The Usability Blog
A Practical Guide to User Experience Insights

The Logic Behind an Online Survey

In a previous post, we discussed best practices with constructing an online survey in which we outlined basic guidelines and goals, including:

  • Understanding survey objectives
  • Understanding and using the different types of questions
  • Keeping surveys simple and concise (brevity is golden)
  • Proofing, editing and quality-testing

Looking more closely at one of these guidelines – keeping surveys simple and concise – we will show you that understanding and using logic is an integral piece of the survey pie. Branching and skip logic are two of the most common types of logic found in an online survey. In essence, branch and skip methods route participants around irrelevant questions, based on their answer to a previous question.  (More advanced branching can be used to steer participants around unnecessary questions based on the way they answered two or more previous questions.) Using branch and/or skip logic ensures that each respondent only sees the questions that truly apply to him or her, making it a much more personal experience for each. Participants will stay more focused, think through questions more thoroughly, take more time with providing answers, and will be more likely to complete the entire survey.

An important upshot of using the right logic to shorten and simplify a survey is that you will be showing your appreciation of participants’ time.  Remember, the survey provides another brand experience—or touch point—for your customers/visitors so showing you care about the time it takes for them to engage is indispensable.

Take a look at the following illustrations of branching and skip logic:

Branching Logic


Skip Logic

SkipLogic1 SkipLogic2

Another common logic technique enables you to ask sub-questions that help drill deeper into a particular response.  A popular sub-question choice is an open-text (or open-ended) question that enables participants to provide input in their own words. Take a look at the following illustrations of sub-question logic:

Sub-question Logic


Perhaps an appropriate ending to this blog is to remind you to be sure your survey tool(s) and/or survey provider(s) have adequate logic capabilities so that you can design/construct your surveys to maximize participation and feedback. But what really makes sense here—what is really the most logical—is how considerate you can be of your participants.  By using logic to display only the questions that are pertinent to each survey-taker, you can optimize participant experience and show your appreciation of their valuable time and input.

-Hillori Hager, Online User Experience Project Manager


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