Only Be As Specific As You Need

I think this question is definitely too specific for anybody’s needs:

When Did You Start Using The Internet?In case you can’t see the screencapture, the question asks, “When did you start using the internet?” Possible responses are:

  • 2010
  • 2009
  • 2008
  • 2007
  • 2006
  • 2005
  • 2004
  • 2003
  • 2002
  • 2001
  • 2000
  • 1999
  • 1998
  • 1997
  • 1996
  • 1995 or before

I’m afraid I just don’t remember. I’ll have to check my diary for ‘started using internet today.’

This question is asking for a very, very specific answer. One that the respondent is going to struggle to remember, and isn’t really going to give much useful insight anyway. Does it really matter if there’s a difference between users who have been using the internet since 1997 and 1998?

To me, this question is like asking how far it is between London and Tokyo, to the nearest centimetre.

Use a level of specificity that is appropriate for its use and that your respondent might be able to remember.

In case you’re wondering, this is a bone fide survey question sent to me to answer from one of the many survey sites out there, but I won’t tell you which one.