Editor’s note: Deborah Sleep is director at London-based Engage Research. Jon Puleston is vice president of research firm Global Market Insite Inc.’s interactive group in London.

In an article in last month’s Quirk’s (“The survey killer”), we went to the roots of respondent boredom and highlighted the consequences resulting from online survey respondents losing interest. This follow-up article reveals how technology that provides new question and response mechanisms can help researchers overcome this recurring challenge while making online surveys more interesting and easier to take for respondents. It presents the findings of the next phase of our research project, which compares the results gathered from regular online surveys with the ones from surveys using alternative question formats and interactive Flash elements.

Having identified some of the problematic effects of respondent boredom, the research explored a variety of ways to overcome the following issues:

•   the general decay in engagement levels when completing surveys as respondents become bored;

•   long grid and check-box questions causing dropouts and answer decay;

•   repetitive questions causing dropouts;

•   the sensitivity of open-ended responses to respondent engagement levels;

•   respondents skipping past instructions and not reading them properly.

The use of visuals and animation techniques is an accepted practice in most other forms of passive communication as a means of engaging consumers. Think of TV without it. Or imagine delivering a PowerPoint presentation to 50 people without adding in a few visuals or animating some of the bullet points. This begs the question: Why are these techniques so rarely used in surveys, where you may be communicating to upwards of 10 times this number of people?

Our belief was that adding animated elements and visuals into surveys could:

•   trigger g...