1504.0 - Methodological News, Mar 2009  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 26/03/2009   
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Web survey 'guru' visits the ABS

A well-known and widely published expert in the design and implementation of Web surveys as well as other areas of data collection research visited the ABS in February. Mick Couper, a Research Professor in the Survey Research Centre, Institute for Social Research, at the University of Michigan, visited the ABS to share his experiences of Web survey development. He was in Australia to run a workshop on 'Designing Effective Web Surveys' as part of the Australian Market and Social Research Society (AMSRS) Summer School.

Mick's visit was an excellent opportunity for the Data Collection Methodology (DCM) Section and other questionnaire design experts and Web form enthusiasts to learn from his practical experience in the design and implementation of Web surveys. A welcome lunch was followed by a brief overview of electronic forms in the ABS and a presentation by Mick about representational issues in Web surveys (e.g., sampling, coverage, non-response, mixed-mode, opt-in panels, etc.). Mick shared his views on topics such as progress indicators, alignment of radio buttons, use of word substitutions, accepting answers in a preferred format, presentation of error/alert messages and tailoring response enhancing techniques for Web surveys.

Much of the discussion on the above topics reinforced previous research and ideas. Some of the key lessons learnt included that progress indicators rarely have a positive affect on the respondent experience or survey response, having a 'back' button in Web surveys leads to more honest reporting and forms design experts should follow established Web form conventions, even when this goes against paper form design best practice.

Meeting with Mick was particularly relevant for the DCM Section, as it is currently finalising a Web form literature review and developing the ABS' Web Form Standards for statistical collections, following on from its work with Web Publishing on user Web survey standards. For some design issues, the most recent relevant experiments are not yet published, so Mick's input on these issues was invaluable in terms of developing a best practice guide for the ABS.

For more information about either Mick's visit, the Web forms literature review or development of the ABS' Web Form Standards, contact either Kettie Hewett on (02) 6252 7295 or kettie.hewett@abs.gov.au, or Jennifer Mitchell on (02) 6252 7783 or jennifer.mitchell@abs.gov.au.