Matrix Questions: Definition, Types, Example and Advantages

Matrix Questions Definition

Matrix questions are defined as closed-ended questions which have one or more row items which need to be evaluated by respondents on the same column items. Matrix questions are simply multiple choice questions represented in a grid format. They are extensively implemented in both, online and pen-and-paper surveys, due to the accuracy of received results.

Matrix questions are often represented in a tabular format and are extremely convenient for researchers to include in their surveys and for survey respondents to interpret and respond. Survey creators can collect responses to cover multiple characteristics or subtopics of a particular topic with ease as a single matrix question offers inclusion of many topics at once.

Ideally, these survey questions should be put into practice where there are a number of interconnected questions with similar answer options. Instead of presenting each correlated topic as different questions, it is better for researchers to use a matrix question and show each question in a grid format. Matrix questions bring an order to an otherwise unorganized survey in order to increase survey response rates

Length of the survey is a vital parameter which decides the response rate for a survey. As multiple aspects of a subject can be covered in a single matrix question, the length can be considerably reduced and will directly reflect in positive response rates.

Matrix questions have some common pitfalls which are masked by the surface simplicity. Due to the ease of creation, survey writers tend to overuse matrix questions. They often make it difficult for their respondents by offering too many response options and too many attributes or rows. That can result in poor survey taking behavior, such as straight-lining. Straight-lining is something you don’t want to encourage. That means that respondents select the same answer for each attribute without carefully considering each row or they are selecting the answer options randomly because they want to escape the matrix!

Another important factor to bear in mind is, that taking surveys on mobile devices continues to be on the rise. That means that you have to consider how your matrix may look a smartphone screen and to be frank, the horizontal formatting of matrix questions is not ideal for smartphones. If you think that a big part of your responses might come from mobile devices, regardless of the size of the matrix, you may want to consider using other question types or breaking the matrix into individual questions. At the very least, test to see if the matrix questions look okay on your mobile device and check to see if the buttons are easy for people to click or tap.

If you avoid the pitfalls mentioned above, then without a doubt matrix questions can gather valuable data for you. QuestionPro even allows you to take it to the next level - instead of collecting data for a single dimension, we allow our customers to gather information when it involves multiple variables with the side by side matrix question type.

Reasons to use Matrix Questions

As mentioned earlier, when a researcher intends to ask multiple questions about similar subjects, they can use Matrix questions. What are the other reasons to use Matrix questions?

  • Reduce survey dropout rate: When a survey becomes long and takes a notable time to respond, survey respondents usually drop out. One way of reducing survey dropout rates is to create simple surveys which help researchers in collecting detailed and precise information. The careful use of Matrix questions can lead to a concise survey which can produce effective results for the researchers.
  • Minimize bad survey taking actions:In case there are intertwined questions, the use of matrix question can ensure that respondents do not show poor cognitive response actions or random selection habits such as “straightlining”. Since matrix questions combine multiple parallel subjects, there are lesser chances of respondents showing disinterest in responding.
  • Obtain diverse insights:As mentioned, various interconnected subjects can be represented in a matrix questions with a set of answer options, the responses received are highly likely to be varied due to the sheer option availability.
Learn more: Market Research

Tips for Matrix Survey Questions in a Survey

Let’s discuss the factors one should keep in mind while designing Matrix questions.

  • Consider mobile devices while writing Matrix questions:There are around 270 million mobile users in the U.S. In 2017, mobile users overtook desktop users by a considerable margin (63% - mobile users, 37% - desktop users). This proves that every question of a survey should be responsive. Since Matrix questions can be complicated for mobile users, every researcher should ensure that these questions comply with every responsive guideline.
  • Include less than 5 answer options (columns): Each item in the row needs to be rated on a corresponding column. These column options should be restricted to 5 or less than 5. In case of five options similar to a Likert Scale, researchers can obtain information about the items in the rows without any bias. If the column options are more than 5, there are chances that the feedback received will not be as precise as intended by the researcher.
  • Use precise language for column options:The answer options (column) should always be accurately presented because, in case the answer options are represented in long and time-consuming language, there are chances that respondents will depict poor response patterns. Researchers will not be able to analyze concrete results using such response patterns, due to which is advisable to use short and straightforward answer options in Matrix questions.
  • Create Matrix questions considering time constraints: Researchers may get carried away while creating matrix questions since the list of benefits they offer are tremendous. But, they need to consider the fact that Matrix questions need to be as precise as possible in order to collect productive results.
Learn more: What is Research?

Matrix Questions Example

Matrix questions simplify information collection process if carefully implemented. Here is an example of how to use a Matrix survey question.

