Survey Sites

Internet Survey sites have to be one of the most user unfriendly groups of web sites that exist on the web. Instead of their being set out so as to make them as useable to as many people as possible so as to get the most meaningful results that they can, many surveys appear to go out of their way to get half way or three quarters of the way through with collecting answers and then present a question that uses technology that many people filling out the survey will not have available to them meaning that a large fraction of their audience will be both unable to complete the survey at all and will be extremely annoyed at all the time they wasted getting that far through the survey just to be presented with a broken web page.

For an online survey to be meaningful at all they need to accept anyone who is online who wants to fill out the survey. Blocking out various groups because they don't have various technology installed onto their computer distorts the results of the survey since it immediately eliminates that group who don't have that technology from being able to answer the survey at all and since that group may have different opinions to the group who can complete the survey the entire results obtained from the survey may be meaningless.

Even where having the technology available needs to be a prerequisite for taking a survey where it is known that the survey is excluding everyone without that technology, allowing people to start filling out the survey without first checking if the person has the necessary technology is extremely rude. Such surveys promise some sort of reward for filling out what might be a 20 minute survey and then 15 minutes into the survey the person suddenly gets to a page that requires technology that they don't have and they can't proceed any further. In fact you could consider it to be worse than just rude, you could consider it to be theft since the survey promised a given reward for spending 20 minutes of your time answering questions and then after 15 minutes blocked you from completing the survey and didn't provide the fraction of the reward for the time that you did spend. After all it's not your fault that you spent that long answering questions and then got stuck, it's the survey owner's fault for not checking at the start that you have the technology that they require to fill out their survey.

Of course if they created their survey properly in the first place then there wouldn't be any problems since if they actually created the survey as accessible web pages then anyone ought to be able to complete the survey regardless of what additional technology that they may or may not have on their computer (or whatever device they are using to fill out the survey).

Not all surveys have this problem. If they did then people would just stop filling out online surveys since you'd never know which ones were going to actually allow you to complete them. There are some surveys that can be filled out in their entirety without any need for any additional technology beyond a web browser. These are the surveys that are properly designed and which all the others really should strive to emulate. There are also some surveys where additional technology is required to fill out the survey and the very first question in the survey checks that you have the necessary technology. These surveys are somewhat annoying since you get to the first question and find out that the survey is specifically aimed at a group of people that excludes you but at least you have wasted only a few seconds in finding out that you are not part of their target group instead of getting nearly to the end of the survey to find out.

The biggest problem comes with some of the survey sites that you can sign up for that present you with surveys from a number of different sources where some of the surveys work and some will just be a waste of time. The problem there becomes one of how to distinguish at the start of the survey between one that will be worth your spending the time on because you'll be able to complete it and another survey that will just be a waste of time. In the end if you can't properly identify broken surveys from the start then you'll end up deciding not to waste time on any of their surveys and will look elsewhere for surveys that you can complete.

What these survey sites ought to do if they are going to present surveys that require additional technology is to collect that information from both their members and the people who provide the surveys. Then they can just send out the invites to participate in surveys that require specific technology to those who have indicated that they have the necessary technology.

Surprisingly one of the worst offenders is one of the best known names where it comes to surveys and I have found that I can avoid significant amounts of wasted time by simply hitting the spam button whenever I am invited to take a survey from this particular source. I wasted many hours part completing surveys from this source without ever being able to complete any of them before I realised that all surveys from this source are utter garbage and that their survey results will be totally meaningless. Obviously those paying them to run the surveys don't realise this or they'd get someone better to run their survey properly. I have even had a couple of occasions where I was fortunate that simply clicking the first link at the start crashed their web page making it impossible to proceed thus saving me the time it would have taken to get further through without getting stuck. This big name in surveys that has been around far longer than the web pas obviously has no idea of how the web works. I just wish that those services offering surveys from a variety of sources would realise that this providers surveys are all garbage and refuse to offer them.

Eliminating that biggest offender wouldn't resolve the entire problem but it would be a step in the right direction. I guess the only real solution is for everyone to start cancelling their accounts with those survey providers who serve too many broken surveys and hope that it doesn't mean that the broken surveys get moved to other providers who are currently managing to avoid that problem.


This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.

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