What does good mobile survey design look like?

Discover the essentials of effective survey design and how to optimize for mobile respondents. Learn what good survey design looks like here.
05 June 2024
Jon Puleston

Vice President, Innovation, Profiles Division

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Most companies recognize the importance of market research, but one aspect that can be overlooked is the art of survey design. While the questions themselves provide valuable insights, the design acts as a bridge between businesses and their target audiences. In fact, a well-crafted survey can unlock data that is both rich in detail and precise in reflecting consumer opinions.

So what does good survey design look like? It all boils down to two characteristics: clarity and simplicity. This means balancing various question types to maintain respondent engagement. 

Dive into tips on how to design surveys that really connect with people on any device, including mobile. After all, reaching consumers where they spend their time—often on their phones—can make a significant difference in the quality of responses. The goal is to give market researchers the tools they need to create surveys that not only grab people’s attention but also provide useful information. 

Understanding the basics of good survey design

One of the main reasons to conduct research is to gather accurate and actionable insights, and survey design plays an important role in this process. An effective survey has to strike a balance between asking the right questions—in the right way—and keeping respondents engaged throughout the process. 

To do this, it’s important to understand how to design a survey. They should be structured to gather comprehensive data without overwhelming the respondent’s time and cognitive load. That’s why it is so important to design questions that are clear and simple, including a variety of open-ended and closed-ended questions. This will help researchers gather both quantitative and qualitative data. Consider these fundamental principles of survey design. 

Clarity and simplicity

The foundation of effective survey design starts with making sure that each question is straightforward and unambiguous. Clear questions prevent misunderstandings and allow respondents to provide accurate answers. If they don’t know what the question is asking, it is unlikely that the responses will provide actionable insights. Questions should be concise and avoid complex language or jargon that could confuse participants. 

Simplicity also extends to the survey layout. A clean and intuitive design helps respondents navigate the survey without feeling overwhelmed. Additional clarity in instructions is equally important since it guides them through the process. The instructions can even help participants understand why their feedback is valuable and how it will be used. The goal is to make the survey experience as seamless as possible. 

Engagement and motivation

High response rates and quality data will only come when respondents stay motivated throughout the survey. Using visual elements like images, colors, and interactive formats can make the survey more enjoyable and less monotonous. Gamification elements, such as scoring or challenge-based questions, can also add an aspect of fun and competition. 

Motivation is often closely related to the perceived value of the survey, both in terms of the time it takes to complete and the potential impact of the feedback. To boost motivation, aim to keep surveys as brief as possible while still collecting the necessary data. When applicable, personalizing the survey can make it feel more relevant to the individual and increase their motivation to complete it. 

Balance between question types

The best survey designs balance open-ended and closed-ended questions. Closed-ended questions, such as multiple choice or rating scales, provide quantitative data that can be easily analyzed and compared. These questions are particularly efficient to complete and help standardize the data collection process. However, they can limit the depth of insight because they confine responses to pre-defined options. 

Open-ended questions, on the other hand, allow participants to more freely express their thoughts and experiences in their own words. This provides qualitative data that can uncover nuances that closed-ended questions might miss. However, they can be more time-consuming to answer and more complex to analyze. 

To mitigate these challenges, good survey design blends a combination of question types. This helps researchers gather both broad data and complex insights. It also ensures a more comprehensive understanding of the survey topic. 

The role of mobile optimization in survey design

As mobile devices become the standard, mobile optimization has become even more essential for modern surveys. In fact, 56% of all online surveys around the world are now completed on a mobile device—and this number is going up by the month. This trend makes it a necessity to move from merely mobile-compatible surveys to fully mobile-optimized ones. Mobile devices have smaller, portrait-oriented screens that demand a different approach to survey design. It requires a meticulous layout where every pixel counts, so content must be concise yet clear to accommodate the smaller display area. 

Mobile optimization also considers the unique context of mobile usage, where users may be on the move or have shorter attention spans. That’s why surveys have to be quick to load, easy to understand, and engaging enough to hold the participant’s attention amidst a multitude of distractions. Taking a mobile-first approach ensures that surveys are accessible and user-friendly for a broader audience. 

Responsive design

When designing a survey, responsive design is crucial as it ensures that the format can adapt seamlessly to different screen sizes and orientations. This flexibility can go a long way in improving the user experience since participants can easily complete surveys whether they use a smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer. 

How does a responsive survey work? They automatically adjust their layout, text size, interactive elements, and other components to fit the screen. This prevents issues like misaligned content and excessively small text. This adaptability is a requirement when digital devices vary widely in size and capabilities. By implementing responsive design, organizations can cater to a diverse range of respondents and reduce the likelihood of technical barriers that deter participation. 

Touch-friendly interfaces

Creating touch-friendly interfaces is another important part of designing surveys for mobile users. Touchscreen devices require larger, easily tappable elements to accommodate finger navigation, as opposed to the precise cursor control of a mouse. For this reason, surveys should feature generously spaced buttons and checkboxes to prevent mis-taps. 

Scrolling should be effortless and selections must be responsive to touch input. Of course, designing with touch in mind also means minimizing the need for typing, which can be a hassle with mobile keyboards. Instead, use sliders, pickers, or dropdown menus whenever possible. 

This user-centered design makes surveys more accessible and less frustrating for mobile users. And it encourages higher completion rates by providing a comfortable and intuitive interaction experience. 

