@ilegal blogs

Survey Progress Bars

progress indicator

A couple of posts on survey design *yawn* so I remember why I did it this way. This is stuff I went through when creating the Big Advice Survey


Using graphics rather than the Survey Monkey progress bar feature

Because the Big Advice Survey doesn’t progress in a strictly linear fashion it is not possible to use the progress bar feature in Survey Monkey that tells you how much of the survey you’ve done. The problem with Survey Monkey (and likely other big platforms) is that the progress bar feature calculates progress by measuring which page you are on against the total number of pages in the survey not against the total number of pages you would have to pass through as determined by the page and question logic within the survey

For example, at the end of the Big Advice Survey there are 43 pages devoted to individual UK areas. However, despite the fact you would only ever land on and see one of them, the progress bar feature calculates your progress on the assumption you would have to pass through all 43 pages of them!

I got around this by turning off the progress bar feature and instead creating progress bar graphics and inserting them throughout the survey – you can see some of them on this page. This means that you get an accurate indication of where you are based on the actual page and question logic


Progress bars on every page or intermittent?

The Survey Monkey progress feature allows you to have progress bars on every page or, not at all; it’s either on or it’s off. There are differing opinions on whether the use of progress bars is a good thing (let’s people know how they’re doing and encourages them) or a bad thing (distracts people and can be off-putting if not progressing as quickly as they thought). My own view is that they are good and I did want to use them but, in a certain way. Here are the decisions I made when incorporating them into the Big Advice Survey:

  • Not on every page – intermittent progress bars work better, are more stimulating (they appear and disappear) and make the survey more enjoyable
  • When I say intermittent, there is still some regularity to their appearing (eg every couple of pages) and this can be anticipated, even if sub-consciously
  • They are front-loaded: the bars ‘jump’ and suggest rapid progress at the beginning of the survey with it slowing as you near the end

My sub-text was that doing it in this way would mean (a) more people will get to the end of the survey than they would otherwise, and (b) people would find the survey less taxing and more enjoyable and therefore be more likely to engage with it openly and honestly. This is tremendously difficult to measure accurately, at least in the sense that you can put it down to my intermittent progress bars working (or not)! What I can say is that whilst 56% of respondents have so far said their experience of completing the survey was the same as other surveys, 42% have said they found the Big Advice Survey “better/easier to complete”. I’ll leave it to you to make your own mind up whether it works or not


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