Survey Branching: Can Your Online Survey Software Support Complex Logic?

Professional researchers should always be looking for ways to make the respondent experience smoother to ensure the success of their survey strategy.

Most researchers are already aware that incorporating advanced logic methods into their survey design is a great way to streamline and personalize the survey experience. As such, it is well understood that having an online survey software that is robust enough to handle complex logic on the back end is crucial.

Today, we’ll be covering branching logic tactics on our blog!

Whether you’re in need of a quick refresher on branching logic, or want to dip your toe in it for the first time, read on for more information:

What is branch logic, exactly?

Branching is a useful method for sending respondents down different paths within the survey. The path is dependent on how respondents answer previous questions. It may be helpful to think of it as a choose your own adventure book from your childhood. Or a more recent reference, the special season of Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, in which viewers had the option to make choices for the main character, resulting in a different ending each time!

Enough of the pop culture references, here is an example of branching logic in a survey:

If the goal of the survey is to get responses from a sample that is 25 years or older, the Q1 would be “How old are you?”. If they respond with 23 years old, they would be sent down a path to a message thanking for their time and excluding them from the survey.

Branching logic is similar, but different to skip logic. Instead of skipping a question on the same page, branching happens on a different line of questioning. In essence, the branching action happens before Q2 is loaded at all.

How do branching questions improve the respondent experience?

1. Get personal

It is crucial for survey designers to keep in mind that relevance is everything when it comes to posing respondents questions. If a question does not apply to them, it will result in frustration. The respondent may be compelled to give a random answer (muddying your data) or clicking off and exiting the survey.  

Sticking with the example above, if you did not branch the 23-year-old individual to an exclusions page, they would get annoyed if the next question was “What did you do for your 25th birthday?”.

2. Keep it pithy

A common thread in Voxco’s blog content is that respondents’ attention spans are thinning out, and response rates are plummeting. As such, it is integral that you do what you can to keep surveys short and sweet. Point blank: fewer questions means more engaged respondents, and high response rates.

Branching respondents down a path of questioning that is relevant to them will often allow them to skip through questions that have nothing to do with their experiences, saving time and patience!

3. Ride the wave

Similar to going with the flow in a natural conversation, if you ask a respondent something irrelevant and they told you that, you would not continue to pester them about that inconsequential information.

Keeping questions pertinent to the respondent and following the intuitive flow of a conversation will help keep respondents engaged.

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