Dispatch from Lisbon: What can popular apps teach us about mobile surveys?

Hello from the European Survey Research Association (ESRA) conference in Lisbon, Portugal! It’s a huge conference, and I had a great time yesterday speaking about some work I’m doing with my friend Chris Antoun, who’s an expert on mobile surveys. (Please note that all views expressed here are ours, not those of our employers, including the US Census Bureau where Chris works!)

We looked at 24 popular apps and analyzed the design features they use and don’t use, all with the thought that mobile surveys which are inspired or influenced by these features will have one less barrier to overcome in getting respondents to engage. Some key points from our paper:

Apps use visual elements to make content hierarchy very clear. Look at your Facebook or Instagram app and you’ll see faint gray lines between sections and text that varies from bold to lighter. It’s very obvious what’s important and what’s not. Maybe mobile survey designers should think about writing instructions (eg, select one, select as many as apply) in light gray!

Apps don’t use italics. Out of 24 apps, we didn’t find a single use of italics. It’s something app users aren’t accustomed to seeing, but in surveys we looooooove to use italics: Which of the following cities have you visited? Please select as many as apply.

We scroll horizontally on apps. Survey designers are also very anti-horizontal scrolling– or, I should say, anti-not having everything visible. Which makes a lot of sense, but doesn’t mesh with the way we navigate most apps. I can’t wait to see a mobile survey that makes wise use of horizontal scrolling!

Intrigued? Want to know more? Contact me!

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Founder of Southpaw Insights