigue Effects: The Latest Thinking and Practical Solutions

SSI Webinar – How to Get More from Your Open Questions

Jackie Lorch is Vice President of Global Knowledge Management at SSI.

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