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MAXDIFF (also known as Maximum Difference Scaling or Best/Worst Scaling) is a statistical tool developed in the 1990s which allows the importance of certain product services / benefits to be quantified when not all of these services / benefits can be provided to everyone.

Each MAXDIFF question is presented with a scale of the most important/attractive factors. From the scale, the respondents must choose the most important/attractive, and the least important/attractive factors.  An example is illustrated below:

Q. Please think about the type of television that you would ideally like to purchase for viewing in your home.  Please select your one most important feature that you would like to see in your ideal television, and your one least important feature:


Most important

Tv features

Least important


Flat screen



Remote control



Smart TV features






Sound quality




MAXDIFF questions thus allow for differentiation between the most and least important attributes of an item and clearly illustrate which are the most important attributes required.

There are a number of things which need to be taken into consideration when designing a MAXDIFF question.

The first is that similar attributes should be listed together to ensure comparison of like attributes and to avoid confusing the respondent.  For example, the above question groups together the functional attributes of a television. 

Attributes should also be worded in a similar way, also to ensure like for like comparison between the different attributes.

The number of attributes must also be considered depending on the methodology involved in the survey.  While a self-completion (online, paper) survey can have a large number of attributes, it would be wise to limit the number of attributes for a telephone survey where the telephone interviewer is reading the list out to the respondent.

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