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Consider the layout of the following questions from an online questionnaire. What improvements could be made? Compare your answers to the comments below.
If you wish, you can make notes in the text box below. Select 'comments' to see the suggested answer and an improved version of the questionnaire.
The text and use of colour is generally appropriate. However, layout problems in the third question would be likely to cause difficulties for participants. The horizontal layout of the question makes it very difficult to distinguish the different aspects of the question from the acompanying choices. The fact that there is too much information to fit into the columns and a lack of differentiation between columns also means that distinguishing between different questions is difficult. The use of a table to lay out choices of very different lengths has also caused a problem whereby the spacing of different choices for each question is inconsistent. Although a great deal of information has been placed into a small space, this has only been achieved through a loss of clarity which could cause measurement error or non-response.
It could be improved by reorganising the layout with a vertical rather than horizontal layout. This is likely to make it clearer and, thus, easier and quicker to answer.
It is worth noting that many automatic questionnaire authoring programmes provide standard question formats which may have been desinged with a particular type of question in mind. In this case, a 'matrix' style layout is misused here, though it may be suitable for some types of questions. It is important to experiment with formats when using such programmes to ensure that the final effect is suitable for the needs of a particular question. A basic knowledge of HTML will also allow you make slight adjustments to style or layout where necesary. See the technical guide for more information on HTML authoring and forms.
A possible example of an improved layout is shown below (Questionnaire B). This maintains the text, colours and basic style of the original, but aims to reduce the problems described above. The original is shown alongside for comparison (Questionnaire A).