Web Survey Bibliography
The literature on human computer interaction consistently stresses the importance of reducing the cognitive effort required by users who interact with a computer in order to improve the experience and enhance usability and comprehension (e.g., Shneiderman, 1998). Applying this perspective to Web surveys, questionnaire designers are advised to strive for layouts that facilitate the response process and reduce the effort required to select an answer. In this paper, we examine whether placing the input fields (i.e., radio buttons or check boxes) to the left or to the right of the answer options in closed-ended questions enhances usability and facilitates responding. First, we discuss two opposing principles of how respondents may process these questions in Web surveys, one suggesting placing the answer boxes to the left and the other suggesting placing them to the right side of the answer categories. Second, we report an eye-tracking experiment (N = 47), which examined whether Web survey responding is better described by one or the other of these two principles, and consequently whether one or the other layout is preferable in terms of usability. Our results indicate that the vast majority of respondents conform to the principle suggesting placing the answer boxes to the left of the response options. Moreover, respondents require less cognitive effort (operationalized by fixation times, fixation counts, and number of gaze switches between answer options and answer boxes) to select an answer in this layout.
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