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It is best to keep your survey as short as possible.  The closer the relationship you have with the group you wish to survey, the more tolerant they will be of longer surveys.  If their interactions with you are relatively limited and impersonal, such as in surveys of satisfaction with a customer or a technical support interaction,  then you should consider a very brief survey of perhaps only dozen questions or so.  The closer your relationship is, as with large business-to-business customers, your employees, or your dealers, the more likely they will be to complete surveys and the less put-off they may be by surveys that are longer.  Our longest surveys range up to 100 items (including demographics), but we generally do not recommend surveys that long.  Fifty items tends to be comfortable for an important survey, 75 is pushing the envelope, and more than that is really asking a lot of your respondents.

Having said this, we should also note that most people who open a survey will go on to complete it and most of those who do not intend to complete it will never open it and see it at all.  So, length is only one factor in determining your response rate.  More important is the relationship you have with the intended survey recipients.  Consider that and stay within the boundaries of what you can reasonably expect of someone you interact with at the level of the people you intend to survey.

There are techniques for programming surveys that can allow you to present a common set of items to all respondents and specific subsets of items to sub-samples of respondents.  Skips or branching can be programmed into Web surveys so that each person gets a survey that, although it shares items with everyone else, also has items that are only relevant to people in his or her subgroup or with his or her experience with your company.  Skips are when people who say "Yes" or "No" to a question skip over items that follow but are not relevant.  Branching is when they are directed to separate pages that are specific to their subgroup (e.g., decision makers) or experience (e.g., use of a particular class of products).  Skips are usually used on single page surveys and branching is used on multi-page surveys.  These solutions can make longer surveys appear shorter to an individual respondent.
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