Visualisation techniques

Want a clean break from the text-based confines of most interactive surveys? Tim Macer says CAVI gives you just that.

All at once, the major MR software producers are offering multimode interviewing solutions: CATI, CAPI, web and even paper out of the same box. But precious few are designing tools that address underlying issues in maintaining comparability and eliminating modal bias.
However, OpinionOne, a long-established US-based data collection specialist, has made a brave stab at it with its trademarked CAVI product (the V is for ‘visual’), for self-completion surveys deployed in kiosks, on the web or as CAPI.
CAVI makes a clean break with the old text-based confines of most interactive surveys creating an interviewing environment which is almost entirely graphical or visual. For the respondent the experience is totally different to most wordy web or CAPI surveys: cool, elegant, colourful, pacey and highly compelling.
Questions appear with answers presented as large buttons, which may be pictures or words. It has the feel of playing a game, rather than filling in a form, especially when randomisation and include/exclude answer suppression occurs. Little space-age sounds provide feedback each time an item is selected, and it is even possible to incorporate voice-overs and other auditory stimulus too.
CAVI is probably at its best in kiosk mode, with a touch screen. In the US, OpinionOne has a network of CAVI stations installed in shopping malls, and it hopes to establish a similar network in Europe.
With an internet connection, these stations can be managed from a central location, both for downloading new surveys and uploading the results. Alternatively you can install your own in stores or other public access locations. An added appeal for retailers is the ability to use the same kiosk as an information point for products and services.
CAVI’s multi-modal control becomes more apparent on the web. It effectively overcomes one of the web’s biggest bugbears by ensuring that the screens always look the same on anyone’s computer. It auto-detects the browser and hardware capabilities to format each screen to the same dimensions and colour-depth. It also takes control of the whole screen so that no other clutter on the desktop or any other distractions are visible.
CAVI’s style-conscious screens have the appearance of expensive, custom-built web pages, but the overhead in programming them is not significantly different from more conventional survey packages.
CAVI by OpinionOne
  • Cool looks: attractive and enjoyable for respondents
  • Tackles modal bias by regularising appearance of each screen
  • Rapid delivery of results
  • Powerful and robust underlying technology
  • Significant investment in infrastructure may be required
  • Resource hungry authoring tool
  • Some skill in java and design/layout required
CAVI has its own survey design and management environment called Oasis. Its well-designed editor neatly combines graphical tools and visual objects with code snippets that you write in a cut-down version of Java. Question screens are built up graphically as layers, and there’s an excellent always-in-view preview window. Strong templating features help to save effort, achieve consistency of look and feel and provide a good starting point for new surveys.
To design a questionnaire from scratch in Oasis will take a little longer than designing most CATI surveys, as there is more to consider. An experienced programmer can still put together moderately complex surveys in around two days. However, the process definitely calls for different skills and resources, including an eye for design and a beefy PC. Java eats up memory, so 512MB is an absolute minimum. (Actual interviews are more frugal, requiring as little as 64MB).
UK based international research and consulting firm Burke has invested in its own network of CAVI stations, which are capable of collecting 300 interviews in a day. It uses CAVI in its information, communications and entertainments (ICE) research division for video testing, conjoint exercises and price sensitivity testing. “The overall breadth of this technology expands what you can do market research-wise and do more multi-modal research,” observes Cary Nadel, VP and head of ICE research. “By using this, the one thing you have eliminated is any bias from the visual appearance.”

Nadel has also found the method is effective in boosting response. He reports: “We’ve seen it does make the interview more enjoyable and less tiresome. Fatigue can be a huge factor, regardless of the methodology. If you have a more appealing visual environment, it speeds up the individual process and, watching people, I can see they pay attention more closely and read things a bit more carefully. My gut feel is this enhances the quality of the information we get.”
Good database architecture under the lid and good connectivity made it relatively easy for Burke to feed CAVI data directly into its own ‘Digital Dashboard’ reporting system. According to Nadel: “If the fieldwork ends at 6.15, at 6.16 you can see if the pie slice has grown wider or the bar chart has grown taller.”
Now that the topic of respondent satisfaction is, somewhat belatedly, under the spotlight, this tool actually makes it stimulating and enjoyable to take part in a survey. It addresses data quality and respondent co-operation issues, is fast on delivery and, with no interviewers, offers economy.
Better still, it actually makes research look cool, or at least, a little less un-cool.


Tim Macer writes as an independent specialist and advisor in software for market research. His website is at

Published in Research, the magazine of the Market Research Society, August 2002, Issue 435.

© Copyright Tim Macer/Market Research Society 2002. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission.

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