Design of Web Questionnaires: The Effect of Layout in Rating Scales

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This article shows that respondents gain meaning from visual cues in a web survey as well as from verbal cues (words).We manipulated the layout of a five point rating scale using verbal, graphical, numerical, and symbolic language. This paper extends the existing literature in four directions: (1) all languages (verbal, graphical, numeric, and symbolic) are individually manipulated on the same rating scale, (2) a heterogeneous sample is used, (3) in which way personal characteristics and a respondent's need to think and evaluate account for variance in survey responding is analyzed, and (4) a web survey is used.Our experiments show differences due to verbal and graphical language but no effects of numeric or symbolic language are found.Respondents with a high need for cognition and a high need to evaluate are affected more by layout than respondents with a low need to think or evaluate.Furthermore, men, the elderly, and the highly educated are the most sensible for layout effects.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTilburg
Number of pages36
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Publication series

NameCentER Discussion Paper


  • web survey
  • questionnaire lay out
  • context effects
  • need for cognition
  • need to evaluate


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