Gamifying your survey: Re-imagining the grid question

Gamifying your survey: Re-imagining the grid question

Grid questions have become one of the most popular question types in online surveys. In these questions, the respondent is asked to answer a series of questions utilizing a uniform scale. These questions often ask about awareness, familiarity, importance, satisfaction, or purchase likelihood. Because of the similarity in scale and categorical relevance, they are grouped together and presented as a matrix or grid of questions, on a single page.

For example, consider a hypothetical study of breakfast cereals. There may be a question asking about purchase frequency of several competitive brands:

How frequently do you purchase each of the following breakfast cereals?

Never Rarely Sometimes Often Always
Cap’n Crunch
Frosted Flakes
Rice Krispies
Lucky Charms
Raisin Bran
Corn Flakes
Special K
Froot Loops
Cinnamon Toast Crunch

The grid question presents some advantages to the survey programmer. It provides a consistent framework for a series of similar questions. However, it also has its pitfalls and can lead to some problematic survey-taker behaviors, such as straightlining (answering with the same response for each choice) or other pattern-based answering techniques rather than thoughtful consideration of each question.

Grid questions become more problematic when they are overused—either too many options (questions) within a single grid, or too many grid questions within a survey. When overused, grid questions encourage speed methods to complete them as quickly as possible. Why? Because they are boring and the respondent wants to get to something different.

How to Gamify Grid Questions

Gamification can provide some alternatives to traditional surveying styles in order to improve response rates and engagement. One possible solution is the Meta Word Search game from Datagame. Meta Word Search embeds a traditional word find puzzle into your survey. In this way, the “grid” can be replaced with a word search, and the choices with the words hidden within the grid. The word search game prompts them with a category—for the above example, “Breakfast Cereals.” It is then up to the respondent to find the words hidden in the word search grid. As they find each word, they are asked a feedback question relating to the word they just found. Click to see an example of the above breakfast cereals grid question reinvented as a Meta Word Search game.

How does Meta Word Search improve upon the grid question? The game increases user engagement because it dissolves the monotony of filling out a standard web survey with an engaging word search game. By alternating between different activities, respondents remain interested and engaged. The desired feedback is still captured through the individual feedback questions. In fact, studies have shown that results are more reliable when questions are asked individually rather than in a grid or matrix format, as each question gets more attention and thought. Many respondents complete the grid as a single entity rather than treat each item as separate questions.

Not every grid question can be replaced with a Meta Word Search game, however. There are a few criteria that must be met for the word search to be a suitable alternative:

  • The grid should contain at least 6 items, and no more than 20. There needs to be enough words to hide within the grid, but too many words can make it difficult to fit everything in the puzzle.
  • Items should be single words or short phrases. Lengthy items are harder to find and may not fit within the word find grid.
  • Items should all be related categorically. Grouping similar term works well with brand strength or brand loyalty questions, but could also work with product features or other types of attributes.

If your grid question meets these criteria, a Meta Word Search game may be a good match for embedding some gamification into your survey. Note, however, that the word search game does not typically lead to a reduced completion time. In fact, the games may take longer than the original grid question. The benefits of the word search game are not in reducing survey length, but in engagement and how “fun” respondents find the survey, which lead to better quality results. The perceived time is about the same as the traditional grid question, and respondents enjoy the survey more.