Crafting engaging and effective questions

Writing questions that accurately measure opinions can be a delicate art, but it is central to effective survey design. Questions must be clear and direct, yet nuanced enough to capture the full spectrum of participants’ thoughts. Those are a lot of considerations to account for, but precise wording can help prevent misunderstandings and ensure that answers truly reflect the intended insight. 

Questions need to be specific enough to prompt detailed answers, yet broad enough to avoid constricting answers. This balance allows researchers to gather data that is detailed and relevant, providing insights that are genuinely reflective of the target audience’s behaviors and opinions. 

Avoiding bias and leading questions

One thing to remember is to write questions that are neutral and avoid leading the respondent toward a specific answer. Leading questions contain assumptions or hints that could influence the participant’s response—which skews the data. To avoid this, frame questions in an unbiased manner and present options without indicating a preferred or expected answer. 

Using neutral language and avoiding emotionally charged words can also help prevent inadvertently guiding responses. Make sure that all potential answers are represented fairly and that no option is more prominent than the others to minimize response bias. 

Logical flow and question order

Although it may not be obvious, the order of the questions can significantly affect how respondents interpret and answer them. A logical flow in survey questions aids in maintaining engagement and ensuring that the answers are as accurate as possible. Questions should progress naturally from general to specific, building on previous information and avoiding abrupt shifts in topic. 

How the questions are presented can influence participants’ thought processes, so placing similar topics together and gradually moving through related concepts helps maintain a coherent narrative. It should also reflect the survey’s objectives so that users understand the purpose of the questions. 

Building your survey with empathy

Empathy in survey design means considering the experience from the respondent's perspective. This includes making sure the process is respectful and inclusive. An empathetic approach involves acknowledging the diversity of respondents and offering options that reflect their range of experiences. Questions should also avoid presenting assumptions that could alienate or offend. 

Good survey design should make participants feel valued and understood, providing an environment where they can offer honest and thoughtful responses. By prioritizing empathy, survey designers can create a more positive experience for users. This often leads to higher engagement and more accurate, insightful data. 

Using human and engaging language

Crafting survey questions in a human and engaging language is crucial for ensuring that participants feel comfortable and understood. Avoiding "research speak"—the jargon and overly formal language often used in academic or technical contexts—can help make surveys more approachable and less intimidating.

It also means using terminology that your audience naturally uses. Rather than using acronyms or industry-specific terms, opt for plain language that is clear and easy to understand. For example, instead of asking, "What is your perception of the brand's value proposition?" you could ask, "What do you think about what the brand offers?"

A conversational tone can also make your survey feel more like a dialogue and less like an interrogation. This tone uses contractions, casual phrasing, and direct questions that sound like something you might ask in a face-to-face conversation. 

Express appreciation for the respondent’s time and effort to make your survey more engaging. A simple thank you at the beginning and end of your survey, as well as occasional acknowledgment within questions, can make participants feel valued. 

Utilizing advanced survey features and logic

Advanced survey tools and logic significantly enhance the customization and efficiency of the survey experience. They allow for tailored interactions—and more precise responses. These tools use algorithms and conditional logic to adapt the flow of questions based on previous answers, boosting relevancy and reducing survey fatigue. 

Advanced analytics and reporting features enable researchers to automatically interpret survey results, highlighting key patterns and insights. This integration of smart technologies and logic-driven designs in surveys leads to a more dynamic and informative research process. They optimize data collection and analysis for strategic planning moving forward. 

Conditional logic for personalized paths

Conditional logic in surveys, often referred to as branching, allows respondents to take personalized paths based on their answers to previous questions. This adaptability means that each participant only sees questions relevant to their experiences. For example, if a respondent indicates a lack of experience in a particular area, the survey can skip questions related to that topic.

If, however, they show interest or expertise in a particular area, the survey can delve deeper into that subject. This intelligent routing not only improves the respondent's experience by preventing irrelevant questions but also streamlines the data collection process. And that means more focused and valuable insights. 

Data analysis and reporting tools

Many modern survey platforms come equipped with advanced data analysis and reporting tools that turn raw data into actionable insights. These tools encompass a range of features, including: 

  • Real-time analytics
  • Automated chart generation
  • Cross-tabulation capabilities

All of these abilities empower researchers to pinpoint trends and correlations within the survey data. 

Additionally, advanced software capabilities can perform complex statistical analyses, such as regression analysis or sentiment analysis, which provide a deeper understanding of responses. Visualization tools also play a critical role by presenting the data in an accessible and intuitive format, simplifying the communication of findings to stakeholders. 

Together, these sophisticated features not only streamline the process of data interpretation but also enhance the ability of organizations to rapidly make well-informed decisions based on the insights gathered from their surveys. These advanced survey tools ensure that data-driven strategies are more effective and efficient, ultimately boosting the impact of research initiatives.


Effective survey design is a critical component of successful market research, serving as the foundation for gathering meaningful and actionable insights. As you craft exceptional surveys, remember to prioritize clarity and simplicity—both in question formulation and visual format. This will help participants easily understand and engage with your content. After all, engagement and motivation are crucial factors in accurate responses. Interactive and visually appealing elements that resonate with the mobile-centric habits of today’s users can also help. 

Leverage the insights and resources from Kantar Profiles to help you get the most out of your surveys. From personalized paths to insightful data analysis, your surveys can become more than just questionnaires. They can transform into powerful tools for dialogue and foster deeper connections with consumer needs and preferences. This approach not only enhances data collection but also enriches the overall survey experience, encouraging higher participation rates and more detailed feedback.

Looking for more in-depth guidance and survey design examples for mobile devices? Download "What does good survey design look like" using the form below.

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