How do you design a (not crazy-ass) interactive survey so as the user feels nice about taking the survey while at the same time, the interaction is not (at all) distracting since the topic of the survey is health assessment. It's a dull topic and the survey is 100+ questions long. How do you design it in a manner so as the user does not feel overwhelmed by the seriousness.

I have input types ranging from sliders, radio buttons, drop down menus, matrices, etc (the entire range) and there will be 1-3 questions per page.

If I make it a game or something the client will rightly argue the user is being distracted and might be careless in answering the question correctly. I am looking for pleasant more than interesting/fun.

In the wise words of JohnGB - Imagine a pleasant prostate exam.

Some of the ideas I've had so far are:

  • Making the survey into a story or some sort: after each chunk of questions a new part of the story is revealed.
  • Creating a sort-of parallax experience so that there is a flow in the survey and you can have something related going on in the background.

None of these ideas are concrete and I am having difficulties in coming up with a new representation of the age old technique. If someone has any examples of well executed surveys which are a delight to take, I would highly appreciate it.

Think how apple reinvented the store experience with their stores.

Edit 1: Just to be clear, the survey is long BUT it is divided into parts. There will be 1-3 questions in a single page of the survey at most, depending on the type of answers/questions. The questions are systematically grouped and there are no repeats.

  • What did Apple reinvent in their stores?
    – unor
    Mar 28, 2013 at 9:40
  • Apple created a prototype store in a warehouse and went through the experience of a person coming in there. They realized that focusing the layout of the store on activities like music, rather than around products lead to a much more engaging experience for customers. Other things were also tested like the size/open space, etc.
    – rk.
    Apr 2, 2013 at 18:41

5 Answers 5


What you're looking for might be gamification: making the survey more fun and engaging by using game mechanics. Easiest way would be to rethink the questions, for example: instead of asking how many brands of food the user knows, ask what brands they have in their fridge right now. Questions that make you think. One quick read on the topic is Latest archive.org version of http://www.gamifeye.com/2012/10/17/484/ , but I'm sure there is more.

Also, if the survey is long, I have personally noticed that I become more motivated to fill it out entirely if it promises to reward me somehow. The reward can be as simple as showing some simple statistics on how other people answered the same questions.

This could be a bit far fetched, but regarding the presentation of the survey, what http://www.prezi.com has done to Powerpoint presentations could possibly be adapted to surveys as well. Animations make everything more engaging.

  • I'd be tempted to go further with the 'rewarding' and put them in a prize draw (things / money).
    – PhillipW
    Mar 27, 2013 at 11:37
  • @arqh I am looking at how to incorporate some gamification mechanics in it without making it distracting, but so far no leads. I cannot change the wording/format of the question from what the customer has asked me, just give suggestions incase they listen. There is a reward at the end of the survey (not monetary) and they do get a statistics of their survey but not immediately. +1 for bringing the prezi's impact on presentation example.
    – rk.
    Mar 27, 2013 at 13:48

Also: please design the survey in a way that allows the user to quit and return to where he left off later. In such a long survey, there are few things more annoying than having to start from scratch because you got interrupted.

  • Thanks for bringing that up :) Do you have any suggestions of different ways to do this. We are thinking of having a 'save & quit' button on every page, and when clicked an overlay explains that they can continue from here onwards and can set reminders via. email for the survey.
    – rk.
    Mar 27, 2013 at 16:57
  • Don't require a specific save. When I get interrupted, I don't get to press the save button. Instead, just store the partial results directly. When returning to the survey later on, for instance via the same link or refreshing the page you were on, just make sure I can seamlessly continue the survey where I left off.
    – André
    Mar 27, 2013 at 17:02
  • Good point, but I feel that method lacks enough feedback for the user that his work is saved and he can continue later on.
    – rk.
    Mar 27, 2013 at 18:00
  • By all means provide a more explicit way to do the same thing, but please don't require it to work. You might even send an email requesting the user to finish the survey if the user left half way and did not continue after a set amount of time.
    – André
    Mar 27, 2013 at 20:13

The biggest thing that overwhelms people in current online surveys, is loading a page, and then seeing the amazingly overwhelming size of the page, and how small the scrollbar, is will just scare your user away. But, on the same note, you don't want to have one question per page, because then you're user has to flip through 100+ pages, waiting for loading each time, (this really builds up when you have 100 pages, and the user spent 1/5 of his time during the survey waiting for pages to load) and the sheer number of pages overwhelms the user. I'd suggest having pages with 5-10 (related) questions per-page, and having smooth css animations between pages so the user never feels like they're waiting. (See: github.com navigation animations) Constantly remind users that they're almost there, or that they're making progress. Don't say: "95 questions left" Say: "1/10 pages", don't say "You have 20 questions left" say "10% left!".

  • David you make a valid point of the pros and cons of the single page and single question designs. Hence, I did mention that my survey design has 1-3 questions per page depending on the type of question/input. Right now I am looking for idea for redesigning how the user takes a survey (compared to the ideas I just mentioned here).
    – rk.
    Mar 27, 2013 at 1:10

There are few ways I can see this going:

Make it interactive (gamification-ish) such that each question itself is a part of the interaction. And the main point to be aware of here is not to make the interactions repetitive, since the survey is long, the user will be bored of the interaction (not necessarily the questions) once they can see a pattern in there. A good implmentation of an interactive survey is http://slaveryfootprint.org/

Another stab at interaction maybe the user has to perform an interaction to select the answer, this gives the feel that each answer is sortof a live element. The user is making them do what he wants. Example: The slider has a gravity field so that it sort of repels the user from keep it in the middle (I know it is forcing the user to be polarized in his opinion, this is just an example). The huge drawback here is, the user ends up spending more time per question and hence the survey time increases.

Like arqh mentioned prezi, the survey can be moving in and out of different domains of their health. When you answer the questions for say, physical health, you dive in a physical health 'section' you go in answer and come out and the move on to the next domain. This gives the user some context on what they are answering right now without specifically mentioning the domain name and it implicitly tells the relationship between the different domains.

The parallax idea seems interesting but I fear it will end up feeling like the user is scrolling forever. Also, it will be a bit information overload, with the questions flying in from different sides and the parallax locking down before the user answers each question.

The story telling idea seems like it can be doubled with one of the above ideas to have a greater impact. Just telling a story along with the survey can be a bit distracting.


The best way to deal with long surveys is to be able to break it up into logical chunks so that the user can see progress and not become frustrated with the 'endlessness' of it. It also helps if you can provide ways for the user to reduce the number of options, and show/hide items that are not relevant depending on their previous responses. You can also arrange the sequence of questions so that repetitive or similar questions are not asked too many times in a row. Ultimately these are all just strategies to make things more 'pleasant', but if you want to exclude biases in the way that the survey is answered, it is important to take account into what changes you might introduce by applying some of these strategies as well, especially if you are going to be comparing results.

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