The rapid shift in survey data collection to mobile devices has caused researchers to scramble to ensure that surveys are compatible with these collection modes and that trends are not impacted. The focus of attention has been to find ways to simplify and shorten surveys so that they work reasonably well on a mobile device. What has been lost in this transition is that mobile devices offer new ways for us to provide input that may be more suitable than reading questions and typing answers.
Most smartphones and PCs have a feature available that will speak out text in a variety of accents and languages. We see particular applicability to this feature for survey questions that might be difficult to read on a small screen device. While we believe that most people will prefer to read rather than listen, we do think that an important cross section of people will depend on this feature for many types of device interactions including survey completion. Children that perhaps do not read well, semi-literate adults perhaps in developing countries and people with even mild vision impairment may well come to depend on this feature for the majority of interactions with their smartphone and they will expect surveys to offer this functionality.
Many people find typing on small screen devices to be difficult and prefer to talk into the device to take advantage of the voice to text feature. Voice to text applications are also common on most smartphones and they are also integrated into browsers and some survey systems. However the technology is deployed, for many in our research it was the preferred way to answer open ended questions. Applications, such as Siri and Google Voice, have moved from a novelty a few years back to mainstream today. We believe that people using this technology will ultimately provide more information than those that type the information into small screen devices (pending research).
To review our research into this promising new technology click here for a white paper written by Frank Kelly from Lightspeed with Sherri Stevens and Brett Simpson of Millward Brown.