Our surveys come with superpowers ⚡

Blog Survey Tips

How Long Should a Survey Be? A Guide to Optimizing Length for Results

Kate Williams

Last Updated:  

13 February 2024

7 min read

How long should a survey be? Really?

Trust me I know how hard it is to strike a balance between gathering insights and not overwhelming the respondents.

Surveys are a bit like Goldilocks of data collection, I tell you. It should be not too long, not too short, but “just right.”

I bet you’re a confused soul looking for answers. Don’t worry I’ve got your back. We’ll explore the ideal survey length to keep people interested, avoid survey fatigue, and get a higher response rate. I’ll also share a few tips and strategies that I personally find effective.

We’ll start with…

The Effect of Attention Span on Survey Completion

We are constantly bombarded by information and distractions. In such a situation attention spans are notoriously short. This poses a big threat to surveyors as capturing and mainly holding the respondents’ interest is key to obtaining quality content.

Why though?

Today content is available in the form of capsules. Because of this, the average attention span of an individual has seen a downward trend. A study even states that in over 20 years, the average attention span for on-screen content has come to a shocking 47 seconds!

Even an online article is promoted to be put out in bite-size. We have a generation of multitaskers who consume content while at work. Did you not listen to your daily podcast while you went through your to-do today? 

Such is the case with surveys too. People opt out entirely if the survey seems too long which leads to a higher drop rate.

Impact of Length on Survey Completion

  • Dropout: Lengthy surveys can overwhelm the participants. Filling out long questionnaires requires a time commitment. As a result, fatigued respondents may abandon the survey before completing it.
  • Rushed responses: Yes, you heard it right. The length of a survey can affect the accuracy of the responses! Participants who feel pressured may provide inaccurate or careless answers. They might skim through questions or select random options without giving thoughtful consideration.
  • Lower response rates: Most importantly it can deter potential respondents from participating altogether. If the survey appears too time-consuming, people may opt out before even starting, leading to lower overall response rates.

But before we lay out the rules, there is one important factor. The best way to streamline survey survey-building process and optimize survey length is to trust an advanced online survey tool. From conceptualizing engaging questions to analyzing insightful results – it is an all-in-one intuitive interface.

You get to create chat-like surveys with advanced display and skip logic. Plus, the mobile-friendly design ensures seamless participation on any device. That’s not it, 1000+ pre-designed survey templates, a variety of question types, and single-page forms are only a few of the other perks.

P.S. Don’t just take my word for it. Try it out for free! You don’t even have to share your credit card details!

Ideal Time Range for Surveys

What do you think is the ideal survey length?

I’d say aim for something that takes approximately 5 to 15 minutes to complete.

Come to think of it. How much time would you like to spend on an in-app survey as and when you are enjoying the meal that you just ordered?  Would you be thrilled to spend your entire 30-minute lunch break doing just that? That sounds impractical, right? Exactly.

Plus, there are some factors you need to consider before fixing the time range.

Flexibility Based on Factors:

1. Target Audience


Consider the demographics and preferences of your audience. Younger audiences may have shorter attention spans, while older demographics might be more patient.

So, how long should a survey be according to the target audience? Let’s look at some questions and see how much time a respondent should spend on answering them.

1. For Busy Professionals: “On average, how many hours per week do you spend on work-related tasks?”

How long would it take?  10-20 seconds
Busy professionals are likely to have a good understanding of their work schedule. This makes it quick and easy to provide an estimate of their weekly work hours.

2. For College Students: “How many hours do you typically spend studying each day?”

Estimated Time: 20-30 seconds
College students may have varying study habits and schedules, so they might need a bit more time to estimate their daily study hours accurately.


  • Relevance: Making surveys the right length for your audience shows you respect their time. This makes them more likely to take part and finish.
  • Engagement: When you match survey length to what your audience expects, they’re more likely to stay interested and give better answers.

Adjusting Length for Different Groups

It is important to never generalize when it comes to time.

  • Busy Professionals: Keep surveys short for people with busy schedules. They’ll appreciate it and be more likely to join in.
  • Academic Research: For serious research, longer surveys might be okay. They often don’t mind spending more time if it’s for a good cause.

 Ways to Personalize Length

  • Adaptive Questions: Use smart questions that change based on how people answer. This keeps the survey focused on what matters to them.
  • Conditional Branching: Guide people through different survey paths based on their answers. This helps keep the survey short and sweet.

2. Survey Complexity

The complexity of the questions and response options can impact the survey length. A simple, straightforward question takes less time to answer compared to a complex or multi-part question.

Example Survey Question

1. Simple Question: “On a scale from 1 to 5, how satisfied are you with our customer service?”

Estimated Time: 10-20 seconds
This question is straightforward and only requires respondents to select a rating from a predefined scale.

2. Complex Question: “Please describe in detail your experience with our product over the past month, including any challenges you encountered and suggestions for improvement.”

Approximate Time Taken 2-3 minutes
This open-ended question requires respondents to provide detailed feedback. They need to include specific examples and suggestions. So, it is natural for them to take longer to compose an answer compared to selecting a rating from a scale.


