checkboxes or yes/no questions

18 Feb 2005 - 7:27pm
9 years ago
3 replies
833 reads
Stan Taylor
2005

A debate has arisen about the value of using checkboxes vs. yes/no questions. A checkbox is a yes/no question, essentially. But imagine a set of questions about what you do, for example, sports activities. Is it better to have "Do you swim? - Yes No" (using radio buttons for yes and no), "Do you bicycle? - Yes No", etc., etc., or "What sports activities do you do:" followed by Swim, bicycle, etc., with checkboxes next to them.

I am asking because I recall that research has been done, though I can't locate it, on difficulties with answering yes/no questions. While I can't seem to find it now, I know it had to do with increasing cognitive load because yes/no questions are hard to parse.

But I am wondering if there is any research on using checkboxes vs. yes/no questions and whether checkboxes alleviate some of the cognitive problems associated with yes/no questions.

Comments

21 Feb 2005 - 4:06am
Mike Baxter
2004

Hi Stan
Stan>> the value of using checkboxes vs. yes/no questions.
Just gone through similar decision-making in a recent project. Here's what
we came up with - interested to see if any other views come through on this
thread.
Stan>> increasing cognitive load because yes/no questions are hard to parse.
There is often greater cognitive load in Yes/No questions because the
alternatives are often implicit. To take your example 'Do you bicycle?'
could mean do you ever bicycle (i.e. to you own/not own a bicycle). But it
could, equally mean 'Do you bicycle to work? (as opposed to take the train).
These types of questions can increase cognitive load, lead to frustration
and failure to complete the form. However, neither Yes/No radiobuttons nor
checkboxes will resolve this type of problem. You need better question
design!
Stan>> Is it better to have "Do you swim? - Yes No" (using radio buttons for
yes and no), "Do you bicycle? - Yes No", etc., etc., or "What sports
activities do you do:" followed by Swim, bicycle, etc., with checkboxes next
to them.
Where we found a big usability difference between Yes/No and checkboxes was
when the user wishes to give a declartive 'No'. With checkboxes, a No answer
is implicit (the checkbox isn't checked). But then we don't know whether the
user wanted to give a No answer or whether they didn't answer that question.
To be sure they really intended to say No, we opted to give them Yes/No
radiobuttons. If they then have to tick a number of options that apply to
them, checkboxes are fine. So, in terms of your question above, I would opt
for
Do you participate in sports activities at least once per week? o Yes o
No
If yes, which type of activities (tick all that apply)
Swimming [ ]
Cycling [ ]
Cheers

Mike Baxter

21 Feb 2005 - 5:39am
Narey, Kevin
2004

Stan wrote:
>But I am wondering if there is any research on using checkboxes vs. yes/no
>questions and whether checkboxes alleviate some of the cognitive problems
>associated with yes/no questions.

I've not seen a great deal of research, but it's worth saying that the
controls that you speak of, were themselves designed for specific event
types. Using them outside their functional remit can prove costly - I learnt
the hard way.

A book that I read on this area was
http://www.baxleydesign.com/pubs/mww_desc.html. It has content that
describes what the inputs were actually designed for. Not my favourite book
by any means, but for the questions you ask, it's worth a look.

I agree with Mike Baxter that the challenge lies in the phrasing of the
question not necessarily in the use of the control.

Saying all this, that doesn't stop us from errr.......thinking outside the
checkbox?
Perhaps not.

Kevin

**********************************************************************
gedas united kingdom limited
Registered in England no. 1371338

This email and any files transmitted with it are confidential
and it may be privileged.

It is intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to
whom it is addressed.

If you have received this in error, please contact the sender
and delete the material immediately.
**********************************************************************

21 Feb 2005 - 10:41am
Jack L. Moffett
2005

> Stan Taylor
> But I am wondering if there is any research on using checkboxes vs. yes/no
> questions and whether checkboxes alleviate some of the cognitive problems
> associated with yes/no questions.

I don't know of any research on this specifically. Mike's suggestion is a
good one, if you are interested in detailed information and want to ensure
that questions and possible answers aren't skipped.

> Mike Baxter
> I would opt for
> Do you participate in sports activities at least once per week? o Yes o No
> If yes, which type of activities (tick all that apply)
> Swimming [ ]
> Cycling [ ]

However, if the questions would be written as you suggested:
> "Do you swim? - Yes No" (using radio buttons for yes and no), "Do you bicycle?
> - Yes No", etc., etc.,
a list of items with checkboxes would be better from the user's perspective
for the following reasons:
1. The checkbox list is less for me to read, so it will take less of my
time, and I'm probably filling this out as a favor, rather than because I
really want to.
2. The yes/no questions are repetitive, so I'm probably going to stop
reading the entire question and start looking for the important word (e.g.
"swim"). This could result in incorrect answers if phrasing changes.
3. Due to reasons 1 and 2, if the list is very long, I'm going to become
annoyed, and may not finish filling it out.

Best,
Jack

Jack L. Moffett
Interaction Designer
inmedius
412.690.2360 x219
http://www.inmedius.com

The public is more familiar with
bad design than good design.
It is, in effect, conditioned
to prefer bad design, because
that is what it lives with.
The new becomes threatening,
the old reassuring.

- Paul Rand

***********************************************************************
Confidentiality Note: The information contained in this email and document(s) attached are for the exclusive use of the addressee and contains confidential, privileged and non-disclosable information. If the recipient of this email is not the addressee, such recipient is strictly prohibited from reading, photocopying, distributing or otherwise using this email or its contents in any way.
***********************************************************************

Syndicate content Get the feed