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Monthly Dose of Design: Improve Your Questionnaires with Visual Design

Learn how visual design can improve your surveys in the latest edition of Monthly Dose of Design.

In last month’s Monthly Dose of Design, we identified how to improve your discussion guide with visual design. This month we will focus on how visual design can improve surveys.

Nowadays, most quantitative research is done online. However, this provides researchers with some problems:

  • Online content is consumed via a skimming culture, therefore it is harder than ever to capture participant’s attention
  • The standards for online content presentation – and therefore survey appearance –  are not set by research providers. They are set by mainstream platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and the BBC

For online surveys, this means that design is as much about user experience (UX) as it is about using the right scales. Poor UX equals poor participant engagement, which leads to poor data, resulting in poor insights and eventually poor business decisions.

To avoid this chain of events, and create a more engaging online survey experience, use these visual design tips:

1. Know Your Audience & Their Design Preferences

In the era of personalisation, we should not have a generic survey appearance. Engaging tech savvy millennials will require different visuals than those needed to engage C-level executives. To begin to understand the appropriate visual cues you will need to get to know your audience and what resonates with them. Do this by looking at any existing research and imagery on the target audience and choose your questionnaire design elements accordingly.

2. Engage Participants Throughout

Make sure that participant engagement begins on the landing page. The landing page should be an advert for participation. Use an enticing image and a benefit statement to get participants into the survey in a way that means they are motivated and engaged. Once in, make sure you clearly sign-post progress, questionnaire content and deliver on the ‘advert’ you have used on the landing page using design cues like icons and appropriate colours. And finally, make sure the participant leaves feeling positive and treat your closing page like and advert for future research participation.

3. On-Screen Layout

Online surveys have a whole screen to utilise – so make the most of it! Use images to fill the screen, whilst making your page look more engaging. On the screen, make sure your content is well organised. This means using a mixture of appropriate spacing between questions and answer options and keeping question length consistent.

Gestalt theory can help greatly with this. Gestalt theory is the idea that visual elements work together to communicate more successfully and stronger than they would working separately. This is achieved through characteristics like similarity and proximity. For example, by grouping related questions, you can make the survey more relatable for the participant and help develop their engagement with the bigger picture – and makes questions easier to answer. If you are worried about giving participants the wrong impression through your use of layout, you could still have less space between the related questions, but also place a thin bounding box around each individual question or faint coloured backgrounds (with clear borders between each question) behind each question. This way the viewer can identify that they are all related but still separate questions.   

Use Appropriate Typefaces & Colours

Use one legible typeface, with a lot of different variations, i.e. light, regular, semi bold and bold. This will support your hierarchy of information and allow your audience to easily distinguish importance. Copy is central to a successful survey and the correct typeface is vital in communicating your questions successfully.

A complimentary colour palette can bring your questionnaire alive and make it more visually impactful. Remember to use contrasting colours that are easy to read. Try using interesting background imagery or a unique visual pattern. However, make sure your background doesn’t interfere with your content. If this happens, try putting a white box, at a slightly lower opacity, underneath the text to make it stand out.

What’s next…
Next time we go back into the world of qualitative research and show you how to make qualitative outputs more visually impactful and the key design rules you should use communicating qualitative insights to clients.

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