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Patterns in response to web surveys

December 19, 2017

In my experience response to web surveys tends to follow a very particular pattern when you send out an email invitation to a closed list.

You get the vast majority of responses within 24 hours of sending out the link to respondents, then a few more responses trickle in.  If you send a reminder you’ll see another flurry of responses which will typically be about half of the response you got in the first 24 hours.  Then another little trickle.  If you send a second reminder you’ll see a further flurry of responses which will typically be about half of the response to the first reminder.  Then it is time to stop annoying people with reminders!

The final level of response tends to be about twice the total you had after 24 hours.

This makes sense because if people are going to respond to a web survey they do so as soon as they receive it, otherwise it drops down their inbox and they forget.  You get the flurries as people receive the email and respond straight away, followed by the trickles which are people that flagged the survey to complete later – and remembered to do so! – and the people that were away from their emails and so received them later than others.  Then each time you send a reminder, the pattern starts again with a smaller pool of people.

Handily, Surveymonkey has started showing response graphs so here’s a survey that I currently have out in Surveymonkey which has an absolutely textbook response pattern.


It is handy to be aware of these patterns because your response if your early figures indicate your final total might be unacceptable you can take measures to improve response at the earliest opportunity.

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