Welcome to the last part of our series. In this episode we will focus on the topic of online surveys, their pluses and minuses. An online survey is one of the methods used for data collection in the quantitative survey. This type of questionnaire is available online which allows the author to obtain responses from anywhere. We have already written about how to design an online survey, so let’s talk about its advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of an online survey

Design, distribution, completion and data collection are done through an online (web based) application. One of the advantages of an online survey tool is also automatic processing of the surveys.

Low demands on time in online survey

The speed of design and survey processing are typical and desirable attributes. Within a short time frame anybody, including an inexperienced person, can manage to design a survey, distribute it and receive responses. Everything takes place in real time.

How online survey tool works

Preliminary results and questionnaire’s analysis

Online systems for designing surveys constantly process respondents answers and therefore allow the researcher to immediately browse and analyse the results obtained. Automatic processing of responses, which every modern survey’s applications can efficiently transfer into graphs and charts, saves money especially to those users who are less experienced. It also saves researchers a lot of time and errors.

Multimedia in questionnaires

Applying and usage of the multimedia in an online questionnaire is very simple. Thanks to information technology and common computer programs (such as web browser) multimedia elements – pictures, animation, video, music, etc. can be easily incorporated into the online surveys.

Surveys processing costs

  • Online surveys are the cheapest surveying method. No costs for printing the questionnaires, no costs for questioners, telephone interviews and all the other complicated procedures associated with the classic answers collection.
  • You also don’t have to pay any workers to do the primary data processing (that is to unify and summarize the individual data that we obtain from the questionnaires).
  • No costs for workers who manually transcribe the data and draw charts with answers, for example in Excel. Online forms and their automated saving also eliminate the possibility of any human errors that can happen during manual transcription.

Distribution and answers collection

  • Thanks to the online environment is the distribution of the questionnaires easy and fast. All you have to do is to e-mail the invitations to complete a survey, post a link on your website or personal blog or use social networks.
  • Options for distributing the questionnaires online are plenty. You can use paid PPC advertising, purchase respondents in various panels, etc. After distribution you can just sit back and wait to collect answers from addressed respondents.

Export the answers into Excel, SPSS, etc.

Thanks to machinable processing the answers can be converted into formats intended for processing in statistical SW or charts programs (such as Microsoft Excel, OpenOffice Calc, SPSS, Statistica, etc). These programs are then used for secondary analysis of data obtained. Typical formats of exported files are – XLS,CSV (for SPSS), HTML, XML.

Responses Exports

Simple to manage

With interactive environment online surveys are easy to manage even for beginners with no experience. Respondents don’t have to go anywhere, they fill the questionnaire whenever they want to and have greater sense of anonymity. All this leads to higher willingness and a higher response rate.

Disadvantages of online surveys / questionnaires

The identity of the respondent

Online surveys are distributed on the Internet, mainly by e-mails. They are then being filled by respondents using various computer or mobile phone devices without any control from the interviewers. It is very difficult to check whether the survey is completed by the right person. However some tools such as Survio offer you the possibility of identification.

Response rate

If your online surveys are not distributed properly and they don’t reach the right target group,  their response rate will be low. Therefore think about your distribution channels. Are they powerful enough to get you the number of responses you need? A significant element affecting a response rate of any questionnaire is motivation to complete it – gifts, money, rewards, vouchers, etc.

Questions complexity issues

Questions that are too complex, complicated or contextual should not be used. The respondent may not understand them properly, and because he/she has nobody to ask for thorough explanation, he/she may become demotivated to complete the questionnaire. The solution is to ask simple, clear and intelligible questions.

In the next episode we will talk about how to increase quality of your surveys and achieve a higher response rate. We will tell you how to structure a questionnaire and what attributes it should have.

If you have any questions, suggestions or comments (not only to the series) please do not hesitate to contact us on Facebook, Twitter, G+ or by e-mail.


Glossary of terms:

  • Contextual questions – questions that are related to a certain topic. They extend the topic for knowledge that is difficult to grasp and process by paper questionnaires.
  • Respondent – a survey participant who answers questions
  • Response rate – number of completed and returned questionnaires.

Create your own questionnaire or survey for free

Setting up your first survey is quick and straight forward. Choose from one of 100 predefined templates or create your own from the scratch. Start getting your first responses in 5 minutes.

Create your own survey