I know, I know – but this is a 101 article after all so let’s go ahead and dive in with the introduction. Online surveys, simply put, are a series of questions that are used to gather quick information about consumer attitudes, preferences, sentiment, past experiences, or overall impressions of a brand or product.
They are often used for exploratory purposes or as the first level of inquiry that can be used to dictate larger research initiatives. Online surveys can also be used to gather descriptive information such as attitudes, preferences, brand perception and experience in order to better define and understand your customer or user base.
Online surveys are used in a wide variety of ways. Examples include:
As you can see from the above examples, online surveys can be used on your own on your site or product, embedded within a research study, or can be completed long before your website, app or product is farther along than a napkin sketch.
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The general process for setting up an online survey is the same as most research engagements.
First and foremost outline what you want to learn in a research plan. Write out the purpose of your survey, define the concepts you want to measure and come up with your hypotheses. This is an important step that will help you identify the type of survey questions you want to include and ensure that you measure what you actually intend to measure.
Once you have your research plan in place it’s time to decide on the length of the survey and the types of questions to include.
One benefit of online surveys is the flexibility with length. Depending on the purpose of the survey, it can be short and sweet (making it easier to get larger sample sizes) or it can be longer and more detailed.
VOC and True Intent surveys are typically short. Visitors didn’t know they were going to complete a survey when coming to your site and are more likely to drop off if there are too many questions. The shorter the better here.
Exploratory surveys tend to be longer and more detailed. Often exploratory surveys contain advanced logic that is dependent on previous responses. In some of these studies participants may see questions that only pertain to them. In this situation, the logic can help control the length of the survey for any given participant.
Overall we see the best results for online surveys that take no longer than 10-15 minutes to compete. Anything longer and you risk participant burnout (often leading to decreased quality of responses) and higher rates of drop-off.
There are two main question types when it comes to online surveys: closed questions and open questions.
The results can largely be broken down into two different types: quantitative and qualitative depending on whether you chose closed or open questions, respectively.
Starting with the latter, qualitative results are going to be in the form of text or a video response. Either way you will get verbatim responses from your participants.
Quantitative results often depend on the types of questions included in the survey, however, counts and proportions are the most common output for most question types. Rating scales typically include a mean score in addition to the counts and proportions for each rating. More advanced researchers might want to look at the interaction between two or more variables in which case the output might result in atorFvalue or plots on a line graph.
The analysis of survey data will be dictated in part by your research plan and the intent of the survey, as well as the type of data you collected.
Insights derived from Closed question types are often reported with percentages or mean ratings (or both).
Insights derived from Open question types are qualitative in nature and are most often used to support the quantitative metrics gathered in the survey. Sometimes, researchers will choose to quantify the comments by identifying common themes and reporting the percentage of participants whose comments fall into a particular theme.
For example, “60% of those who gave a low rating indicated that they didn’t care for the type of offer they received.”