Drop-down Questions
Drop-down Questions

Drop-down Questions
Guide with Examples

Drop-down questions in surveys can be a powerful tool for improving data quality and respondent experience. In this article, we provide tips and examples on how to use them effectively to get the most out of your surveys.

Drop-down questions are a great way to get information from your users without taking up too much space on your form. They’re also super easy to set up! In this post, we’ll go over everything you need to know about drop-down questions, including when and how to use them. We’ll also provide some examples so you can see how they work in action. So let’s get started!

What are Drop-down Questions?

A drop-down question is an element used in online forms which allows one or more answers to be selected from a menu upon clicking by the user. They are common to online surveys for queries such as participant location or gender. Though useful and flexible, a drop-down question format should only be used under certain criteria.

Drop-Down Question Example

When to Use a Drop-down Question

The criteria for using a drop-down question format include its use in closed questions only, in questions which have a lot of possible options, questions with a default option and questions with short answers.

  1. When questions are closed
    A drop-down question must be a closed question because the list of options available to the respondent are decided upon by the question designer in advance. This means that the drop-down question format cannot be used for long form answers.
  2. When there are lots of possible answers
    Questions with a large number of possible answers are served well through the use of the drop-down question format. The long list of possible answers remain hidden until the menu is clicked by the user which helps to keep the interface tidy.
  3. When there is a default answer
    The drop-down question is a good format to use when the question has an expected or default answer. This is because a drop-down question displays the expected answer, and keeps the other answers hidden. This avoids distracting the user with other answers, and saves them time in answering.
  4. When answers are short
    Answers in a drop-down question should be short to ensure that the list of answers are easy to read when the participant clicks on the menu. Long answers can be difficult to read in a drop-down menu, and long answers in a list can be too much information for the participant.

Sampling techniques offer numerous benefits that allow researchers to conduct studies more efficiently, accurately, and ethically. By selecting the appropriate sampling technique, researchers can obtain representative data that can be used to draw accurate conclusions about the larger population. Sampling techniques are essential to research methodology and are used across various fields to conduct studies that would otherwise be impossible or impractical.

Types of Drop-down Questions

There are two main types of drop-down questions in surveys: single-select and multi-select.

  • Single-select drop-down questions
    These questions allow respondents to select one option from a list of choices. This type of question is useful for collecting data on a single variable or attribute. For example, a single-select drop-down question might ask respondents to select their age range from a list of options such as “18-24”, “25-34”, “35-44”, and so on.
  • Multi-select drop-down questions
    On the other hand, multi-select drop-down questions allow respondents to select multiple options from a list of choices. This type of question is useful for collecting data on multiple variables or attributes at once. For example, a multi-select drop-down question might ask respondents to select all the types of food they enjoy from a list of options such as “Italian”, “Chinese”, “Mexican”, and so on.

Both types of drop-down questions have their advantages and disadvantages. Single-select questions are useful for collecting focused and specific data, while multi-select questions are useful for collecting more varied data. However, single-select questions may not provide enough response options, while multi-select questions may be overwhelming for respondents if there are too many options to choose from. It’s important to carefully consider the goals of your survey and choose the appropriate type of drop-down question for your research needs.

Advantages of Drop-down Questions

There are several advantages to using drop-down questions in surveys. Here are some of the key benefits:

  1. Keeps an interface tidy
    The appearance of forms is an important factor to consider when designing questionnaires if users are to remain interested. The drop-down question format is useful in keeping a questionnaire interface clean and free of cluttered items. This is particularly true when a question has a large set of options to choose from.
  2. Usability, familiarity, and time-saving
    The drop-down question format is easy to use, with most users recognizing the format and knowing what they need to do to use it. The drop-down question format also saves the user time, as no typing is required.
  3. Interactivity increases user engagement
    The interactive nature of the drop-down question format means that users are engaged when using them. Users are required to click on the menu to see the options, revealing the answers and encouraging them to answer the question. They are therefore a useful way of keeping users engaged with questionnaires.
  4. Ease of design and flexibility
    Being so common, drop-down question formats are an integral part of online survey design tools and can be easily created through programming scripts or drag-and-drop form creation. Including large databases of responses is also made easy through some of the design tools used to create drop-down questions.
    The drop-down question format also affords the designer flexibility. For example, the response field in a drop-down question can include a text prediction function to allow answers to be displayed based on user input. The format also allows the creation of drill-down questions where one drop-down question leads on from the previous one.
  5. Ease of generating numerical data
    The drop-down question format is a closed question format meaning that only short, fixed responses can be given. This makes it easy to convert questionnaire responses from drop-down questions into useful numerical data for statistical analysis.

