Survey fatigue is a real (and growing) problem facing anybody who wants to collect data.

If we want to be able to continue to get information from an audience, we have to design survey projects that are respectful of their time. That means avoiding survey fatigue wherever possible.

When designing your survey — from the request all the way through to the “Thank You” message — you need to keep your respondents engaged and survey-fatigue-free.

These five simple tips will help you run a survey that people are pleased to take, not one that contributes to growing feelings of resentment about the tendency to over survey.

Two Types of Survey Fatigue

There are two different types of survey fatigue, both of which can have major negative impacts on your response rates and data.

The first type of survey fatigue happens before the survey even begins; we’ll call it “survey response fatigue.”

Because people receive more and more requests for their feedback, which makes them less likely to accept any particular request. They’re just tired of taking surveys, regardless of what they’re about.

You can see the effects of survey fatigue in ever-lower response rates for your surveys.

The second type of survey fatigue happens during the survey taking process, so let’s call it “survey taking fatigue.”

Essentially this happens when surveys are too long and include questions that aren’t applicable to the respondent. They get sick of trying to figure out what they should answer and what they can skip.

Survey taking fatigue typically causes high rates of abandonment mid-survey.

How to Avoid Survey Fatigue in 5 Easy Steps

The good news is that both types of survey fatigue can be avoided (or at least lessened) with a few simple best practices.

1. Dont Over Survey Your Audience

Surveys are popping up everywhere these days, from a grocery receipt to an email inbox to the classic paper survey.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with more people wanting to collect data, but the prevalence of surveys presents a challenge to maintaining good response rates. So before you even start designing your survey be sure that you’re not:

  • Overloading your potential respondents with too many survey requests in a short amount of time
  • Getting lost in a sea of requests for feedback

Whenever possible, limit the number of requests that an individual will get from your organization. If your organization runs a lot of surveys, make sure to keep a master list available so that several departments aren’t simultaneously bombarding the same person with invitations.

2. Communicate the Survey’s Value

If your potential respondents can clearly see how their response will be used, they are much more likely to donate their time to your survey, so make that clear wherever possible.

Whatever plans you may have for your survey data, communicate those in your email invitations. If there are any incentives attached to responding those should definitely be included as well.

Some additional details that can help you bypass survey response fatigue:

  • Why should someone take your survey?
  • How long will the survey take to complete?
  • How many questions are in the survey?
  • What will happen to the data that a respondent submits? Will it be anonymous?

Communicating with in the survey itself can also improve your response rate and reduce survey taking fatigue as well. If you can display survey results during and/or immediately after the survey that’s a big bonus.

After you’ve collected data you can also show your respondents that they made an impact by relaying what actions you took based on your survey data.

3. Make it Easy to Answer Your Survey Questions

You’ve done a great job communicating your survey’s value, so don’t destroy that goodwill by forcing a difficult survey experience on your respondents.

You can use logic to skip over questions that aren’t relevant, or eliminate entire sections of a survey based on responses to early questions. Take the time to craft a survey that gives you the most relevant data by showing only the most relevant questions to your respondents.

Another way to make the survey taking experience better is by ensuring that your survey performs well on mobile devices. SurveyGizmo themes are automatically mobile-responsive, but some types of questions perform better on small screen than others.

If there’s any chance that people will be taking your survey on a phone or tablet be sure to test the entire experience on those devices.

4. Ask the Right Survey Questions

When you’re writing survey questions it can be easy to throw in extra ones here and there. It’s tempting to want to gather as much data as possible in a single survey, but you should always focus exclusively on questions that will help you meet your survey goals.

Collecting too much irrelevant data can make analysis and action more difficult, and adding extra questions puts you at risk of higher survey fatigue for your respondents.

Keep your questions focused on what you really need to learn from your survey, and be ruthless about eliminating those outside of that scope.

5. Consider Your Respondents

When in doubt about your survey design, try to put yourself in your respondent’s shoes.

How will they feel about a question, a response option, or a layout?

Would the choice make the survey more enjoyable for them?

Maintaining this level of empathy can be challenging, especially if you’ve got stakeholders making demands for additional data. But keeping your focus on the people who will be providing that data will ultimately give you better data.

Survey Fatigue is Everyone’s Problem

The more poorly designed surveys that people encounter, the harder it will be for anyone to collect data. This goes for survey invitations as well as the surveys themselves.

So let’s all take responsibility for reducing survey fatigue. Communicate effectively, design surveys with your respondents in mind, and use logic to keep the experience relevant.

Together we can make the world just a little less tired of taking surveys.