For a newly opened restaurant, it is important to understand customer satisfaction levels with regards to various aspects such as food, service, decor etc. It is not possible for survey creators to include multiple questions about food, service or decor. A matrix question can be used to include various factors that contribute towards to the success or failure of a restaurant. Including each factor as a separate question may not be productive as it will increase the survey length and in turn the time consumed to respond.


Another example of matrix questions is, if a client wants to find out how importance and satisfaction rated for certain attributes of their product offering, they could use the side by side matrix and achieve an accurate result. The side by side matrix feature allows different rows and columns to create a comparison for the most decisive survey responses. The ability to rank the available variables versus their importance in the eyes of a customer is very useful according to the majority of our clientele.

Learn more: Sample Questions

Types of Matrix Survey Questions

QuestionPro offers two main types of Matrix Survey Questions:

  1. Basic Matrix:Basic matrix questions depict the most basic pattern used for showing multiple factors in a grid format. These questions are further classified as:
    • Multi-point Scale:Various separate questions can be included in a grid format, allowing respondents to select only one answer option for each of the factors. Multi-scale-Question
    • Multi-select Scale: Respondents can select multiple answer options from the various columns for each of the items mentioned in the rows.
    • Spreadsheet: A spreadsheet matrix allows respondents to enter text inputs for various row items.
    Learn more: Rating Questions
  2. Advanced Matrix: This type of matrix allows multiple factors associated with a product/service to be rated on two different dimensions. This matrix is further categorized into-
    • Side-by-side matrix: A basic matrix offers the rating of a single dimension while side-by-side matrix allows the rating of two different dimensions.

      Side by side matrix questions are also the to-go-to if you would need to gather frequency or any time-related data. The example below refers to taking medicine.

      Side-By-Side-Matrix for frequency

      Frequently, side by side matrix questions also come in handy if you want to assess something. Perhaps you're interested to know, how people find certain alcohol and how drunk a glass of it gets them?

      Often side by side matrix is used for comparisons, such as the example below with Apple and Dell.

      Learn more: Survey Design
      side-by-side matrix for comparison
    • Complex grid matrix: Also known as flex matrix, this advanced type of matrix question offers addition of up to three columns for answer options such as drop down, rank-order, multi-select, multi-point etc.

Advantages of Matrix Questions

  • Consumes the least amount of space in a survey: For most survey respondents, the length of a survey decides whether they will complete the survey or drop-out midway. Matrix questions are a source to reduce the space occupied by questions which are closely related to one another. Researchers can tactfully use these question types in order to increase response rates for surveys which usually can be time-consuming.
  • Avoid the monotony of similar survey questions: Interlinked questions can often get tedious for the survey creator to analyze and the respondents to answer. Matrix questions combine multiple interlinked questions to eliminate monotony as much as possible. Instead of asking dozens of questions such as: “How satisfied are you with characteristic X?”, combine all those questions and including a single Matrix question will be incredibly effective.
  • Quick to respond: Due to the ease of placement of similar factors which are to be rated on one or two different dimensions, respondents can respond to a Matrix question within a few seconds. As the respondents are not expected to read similar questions time and again, a Matrix question reduces their effort and time in reading questions and answering a survey.
  • Helpful with analysis: As multiple aspects of a product/service are covered in a single Matrix question, analysis of the answers received for this question becomes convenient for researchers. With survey softwares such as QuestionPro, a central dashboard is available where researchers can obtain analyzed data.

The only point to consider while using Matrix survey questions is that the number of row elements (items) included should be such that the question is mobile compatible and that the question fits into a mobile screen. Accurate and appropriately sized matrix questions should be a part of a compelling online survey.

How can I setup a Matrix table?

  • Go to: Login >> Surveys >> Edit >>Workspace >> Add Question >> Matrix Table >> Check Box Multi select
  • Add Row/Add Column/Add NA Option: In matrix question, we can add multiple rows and columns using add row/add column feature. You can also add Not Applicable Option from this field.
  • Add/Edit Rows in Bulk: This option helps to add Row choices in bulk. We can copy and paste the list of answer options directly in this field.
  • Add/Edit Columns in Bulk: This option helps to add Column choices in bulk. We can copy and paste the list of answer options directly in this field. You can also enable Not Applicable Option from this field.
  • Required: When you add questions to a survey, by default, required option is turned off. When required option is not enabled, respondents can continue with the survey without selecting answers. If respondents go through all the pages in the survey without selecting answers, the response is still considered as complete. You can enable required option to make a question required so that respondents can continue with the survey only after responding to the questions.