Grid questions - why we try to avoid them

Grid questions, sometimes referred to as matrix questions, have been popular in surveys of all types for decades.

They do have some clear advantages. But those are often for the researcher more than the respondent! For example they can help structure your survey in a logical way and ensure consistency in answer options which can be valuable for analysis purposes.

For the respondent grid questions often cause problems.

The main issue is the rapid growth of online mobile use.

Smartphones are driving the growth in digital consumption. They are also very popular for social media, with more than half of Facebook users now exclusively accessing the service from a mobile device! It means that respondents are increasingly taking surveys on their mobiles.

As we make clear in 5 tips to improve mobile surveys smartphone users need simplicity. Grid questions are the trickiest question type to complete on a small screen as they often involve having to scroll both horizontally and vertically.

Instead it is far better to break a grid question into a number of simpler multi-choice questions. You will end up with more questions in your survey but it should actually shorten the completion time.

Research also indicates that grid questions can result in poor quality data among desktop respondents. When faced with the same options for a number of statements or attributes it is common for respondents to select nearly identical choices for each. It is thought that those faced with a complicated question are less inclined to consider each option fully and complete it on ‘autopilot’ to get through it as quickly as possible.

We also believe that expectations for surveys are constantly changing.

Advances in survey technology, design and best practice are all helping to focus minds on improving respondent engagement and completion rates. This means that surveys are simply getting better and respondents now expect more.

It all means that, as market researchers, that we have to keep on our toes and ensure that we put as much effort as possible into crafting our surveys.