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Where Am I? A Meta-Analysis of Experiments on the Effects of Progress Indicators for Web Surveys

Villar, A., Callegaro, M. and Yang, Y. (2013). Where Am I? A Meta-Analysis of Experiments on the Effects of Progress Indicators for Web Surveys. Social Science Computer Review, 31(6), pp. 744-762. doi: 10.1177/0894439313497468


The use of progress indicators seems to be standard in many online surveys. Researchers include them in surveys in the hope they will help reduce drop-off rates. However, there is no consensus in the literature regarding their effects. In this meta-analysis, we analyzed 32 randomized experiments comparing drop-off rates of an experimental group who completed an online survey in which a progress indicator was shown to drop-off rates of a control group to whom the progress indicator was not shown. In all the studies, a drop-off was defined as a discontinuance of the survey (at any point) after it has begun, resulting in failure to complete the survey. Three types of progress indicators were analyzed: constant, fast-to-slow, and slow-to-fast. Our results show that, overall, using a constant progress indicator does not significantly help reduce drop-offs and that effectiveness of the progress indicator varies depending on the speed of indicator: Fast-to-slow indicators reduced drop-offs, whereas slow-to-fast indicators increased drop-offs. We also found that among the studies in which a small incentive was promised, showing a constant progress indicator increased the drop-off rate. These findings question the common belief that progress indicators help reduce drop-off rates.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: progress indicators, progress bar, survey break-off, drop-off rate, web surveys
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Departments: School of Arts & Social Sciences > Sociology
Date available in CRO: 28 Apr 2016 13:45
Date deposited: 8 September 2016
Date of first online publication: 1 December 2013
Text - Published Version
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