A truly British invention, the humble questionnaire has been the ‘bread and butter’ of collecting feedback since it was invented circa 1800.  You could, therefore, be forgiven for considering them old fashioned compared to modern interactive and immersive alternatives.

However, the questionnaire is both proven and reassuringly familiar. The questionnaire has not stagnated either.  In-fact, questionnaires have been quietly evolving as a result of their digital makeover.  The majority of improvements have been focused on reducing friction, frustration and subsequent abandonment rates.  This is important as people are not willing to spend as much of their time responding online as they might offline.

Branching (also known as ‘skip logic’) is a classic example of a subtle, time-saving feature only found in an online questionnaire.  Online questionnaires can even have embedded controls such as limits and restrictions for the length of any given answer.  On face value, questionnaire tools can look the same – but dig deeper and you’ll discover they are not.

Design-thinking has shaped more major improvements.  For example, VideoAsk allows you to respond using video, audio or text.  Even the basic online questionnaires now tend to feature real-time field validation in order to reduce errors.   Form designers have also become savvier, taking time to develop slick sequencing and creating moments of reflection – such as declarations or telling people what will happen to their submission.

It is perhaps no wonder that Government Digital Service have started to build their own “forms” platform.  Not that government are particularly interested in using this for the purposes of consultation or engagement but almost certainly to bring all the other transactional elements of government up-to a high standard.

On a fleeting visit to China a number of years ago we witnessed an even more impressive (and largely untapped) advantage of the online questionnaire – the ability to respond before a consultation or engagement exercise has even finished.  In the UK, while individual submissions might get ‘read as they are received’ behind closed doors, participants are unlikely to get a personalised response or hear anything back until the synthesis of all responses has concluded.

So, we must congratulate Delib on tackling questionnaire responsiveness in their Citizen Space platform.  Their response publishing feature compliments what is already a well-grounded questionnaire builder.  In-fact, Citizen Space is one of the very few platforms which has an open API and offers visibility controls for the open publication of responses.

It just goes to show that shiny and new is not necessarily best.  Organisations that have worked tirelessly to refine their solutions are likely to have built something much more usable.  Moreover, when good customer experience equates to success, getting serious about engagement design is paramount.

When engagement technologies are only as good as the people that use them, isn’t it time you considered some training?  Our digital engagement 101 course has many more tips and tricks for getting the most out of online questionnaires.