The challenges faced by both researchers and survey participants in a world that has become increasingly (and in some cases predominantly) mobile are manifold and continue to be an important part of industry conversations. Best practices around mobile-friendly survey design have been fairly well established, if also not heeded as much as one might hope. Good design is, of course, an evolutionary process, and on some level researchers are playing catch up and trying to get ahead at the same time. Toward the end of last year, a crew of us from MaritzCX, Research Now, FocusVision, and Voxpopme, put our heads together to think about a research on research project that could contribute to this evolution. And we arrived pretty quickly at one of the topics we felt deserved additional attention, that being the collection of verbatims. This was spawned by increasing interest from our clients in open-ended responses as well as the fact that we felt the need to revisit and update parts of the research that we conducted and presented at the CASRO Tech Conference in 2014. The landscape has changed since then and looking back at this research got our brains storming again.

Ultimately, the question we wanted to ask is this: how can open-end questions, staples in the survey research diet, be presented in a way that is both participant friendly and yield quality data no matter which device someone chooses? And we were keen to explore specifically how the increasing comfort with typing on smartphones and tablets, adoption of voice-to-text amongst mobile users, and use of video capture technology might change the way that researchers approach these types of questions. Bearing all of this in mind, we set out to test how different approaches to open ends would impact data quality and participant experience across mobile, tablet, and PC survey participants. 

What did we find? Giving participants a choice on how to respond to open ends matters. Forcing or not forcing verbatim responses can impact data quality. Voice-to-text awareness and usage has changed in the past few years. Join us in New York at the Insights Association’s inaugural NEXT conference as we dig into these and other findings alongside offering practical guidance, words of caution, and best practices for how to (and how not to) use open ends wisely.