Survature’s AnswerCloud is a powerful way to greatly reduce the length of your survey and decrease survey fatigue. It empowers survey taker’s to provide the information they care about on their terms and removes the exam mentality that traditional survey tools may cause.

Radio button matrix questions induce survey fatigue
Radio button matrix questions induce survey fatigue

Using an AnswerCloud question increases engagement and avoids common problems of radio button matrix questions. The radio button matrix has known limitations that results in questionable data. Studies have shown that when presented with a matrix of radio buttons, some respondents exhibit “flat-lining” or “middle-lining” biases. In other words, some respondents will carelessly check radio buttons down the middle or down the same column.

AnswerCloud Structure

AnswerCloud offers a refreshing survey taking experience
AnswerCloud offers a refreshing survey taking experience

An AnswerCloud has three main components:

  1. The general question.
  2. The items for response.
  3. The response columns with the scale ratings.

As a matter of general practice, the design and wording of an AnswerCloud question should not cause confusion, misunderstanding, influence biases, or ask unnecessary questions. It is recommended that after designing an AnswerCloud question, one should test the questions to see if it will lead to any of the above unwanted results.

AnswerCloud vs Matrix Questions

Matrix questions are a common way of bundling a number of questions together, and eliciting a response across the same series of criteria.

While matrix questions visually group a number of questions together, mentally the survey respondent will still have to proceed line by line - an often tedious and boring process that has more in common with an exam than a survey.

This “survey fatigue” can lead to respondents dropping out, or “straight-lining” their responses all the way down a matrix.

Survature’s AnswerCloud allows you to compact a variety of questions around a topic or theme into one unified question. This aids the respondent in having a better awareness of the options that have been presented to them.

Because the interface is more user-driven and open ended, it avoids the exam mentality and the survey fatigue that usually goes along with matrix questions.

While the respondent interacts with the answers, an AnswerCloud is capturing and analyzing their responses and their behavior in order to gain insight into the respondent’s true priorities.

For more details about the matrix question type, please also refer to our Pulse article on The Dangers of Using Matrix Survey Questions.

Tips for Creating an Effective AnswerCloud

Now that you understand what an AnswerCloud is and why it has so many advantages over traditional radio button matrix questions, here we will present some tips for effective use of an AnswerCloud in your next survey.

Identify your topic

Before writing the question text, identify the type of question you want to ask and the type of responses you’d like to receive. AnswerCloud questions are extremely powerful, but they aren’t appropriate for every kind of question. Thus, it’s important for you to identify key questions that can be answered through an AnswerCloud. If this sounds challenging, don’t worry, we have plenty of examples.

Identify your scale

An AnswerCloud works best with Likert-style questions, the prototypical radio button matrix question type. These questions tend to have ordinal answers, in other words they can be meaningfully ordered. An example of this question type is one which asks, “How frequently do you…” with responses ranging from “Never” to “Always.” It is straightforward to create AnswerClouds which handle these questions, and Survature’s survey builder guides you through the process.

Select a list of key items

If you are collecting feedback about a recent dining experience, list out everything that a customer would have experienced, such as service, quality of food, cleanliness, menu variety, etc. Survey takers can evaluate each of these topics, and Survature’s unique priority analytics will reveal the priorities of these topics.

Please note: the list of items need to be things that you can improve or do something about. Do not include things that you cannot change. For example, an urban hotel that has valet parking only, should not ask about “self parking” as part of the question.

Keep it mobile friendly

Mobile devices are too prevalent in today’s society to ignore, so follow our 5 Points to Maximize Mobile Participation to ensure your AnswerCloud question offers a great survey taking experience for mobile device users. Be sure to concisely word your key items!

Select the right scale

In Survature’s survey builder, when editing AnswerCloud questions, the users can select from 20 pre-populated Likert scales. These pre-populated scales come from researching the literature [1] [2]. In our survey builder, the users can also choose to fully customize the Likert scales to match their specific needs.

The default number, 5, corresponds to the set of pre-populated Likert scales. Based on our own experience and what we have observed in the field, that set covers almost all use cases very well. When you feel there is a need to use customized scales, we’d be more than glad to hear your reasoning and help to consult.

If you need to, AnswerCloud questions can use 4 scales, 3 scales or even 2 scales. Just let us know.

In general, there are two kinds of Likert scales:

  • Bipolar. For example, “Strongly Disagree”, “Disagree”, “Neutral”, “Agree”, “Strongly Agree”. In this case, you should consider using an odd number of scales, such as 5 or 3. The middle scale should be the mid point, balancing right in the middle of negative and positive.
  • Unipolar. For example, “No idea”, “Passing Knowledge”, “Knowledgeable”, “Expert”. In this case, the number of scales is not that sensitive. You can use 5, 4, or 3 scales.

Last, we have one more clarification. Since Rensis Likert first introduced the Likert scales in 1932, the formatting of the traditional survey questions often treated “no opinion” the same as “neutral”.

  • “Neutral” was never intended as “no opinion”, however. It was first intended as a means to avoid false responses (Bishop, 1987) by having a middle alternative. “No opinion” should indicate “I don’t care about it enough to have an opinion” or “I don’t know enough to have an opinion”. “Neutral” indicates “I have an opinion and it’s neither positive nor negative”. This distinction is fundamental.
  • While traditional survey tools run into great difficulties to distinguish these two key concepts, Survature naturally detects “No opinion” through the implicit process data, and “Neutral” through the explicit response data.

Due to this reason, none of the default AnswerCloud scales have “no opinion” as part of the scales.