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


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.