Disadvantages of Drop-down Questions

While drop-down questions offer many advantages in survey design, there are also potential drawbacks to using this question format. Here are some of the main disadvantages:

  1. Usability issues
    The need to click the menu to access the response options in a drop-down question can be a disadvantage in usability. It can mean that the menu disappears before a response has been selected or can mean the wrong response is selected. In such cases, using a predictive text function in the answer field can help improve usability. A drop-down question can also be cumbersome to scroll through. For example, if the responses are arranged alphabetically, and the required response starts with a ‘Z’, the entire list must be scrolled through before accessing the answer. Again, this can be addressed by using a predictive text function in the answer field to improve usability.
  2. Compatibility issues
    Users and designers can encounter display issues when using certain operating systems or web browsers. This can cause drop-down questions to appear in the wrong place, the wrong size or hidden by other elements. Additionally, due to their interactive nature, drop-down question formats cannot be printed out for use in a paper survey.
  3. Disadvantages of closed questions
    As a closed question format, responses from a drop-down question are limited by the answers decided upon by the researcher in advance. This limitation can lose some of the nuance that may be present in a respondent’s sentiment towards a given question or statement which seeks to ask about the respondent’s opinions or feelings.
  4. Limited response options
    Drop-down questions offer a finite list of options for respondents to choose from, which may not capture the full range of potential responses or variations in attitudes or behaviors. This can lead to a loss of nuance in the data collected.
  5. Potential for user frustration or confusion
    Drop-down questions can be frustrating or confusing for respondents if the list of options is too long or if the options are not clear or relevant to their experience. This can lead to incomplete or inaccurate responses, and may negatively impact the overall survey experience.

To minimize these potential drawbacks, it’s important to carefully consider the design of drop-down questions in surveys. Researchers should aim to keep response options clear and concise, provide an “Other” option when relevant, and avoid overlapping or ambiguous options. In addition, researchers may need to supplement drop-down questions with other question formats, such as open-ended questions, to capture the full range of potential responses.

By thoughtfully designing surveys with these considerations in mind, researchers can effectively use drop-down questions to collect the data they need while minimizing the potential drawbacks.

Best Practices for Designing Drop-down Questions

When designing drop-down questions for surveys, it is important to consider best practices to ensure that the questions are effective in collecting the necessary data. Here are some tips for designing drop-down questions:

  • Keep the list of options short: ideally, the list of options in a drop-down question should not be longer than 10 items. Longer lists can be overwhelming and may discourage respondents from answering the question.
  • Use clear and concise language: The language used in the options should be simple, easy to understand, and free from technical jargon. Ambiguous or confusing language can lead to incorrect responses or misunderstandings.
  • Provide an “Other” option: Including an “Other” option allows respondents to provide additional information that may not be covered by the predefined list of options.
  • Ensure the order of the options is logical: The order of the options should make sense and be intuitive. For example, if the options are ranked by importance, they should be listed in descending order.
  • Avoid overlapping or ambiguous options: The options should be mutually exclusive and not overlap in meaning. Additionally, ambiguous or vague options should be avoided to prevent confusion among respondents.

By following these best practices, drop-down questions can be designed to collect accurate and reliable data while also providing a positive user experience for respondents.


In conclusion, drop-down questions are a useful tool for collecting data in surveys. They offer several advantages, such as improving data accuracy, reducing response time, and enhancing the user experience. When designing drop-down questions, it is important to follow best practices to ensure that the questions are effective in collecting the necessary data.

This includes keeping the list of options short, using clear and concise language, providing an “Other” option, ensuring the order of the options is logical, and avoiding overlapping or ambiguous options. While drop-down questions have many benefits, they also have potential drawbacks such as limited response options and the difficulty in capturing nuanced responses.

To ensure that your drop-down questions are effective, it is important to consider the specific goals of your survey and choose appropriate question types. By carefully designing your questions and piloting your survey, you can improve the quality of your data and achieve your research objectives.

Learn about further Online Survey Question Types

FAQ on Drop-down Questions

What is a drop-down question?

A drop-down question is an interactive tool for asking a question to a user and accepting one or more responses from a list of predetermined options.

What is the difference between multiple choice and dropdown?

A multiple-choice question shows the question and all available answers on the screen at the same time. In A drop-down question, the user must click the menu to show the list of responses available to them.

How do you create a drop-down question?

Using Google Forms as an example, a drop-down question is created by asking the designer to choose the type of question (“Dropdown”), then asking for the question to be typed into the question box. Any number of options can be included on a question by clicking “Add option” and typing each option into the option boxes.

How can I ensure that my drop-down questions are effective in collecting the necessary data?

To ensure that your drop-down questions are effective in collecting the necessary data, it is important to consider the specific goals of your survey, choose appropriate question types, and carefully design your questions following best practices. It can also be helpful to pilot test your survey with a small group of respondents to identify any issues before launching it to a larger audience.

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