  • Accuracy: Again, complicated surveys can confuse people. This will lead to wrong answers. Simplifying makes sure the answers are right.
  • Interest: Complex surveys might make people quit. Keeps them simple to hold their interest so that they are more likely to finish.

Ways to Improve Survey Complexity

  • Use Clear and Concise Language: Nobody wants to roam around with a dictionary while filling out a form! Avoid using technical jargon or complex terminology that may confuse respondents.
  • Limit Response Options: Focus on what is important. Include only the most relevant choices to minimize decision-making time.
  • Break Down Complex Questions: If a question is particularly complex or multi-part, consider breaking it down into smaller, more digestible components.

3. Data Depth Needed

It is vital to determine the depth of information required for your research objectives. More extensive surveys may be necessary for in-depth analysis, but balance this with respondent fatigue.

Example Questions

1. Surface level Data Depth: “On a scale from 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our product to a friend?”

Estimated Time: 10-20 seconds
This question captures a single aspect of respondent sentiment (likelihood to recommend), requiring a relatively short response time.

2. Deep Data Depth: “Please describe your experience with our product in detail, including what features you found most valuable, any areas for improvement, and suggestions for enhancement.”

How long would it take? 2-3 minutes
Open-ended questions solicit feedback. This question particularly asks you to provide specific experiences, preferences, and suggestions, which may take longer to articulate compared to a simple rating scale response.


  • Decision Making: Comprehensive data acts as the foundation for informed decision-making. Plus, it provides a thorough understanding of the issue at hand to make strategic choices based on evidence.
  • Problem Identification: Having a clear idea of the root causes of the issues helps you identify and prioritize the issues that require immediate attention.

Ways to Enhance Data Depth

  • Include Open-Ended Questions: The best way to acquire quality data is to allow respondents to provide detailed, qualitative insights. This type of data adds depth by capturing the richness and complexity of respondents’ perspectives.
  • Utilize Rating Scales: Use rating scales or Likert-type questions to measure attitudes or opinions across a spectrum. This provides nuanced data that can reveal subtle variations in respondent sentiment.
  • Segment Analysis: Analyze survey data by demographic or behavioral segments to uncover differences in responses. This approach adds depth by highlighting variations in attitudes or behaviors across different groups.

4. Purpose of the Survey

Well, this must have been first on the list, but I wanted to lay a bit more emphasis on its impact on survey length.

The length of your survey must match its purpose. For exploratory surveys or general feedback collection, shorter surveys are often more appropriate. For comprehensive research projects, longer surveys may be necessary.

According to the reason, the timing can vary from just a minute to more than ten. For instance, if your only aim is to gain feedback on the usability of your website, a simple CES survey does the job. On the other hand, if you are trying to figure out customer preferences for a said period, you might need a combination of more complex and simple ones.

Example Questions

1. Simple Purpose: “How satisfied are you with our recent customer service interaction?”

How long would it take?  10-20 seconds
This question directly addresses the survey’s purpose of assessing customer satisfaction with a specific interaction, requiring a quick rating response.

2. Complex Purpose: “Please provide detailed feedback on your overall experience with our company, including your satisfaction with our products, customer service, and any suggestions for improvement.”

ET: 2-3 minutes
Okay, we have established that open-ended questions take more time. But why? Because it aims to gather comprehensive feedback on various aspects of the respondent’s experience. Consequently, it may take longer for respondents to provide detailed feedback compared to a more narrowly focused question.


  • Efficiency: Understanding the survey’s purpose helps in prioritizing questions and focusing on gathering essential data. This streamlines the survey process, making it more efficient for both researchers and participants.
  • Data Quality: A clear understanding of the survey’s purpose enables researchers to design questions that directly address the research objectives. You get to hit the mark by keeping the survey focused on collecting relevant data.
  • Participant Satisfaction: Surveys that align with their stated purpose are perceived as more valuable by participants. When participants understand the purpose and relevance of the survey, they are more likely to engage thoughtfully and provide accurate responses. Quality is key!

Incorporating Purpose into Surveys

  • Balance Depth and Breadth: Consider the depth of information needed to fulfill the survey’s purpose while balancing it with the respondent’s time and attention. Balance depth with brevity to ensure that the survey remains engaging without overwhelming respondents.
  • Communicating Purpose: Be transparent. Communicate the purpose of the survey to participants at the outset. When participants understand why their input matters, they’re more likely to engage and provide valuable responses.

Wrap Up

Now you know how long your survey should be, right? Understanding your audience is the key purpose of any survey. Keep them in your mind before composing the questions. Above all, take the help of a tool to help you get through the tough part. Know that SurveySparrow is happy to help you any day at any point.

If you wish to start today and get to know the tool better, why don’t you take it for a free spin?

Kate Williams

Content Marketer at SurveySparrow

Start your free trial today

No Credit Card Required. 14-Day Free Trial

Try For Free

Request a Demo

Want to learn more about SurveySparrow? We'll be in touch soon!

Request Demo