Over the past several years, the use of online and mobile research methods like online surveys has skyrocketed. Thanks to technological advances, you can now conduct research for a fraction of the cost and time. This makes collecting data easier than ever and better for everyone.
What Is an Online Survey?
Online surveys are questionnaires – generally fillable forms completed online – that are created for the purpose of gathering feedback from your target audience. Online surveys can vary in length and format and incorporate different types of questions, including multiple-choice, ordinal scale, short answer, and more.
The data from online surveys can be collected and analyzed with the help of survey tools, allowing you to quickly understand trends in your audience's responses and create a strategy to implement changes or improvements based on the feedback you receive.
Of course, despite the many benefits of online surveys, they aren't perfect. It's normal to want to understand and weigh the precautions of implementing online surveys into your feedback loop. For instance, are there any drawbacks compared to traditional survey methods like paper mail, telephone, and personal interviewing?
The rapid advances in technology can get confusing, especially with new tools coming out daily promising amazing results. There are many reasons to hop on the tech train and dive in, but it's important to understand how it all works.
Advantages of Online Surveys
Increased Response Rate
The low cost and overall convenience of online surveys bring in a high response. Respondents get to answer questions on their own schedule at a pace they choose.
Collecting data doesn't have to break the bank anymore. There are plenty of survey platforms that make creating your survey and collecting responses fast and affordable.
Respondents' answers store automatically so you get results at your fingertips in no time. This turns analyzing your results into effortless and immediate action.
Accessibility from Multiple Devices
The sheer amount of mobile-friendly devices, from laptops to mobile phones and tablets, means you have a great chance of reaching your target audience and convincing them to complete your survey.
Respondents can answer questions on their own schedule and can even have flexibility with completion time if you allow them to save their progress and finish your survey later on.
Surveys can be programmed even if they're very complex. Intricate skip patterns and logic can be employed seamlessly. You can create the layout, questions, and answer choices with no hassle.
No Interviewer, More Honest Feedback
Since respondents are not disclosing their answers directly to another person, it is easier for them to open up. Interviewers can influence responses in some cases, and you might not get the same honest responses from a face-to-face interview that you can from an online survey.
Perhaps the most important advantage of them all, online technology provides designers the ability to create a survey in a fraction of the time it would take to print and distribute a printed survey or conduct survey interviews. Rapid deployment and return times are possible with online surveys, and if you have bad contact information for some respondents, you’ll know it almost immediately.
Disadvantages of Online Surveys
This is the biggest challenge. If your survey is long or confusing, you might get fake or randomly selected answers. People often take surveys because they're promised a reward at the end, resulting in more respondents but less accurate responses.
Since there is less accountability, the chances of people just hitting buttons to finish are high. Carefully consider the questions you ask and how you convince your target audience to participate in your survey.
Easy to Miss and/or Dismiss
Let's face it: in an age of limited attention spans and the sheer volume of emails and notifications we receive every single day, your online survey may end up being completely missed by a large portion of your prospective respondents. It's also possible that if you poke your audience too frequently with survey outreach, they'll start auto-deleting your emails.
Be sure you're thoughtfully crafting your survey outreach just as you would any other online marketing materials. Consider promoting your survey using multiple marketing channels, like email and social media, and make your outreach engaging so it isn't overlooked.
Limited Sampling and Respondent Availability
Certain populations are less likely to have internet access and to respond to online questionnaires. Drawing samples is harder based on email addresses or website visitations.
Whether it's disengagement with the topic at hand, response fatigue, or simply that your respondents do not want to provide honest answers for fear of being judged, response bias can be a challenge. Carefully consider how you craft your survey questions to ensure respondents stay engaged with your questions and don't fear responding honestly.
Interviewers can play a critical role in some surveys, clarifying questions for respondents and probing respondents for more complete responses. Without an interviewer involved in the survey process, it's possible you'll receive less reliable data.
Keep this in mind when crafting your survey to ensure your questions are easy to understand and your respondents' answers are diving deep enough to be valuable to you.