Key Learnings for Mobile-Optimized Research

Mobile Optimized Research continues to be a major topic of discussion in the research industry, even as respondents continue to shift to mobile on their own and in their own way. MMR reviewed this trend early in 2015 and have been monitoring developments across all projects as we’ve worked with our clients.

As we noted in a previous article, smartphone ownership nearly caught up to desktop/laptop in 2015, and tablet ownership continues to rise1. With the expansion of mobile ownership we are continuing to see an increase in the number of survey takers who choose to complete their surveys on mobile devices across different industries, audiences, and sample types.

Mobile Optimization Graphic



This growing reliance on mobile usage impacts survey design in a number of ways. Here are the primary learnings accumulated by the MMR team over the past year.

Obvious logistics for design:

Certain constraints of smaller screens do impact survey design. We have no choice but to incorporate larger text, shorter questions and shorter overall length. As well, we have to consider vertical vs. horizontal layouts, and avoid larger images, drop-downs and anything too “fancy.” And whenever possible, design questions to eliminate, or minimize, the need for scrolling.

Derived Analytics can be EASY on mobile:

When properly designed, we are noticing how easy it is for respondents to answer questions on mobile devices. Even seemingly complex choice exercises can be handled easily in mobile. We advise clients to be disciplined about concise attribute levels, to include only a manageable number of alternatives per set, and not to get too complex overall.

MaxDiff (Maximum Differentiation) is a very mobile friendly option for relative importance. Respondents see sets of 4-5 items on a screen at a time, which allows for an entire answer set to be viewed on screen with no scrolling.

Sensitivity does NOT have to be compromised:

For the sake of brevity most mobile surveys include 5-point scales, however 7-point scales can be just as effectively used for ease of completion and maintain better differentiation.

Clients need thoughtful consulting:

Clients are wary of shorter scales and shorter surveys. As thought partners, we need to help them understand how mobile optimization benefits them. Throughout the past year we’ve made mobile optimization a part of all the survey design process for all studies. We make it a point to discuss the implications of this with our clients. Even if a survey is not 100 percent mobile optimized in the end, keeping the respondent experience in mind makes a better end product.

One last tip: 

It’s important to test the survey in the right environment. Test the survey on computers, as well as Android- and Apple-based mobile phones and tablets. Properly optimizing a survey for mobile completion (larger text, easy-to-maneuver action buttons) will help respondents provide accurate answers and maximize response rates.



MMR continues to work with our programming team in creating solutions that are mobile optimized, and we are currently transitioning to a new platform that is fully mobile-responsive. The new platform natively supports mobile-friendly presentation of even complex survey structures.  Responsive design principles are baked deeply into the platform’s foundations, resulting in lower interview lengths, and more engaged respondents. We are also testing a new solution for enabling Derived Analysis with yes/no responses to associative questions.


1Anderson, Monica, Technology Device Ownership: 2015, Pew Research Center: Internet, Science and Tech, October 29, 2015.