For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.
(H. L. Mencken)
JANUARY 7, 2002
Issues associated with the design of on-line questionnaires
A recent article by Kent L. Norman, Zachary Friedman, Kirk Norman and Rod Stevenson ("Navigational issues in the design of online self-administered questionnaires", Behaviour & Information Technology, 2001, Vol. 20, No. 1, pp. 37-45) reports findings from a research project designed to assist the US Bureau of the Census in developing principles and guidelines for on-line questionnaires. The paper focuses on what the authors call "the first two fundamental issues in designing interactive surveys": the sequencing of items and the navigation of forms. Here is the abstract of the paper.
Answering questions on surveys involves the access of internal knowledge structures, the retrieval of records from external databases and the navigation of items on the interface. In this study a number of alternative designs for online questionnaire presentation were investigated. A long heterogeneous survey was partitioned in four ways: whole form, semantic sections, screen pages and single items. Questionnaires were presented with or without an index, resulting in eight versions. Neither initial completion times nor subjective assessments differed among the eight versions due to the highly linear navigation of the surveys. Respondents were asked to revisit 16 questions based on the topic of the question or on the question number and to change their answers. Revision times reflected ease of finding items in the structure of the survey and the use of an index to the sections of the questionnaire.
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