6 steps to avoiding survey fatigue

Taylor Brodie

Taylor Brodie, 6 February 2019

Surveys can be an invaluable resource when collecting data and insights from your audiences, however there is such thing as too much of a good thing. Overly-complicated and over-zealous surveying can test both the patience and sanity of your respondents and negatively affect your ability to collect useful and actionable data. Although each survey, and each respondent, is different – there are a few considerations to keep in mind to ensure you’re not burning your respondents out.

1. Keep it brief

Your audience is usually taking the survey because they genuinely want to provide their opinions, but unless they’re an exceptionally engaged participant it’s unlikely they want to spend a good chunk of their morning on one survey. When your survey is too long or not engaging, respondents are likely to abandon the survey, provide lazy answers or avoid the survey entirely. Be respectful of your audience’s time and consider what questions you really need to have answered. Your data will benefit.

2. Consider your sample

Who is your survey aimed at? Respondents who are highly engaged with a particular topic are likely to be happier to answer an in-depth survey. Seniors completing a workshop, artists completing a residency or parents in an education program are likely to have long, detailed opinions on their experiences. Casual visitors to a shopping centre or gallery space are less likely to sit and talk for hours. Think about your audience and tailor your survey to suit.

3. Test your survey and find some guinea pigs

Try the survey on various devices. If respondents are using a tablet or mobile device how difficult is it to get through? Appreciate the first impression your respondents will make. Proof vigorously and check for duplication. Ask yourself what you will do with the data to ensure the questions are relevant. Ask others to test the survey and provide feedback. 

4. Balance your question types

Open text questions are fatiguing; use them sparingly and ensure that this data is useful. Consider the appropriate scale, is a yes/no answer sufficient? Perhaps consider a five point scale or Likert scale to add a fine grain of detail to your data. Avoid ‘nice to know’ questions.

5. Value your audience’s opinions and communicate clearly

Tell your respondent why you are asking what you are asking. Give them an idea of how long it will take them, realistically. If your audience feels valued and knows why their opinion will help they will reciprocate.

6. Don’t get trigger-happy with your evaluations

There are two kinds of survey fatigue – 'response fatigue', which applies to the above tips, and 'taking fatigue', which essentially boils down to ensuring your respondents aren't bombarded with surveys so often they stop taking them. Even the simplest surveys will induce fatigue if you send them out to your audiences constantly. Consider how often you really need to survey your audience to gain actionable data and find the right balance.

As always, if you need help figuring out what’s important or how to keep things simple, we’re here to help

Valuing Culture

Join our community.

Get involved now