Question display

In this section:

Question layout

Use consistent spacing between questions, instructions and response options to easily distinguish between these different question parts.

  • All questions should begin with a number, followed by text.
  • If there are no question-specific instructions, the response options should be placed below the question text.
  • If question-specific instructions are needed, they should be placed between the question text and response options.
  • Do not use lines within a question (for example between the question text and response options).

Question text layout

  • Left align text and use a ragged right margin.
  • Each line should be between 40 and 60 characters. Do not split names or titles between lines unless this creates very short or long lines in comparison to the rest of the question text.
  • Leave two spaces between sentences.

If using inserts ensure that all inserted text is indistinguishable from the surrounding text (for example, using the same font type, size and colour).

Use of colour

Minimise the use of colour and pattern. Colour and pattern should only be used if distinguishing certain types of information (for example, branding, question-specific instructions). Also, note that colour can influence how accessible the content is for people; refer to the Government Web Accessibility and Usability Standards to make sure your questionnaire is fit for purpose.

  • Background colour for the content pane should be a light shade of colour. A high saturation colour (for example, very bright colours) should not be used for backgrounds.
  • If possible and appropriate, background colour may be used to distinguish between different sections of a questionnaire.
  • If possible, distinguish question-specific instructions by putting instruction text within a box of slightly lighter background shading.
  • Use black text in the content pane unless:
    • displaying a hyperlink in which case blue text should be used
    • an error message needs to be displayed within the content pane in which case red text should be used.

Font type and size

Use Arial Māori font if possible or at least a clean, easy to read font.

  • If a questionnaire is divided into sections use 16pt headings for each section.
  • For question and response options, use 12pt font. If using font size to distinguish question-specific instructions from question and response options, use 11pt font for instructions.
  • Question text must be written in sentence case.
  • Response category text should be written in lower-case, unless the response category needs to begin with capitals (for example, country names).

Word emphasis

  • Do not use underlining as this can be perceived as a hyperlink.
  • Do not use italicised text as it is difficult to read on screen.
  • Only emphasise words or phrases if absolutely essential. Emphasise words or phrases with bold text.

Instructions for the user

Instructions should be placed where they will be needed by the respondent.

Response format instruction

  • Instructions relating to the response format (for example, "Select all that apply") should be the first sentence of question text.

Procedural instruction

  • Only include procedural instructions that are essential to respondents' completing a question. An example of an essential procedural instruction is to tell respondents to click on an arrow of a drop-down box to find their answer. Usability testing can help determine where procedural instructions are necessary.

Question-specific instruction

  • Identify question-specific instructions by using font a size smaller than the question and response options or, if possible, by using lighter background shading.

Response options

  • Use radio buttons for single response questions.
  • Use check boxes for multiple response questions.
  • Radio buttons and check boxes should be to the left of the response category text.
  • All response options within a question must be visible on the screen without the use of scrolling. If this is not possible, consider putting response options into two columns.
  • Response options should be displayed vertically.
  • Some scalar questions (for example horizontal numeric scales) and matrix questions may be displayed horizontally, but horizontal display of questions should be minimised and reserved for these types of questions only.
  • If response text runs over two lines, radio buttons or check boxes should align with the first letter of response text.
  • Text box answer spaces should be displayed on the right of the response text.

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