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I've come across a few loosely related questions on UX stack exchange, but nothing quite like my scenario. I'm building a mobile phone app that allows one segment of our users fill out surveys that have been made by another segment of our user base. The following parameters apply:

  • Users can create surveys of any size
  • On average, these surveys are ~37 questions long
  • ~90% of surveys are between 2 and 97 questions
  • The most commonly used question type is a likert scale
  • Question text length is all over the place and commonly very long
  • Questions are not 'grouped' together in any explicit fashion.

With all this in mind, how best would you display the questions on a survey to those filling them out on a mobile device (just smartphones)? One at a time? All at once? Other?

  • Don't have 37 questions unless you can help it. Do one at a time and provide branching logic so you can ask less but get better answers. – plainclothes Nov 11 '15 at 22:36
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When I design questionnaires for mobile, I preload all the questions and display one at a time. That way there's no need for scrolling and each question can be large and clearly laid out, but users also don't have to sit through painful page loads. You can do this quite easily with jQuery Mobile's data-role="page" attribute. To prevent data loss in case the user doesn't complete the questionnaire, you can save each question as it's answered with an invisible AJAX call. See http://ucdstarstudy.org/ for an example.

Showing one question at a time is also a good idea if you want to discourage / prevent users from going back and changing answers.

  • Looping back to this months later, we wound up going with this approach and even did some usability testing and A/B testing (vs. showing all questions on a form on one page). We weren't able to get a statistically significant amount of participants, but our initial results showed time-on-task and number of necessary interactions to complete the evaluation was less than with showing all questions at once. We didn't see any usability issues with showing one question at a time. – TarnTarnTurtleneck Feb 24 '16 at 19:55
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Blocked in groups (10 questions).

Many times in surveys/quizzes I realized a question meant something other than I thought or I changed my mind and wanted to go back and change it. There is nothing worse than navigating backward through 37 questions and then back froward to the one you were on, possibly losing your progress along the way.

Although if you have 97 questions straight it will be quite easy to mess something up (close app, navigate away from page, etc.) and lose all of your results. This could be quite annoying to have to refill in half of your quiz. So I recommend blocking your quiz into groups, ideally about 10 questions. This way you can have multiple questions at once to reduce how much navigation is needed, but also allow you to save results periodically.

Also data consumption on mobile. Presumably each of these 97 questions will make a call to the server to save the answer and retrieve the next question if you were to split them up. That is 97 different HTTP requests over a mobile data plan. With all on one page you can just send one request. (I'm sure you could fix this with clever programming but more commonly I see separate requests.)

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    In this case, assume it's a mobile app that does 1 http call to grab the whole survey and its questions, and just displays them one at a time. – TarnTarnTurtleneck Oct 12 '15 at 18:41
  • Ok that's good then, I'll leave the second part of the answer still for future readers in case they considered doing it that way. I think the first part of the answer is still a viable reason to not split it into separate questions, unless you specifically want to prohibit going back or implement a very good navigation system. – DasBeasto Oct 12 '15 at 18:47
  • A good way to think about it is imagine taking a 100 question test in school, it would be quite tedious if each question was on a separate page. – DasBeasto Oct 12 '15 at 18:49
  • I agree with you @DasBeasto about your last comment, save for the fact this is using such a small form factor (smartphone). From the user's perspective, I'd wonder if it would feel overwhelming seeing all (or even 10 at a time) questions at once on the same screen. Would this not be information overload on such a small screen? – TarnTarnTurtleneck Oct 13 '15 at 17:50

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