Online Technology for Research & Insight

Research Blog 29 April 2019

How to streamline surveys for respondents using conditions

A key benefit of online surveys is the ability to route respondents through your questions, depending on their previous answers, and minimising the amount of reading they need to do. This avoids asking irrelevant questions and gives respondents a unique personalised experience. Here’s our best practise tips for setting up conditions.

1. Don’t distract them with questions appearing and disappearing: If you put a conditional question directly beneath its control question, then it will appear (or disappear) when the trigger answer is selected (or deselected). Respondents will get distracted from the questions at hand and become aware of the technology in action. Always try to avoid this, and keep them focussed on the subject of the survey!

2. Minimise the number of conditional follow-ons on one page: First-time users often get carried away with using conditionality, especially to trigger sub-questions to refine the answers given. However, if you have a multi-choice question with 10 options, and sub-questions for each one, then the page will quickly start enlarging before their eyes – the end will seem further away with each answer they give!

3. Use conditional pages rather than conditional questions: Often you will have several follow-on questions, based on a specific answer (such as asking questions as to why they chose Very Poor or Poor and what could be done to change that in future). Best to put a few connected follow-up questions on a single page, and make the whole page conditional on the trigger answer.

4. Avoid blank pages where conditions conflict: If you make a page conditional, you don’t need to make the questions on the page conditional as well. If you do use conditional questions on a conditional page make sure they don’t conflict – a person may fulfil the criteria to see the page, but not the questions on it! The easiest way to make sure you do not have a blank page in your survey is to put at least one non-conditional question on a page. That way everyone who sees the page will see that question.

5. Use conditionality with a light touch! Once you start using conditions, the temptation is there to use them at every opportunity, but think carefully about where and when they are really needed. At worst, you might be excluding people unnecessarily and therefore reducing your response rate significantly. You also run the risk of over-complicating the survey.

6. Multiple conditionality means mastering AND/OR logic! In Demographix, you have the option to set up multiple conditions, meaning respondents have to fulfil criteria from two or more questions. These need very careful thought, especially when specifying the AND/OR logic – i.e. should ALL the conditions be satisfied or EITHER of the conditions. The option you choose will make a very significant difference on who sees the question. You don’t need to have a degree in logic, but it helps!

7. Conditions let you exit people from your survey early: There may be times where you want to exit respondents from a survey early if they don’t fulfil certain criteria. You would do this by creating an Exit page – this is simply a new page, which you then mark as an exit page. You then set up the relevant conditions for this page and when respondents get to this page they will then be exited from the survey. Exit pages always have to have conditions attached to them.

8. The last page in your survey can’t be conditional – obvs! The last page in your survey can’t be conditional as everyone MUST SEE IT in order to submit their answers. In fact, you will get an error message if you try to make it conditional. Instead, after your final conditional page you should put in a last page which everyone sees, thanking respondents for their time and reminding them to click on the Submit Answers button.

9. Check conditionality in the workspace and in preview mode: As you add conditions to a page or question, a "C" icon appears in the workspace next to the relevant item. Hover over this and a tool tip will show the precise question and answer(s) that trigger the conditionality. To test your conditions, click "Update Pages" and then view the survey on screen, testing conditions as you go. You may need to use the Previous button to test different alternatives.

10. Use a PDF printout to check all the conditionality in your survey: Finally, we recommend proof-reading your survey by creating a PDF of it (use the Print/PDF icon on the survey toolbar). The PDF will have all the conditional instructions spelt out, so you can easily see the structure of the whole survey this way.