Are Grid Questions All Bad?

Given the amount of negative opinion about Matrix/Grid questions among some online research professionals you would be forgiven for thinking matrix questions are not just dying, but already extinct. Some argue that matrix questions are the worst example of question styles which bore respondents, increase the chances of “speeding”, “straight lining” and generally undermining data quality.
I have alot of sympathy with that view. I see too many examples of overly long, complicated matrix questions which are endlessly repeated. Frankly, its not a surprise they can bore the pants off respondents. Infact many, if not a majority of surveys I see going through our own online panels (Opini), most of which are designed by professional researchers, having varying degrees of ugly matrix questions. To be fair, it is improving, but there are still too many poor examples.

It’s not easy to give up on an old friend
Why are grid questions, and more importantly, ugly matrix questions still so prevalent? Well for starters grid questions have been around for years, and are very familiar not just to researchers, but to survey participants as well. Many researchers are still in the mindset of defaulting to question styles, like grids, which have served them well in the past and are very familiar. It’s not easy to give up on an old friend. Secondly, many survey tools do not provide easy access to some of the more interesting question styles, such as sliders and card sort questions. Yes, there are alternatives to grid questions, but for many researchers with more modest budgets and limited time available, using alternatives methods is not always an option.

Rising to the Challenge
It may be possible to use some kind of slider question, but getting access to bespoke, “gamified” survey scripts is not easy. There are some brilliant examples of online surveys which use fun, innovative and interactive questions. But they take time to implement and are not often available on small budgets.
The challenge, then, is to offer more interesting question styles which improve respondent engagement, and yet, are also accessible for a majority of not just professional researchers, but the growing number of DIY researchers.
At Surveygoo, we will continue to introduce new question styles, and improve the look, feel and interaction levels of our online questionnaires. We have advanced plans for rolling out a set of enhancements to existing questions and new question styles in the coming months.

Don’t Throw Out the Matrix Question, Not Yet
In the meantime, what of the good old matrix question? We haven’t quite given up on it yet. We have recently improved the design of our Matrix question, which we think can have an improvement on engagement and the quality of response. But there is also alot the user, scripting matrix questions can do, to get more out of it. For example, do not overload the matrix with too many attributes and scales, avoid using matrix questions as a ranking question (drag and drop ranking questions are far better), and use them sparingly. Please do not repeat matrix questions, one after another, page after page. There is still some utility to the matrix question, if used wisely. Let’s not kill it off. Not yet.