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I was wondering what you thought of the relative merits of getting age by

  1. leaving a blank box for the user to fill in.
  2. using a pull-down menu for birth year.
  3. using age buckets ("under 18", "19 - 24", "25 - 34", etc.).

My instinct is to want exact data (either a fill-in or year of birth), because age buckets can still be created from that if I want it, but the reverse is not also true.

On the other hand, I'm new to this business (now in the video game industry after years in academia) and all I've seen so far are age buckets on surveys. It seems to be the industry standard.

Any wise and wondrous thoughts?

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    Age is private and sensible info. People don't like to share it, until there is a clear reason for this. So I assume asking buckets is the most anonymous way of sharing this info. Also make shure you really need exact year of birth/age. Does it have critical impact on your business? Mar 30 '16 at 21:59
  • what is the business objective and value of capturing users' age?
    – Midas
    Mar 30 '16 at 22:02
  • For mobile gaming, age (and capturing generational data) is an important factor in understanding both our general and paying audience. ... Is it common here to ask the asker to justify the questions asked rather than answering it? Just curious.
    – SamuraiUX
    Mar 30 '16 at 22:08
  • LOL, again, new here... but surprised anew that a user has edited my question to make it "better" but did not answer it. There are now more people questioning my question and my question-asking methodology than there are people being helpful and responding. Is this itself a UX issue?
    – SamuraiUX
    Mar 30 '16 at 23:09
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    Yea its really private. It's not surprising that so many seem to be born in 01.01.1990 or at least seem to
    – BlueWizard
    Mar 31 '16 at 7:03
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A pull-down menu to select either age or year of birth is immensely user-unfriendly. A menu should never have 50+ values on it, and doubly so when the values are numeric. This selection requires that the user pay a lot of attention to the menu, and is error-prone. Worse, since the error is likely to be only wrong by a year or two, the survey respondent isn't likely to correct it because it's close enough. This reduces your choice to two: buckets, and manual entry.

One consideration in selecting how to answer this question is to consider whether your survey respondent will be primarily answering your survey via keyboard or mouse. Making the survey respondent switch back and forth between modes of entry is more likely to result in them quitting out of the survey altogether. If you are going to switch between modes of entry, do so thoughtfully, and consider ordering your questions so that you limit the number of switches between them.

It's worthwhile to note that survey respondents who are on a mobile device tend to have higher response rates if the amount of keyboard entry is limited. If your game dev is mobile, or if you anticipate that a large number of your respondents will use a mobile device to respond, I would choose buckets over manual entry.

Demographic questions are personal questions, and people can have unexpected reactions to being asked personal questions. Requiring that someone divulge their exact age increases the likelihood that your survey respondent will either lie (if they're invested in the survey) or simply quit the survey (if they don't). The age range buckets decrease your chance of the respondent quitting the survey because they don't want to divulge information that they feel is personal.

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I would try very hard to not ask the question at all, but failing that you need to consider the audience.

  1. Is it clear to the user why you need their age at all? Do they benefit in some way from giving you correct information? If not, expect a lot of fake (read: useless) data.
  2. Is it clear to the user why you need exact ages? If it's some sort of age verification you're going to get a bunch of fake data for users set to 1900 or similar just because it's the easiest, least creepy way to get through your barrier to entry.
  3. Is your business especially trustworthy or legally entitled to the information? A bank or other similar institution will be more likely to get actual answers than a supermarket chain.

If you care more about correct data than precise data, ranges are better. If you would rather precise data at the risk of getting a lot of false responses, ask for an age or year (as a numeric text field; most users don't know about typeahead and will have to scroll your monster drop-down to target the correct year with a mouse—another cause of potential false input, since it's much easier to let the scroll wheel fly to the bottom of the list than target the correct year).

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