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Why button size matters when it comes to mobile design

Whether they’re used to give respondents a selection of answers to choose from or to guide them to the next page, buttons play a crucial role in any web-based survey.

Of course, the layout and design of buttons is essential in ensuring an intuitive and user-friendly survey experience, allowing respondents to quickly select the right options and navigate the survey with ease. While the large display sizes of desktop computers means a range of button designs and sizes can be used, do these translate just as effectively onto mobile surveys?

Not necessarily. A standard sized navigation or answer button that looks pretty on the desktop can be distorted when the survey is viewed on a mobile device, appearing small and nondescript. This can lead to respondent fatigue, frustration and in the worst case scenario, significantly lower response rates.

In this edition of Mobile Matters, we explore why button size matters in mobile surveys, and hence what types of buttons you should be using.

Image caption:  Unevenly spaced radio buttons and left to right scroll do not make for pleasant mobile survey experiences:

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Radio buttons: Not made for mobile

Radio buttons and their cousin, the checkbox, make frequent appearances on desktop surveys, enabling efficient use of space and providing versatility. Open up any desktop-optimised survey and you’ll see these buttons in all sorts of questions, from Likert scales to matrix grids and both single- and multi-choice questions.

However, given the small screen size and touch-screen nature of most mobile devices, radio buttons drastically lose their effectiveness and practicality on mobile surveys. Radio buttons and checkboxes just don’t display well on a mobile, and respondents are therefore required to zoom in and scroll around the page – respondent frustration climbs under this scenario.

This can lead to a longer time required to complete the survey and, consequently, higher dropout rates.

In their ‘Can Mobile Web Surveys Be Taken on Computers? A Discussion on a Multi-Device Survey Design’ paper, which was published in the Survey Practice journal, Marika de Bruijne and Arnaud Wijnant discuss the importance of button design in mobile surveys. They argue that traditional web surveys designed for desktop assume the respondent is viewing it on a large screen and are using a mouse – two erroneous beliefs that can spell trouble for the mobile survey designer.

De Bruijne and Wijnant go on to say that fixed fonts and button sizes are another flaw that hamper the transition of a survey from desktop onto mobile. A button labelled “Next” with a 10 point font may not be as easy to read without zooming in on a mobile device. So, in order to make mobile surveys really work, what sort of buttons should be used?

Size matters

Aesthetics is crucial in mobile survey design and can substantially impact user-friendliness. In this regard, your best choice when creating a mobile survey is to eliminate radio buttons and other fiddly options and go for big, bold buttons that are clearly labelled and that respondents won’t miss.

In fact, de Bruijne and Wijnant spell it out quite clearly – mobile surveys should use “relatively large buttons that are easy to select with a finger”. It’s essential to remember that the finger replaces the mouse in a mobile survey, and therefore the buttons in your survey must accommodate this and ensure a user-friendly experience.

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So, of course bigger answer options and navigation buttons will also ensure less space for other content. That is why we are strong advocates of the research-based best practice view that one question per mobile screen is the best approach to mobile design. And in order to derive the maximum value from your mobile survey, it’s time to start implementing bigger buttons now!

Happy surveying!

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