Online and mobile surveys account for 70 percent of quantitative research, according to the recent GRIT study. Despite their dominance in the industry, innovation has been lacking. Improving online and mobile survey design in new and innovative ways will improve the experience for respondents and ultimately improve the results for researchers.  Gamification of surveys is one innovative solution that both improve the respondent experience and increases survey competition rates.  

Gamification is the process of applying game mechanics to survey design to encourage more active participation.  This ranges from competitions to rewards to leaderboards and challenges. A more enjoyable survey experience with game-like elements like competition, feedback, rewards, and challenges can remove some of the potential burdens for respondents and additional benefits like connecting with other community members and the accomplishment of successfully completing a challenge.

Recent research from Piedmont College demonstrates the strong positive impact of gamification on survey completion. Respondents spent 20 percent more time on gamified questions than they did standard questions, suggesting they are giving more thoughtful responses.

Key benefits of gamification included:  

  1. Higher response rate: Respondents are more willing to participate
  2. Higher completion rate: Respondents are more likely to stick with a survey to complete it
  3. Higher self-reported satisfaction: Respondents are more likely to report enjoying the survey experience
  4. Data quality and validity: Respondents are more likely to provide accurate and complete answers
  5. Subsequent response rates: Respondents are more likely to participate in future surveys

In practice, researchers can implement gamification in a variety of ways. The highest level of gamification involves a complete overhaul of the survey format to mimic an interactive video game experience.

Gamification elements can also be embedded into more traditional survey formats using creative approaches to survey question mechanics from sliding scales to card sorts and collages. With so-called soft gamification, a simple rewording of survey questions to reframe how the respondent approaches the questions and makes the survey more engaging. Heavy use of images and adding an overarching storyline are also considered gamification.

Gamification makes great strides in improving the user experience for respondents, but should be implemented with caution. It is vital to ensure the meaning of survey questions aren’t changed in the process. Making the survey question more fun to complete should not change the meaning or interpretation of that question to the point where it would change how a respondent would reply.