What is an online survey and how to create one?

¿Qué es una encuesta online y cómo crear una? | Online Survey | Inquérito em linha
Ignasi Fernández 9m of reading

The online survey is the most widely used market research tool in the world. Thanks to the internet you can easily reach the sample you want to interview and obtain data through a questionnaire. But what do you need to consider when creating your own online survey? Here we give you all the answers.

What is an online survey?

A survey is a quantitative research technique that interviews a group of people using a questionnaire to collect their opinions, habits, attitudes and general views.

An online survey is a specific type of survey in which the sample is accessed via the internet. This distinguishes them from surveys that use other ways of connecting with respondents, such as face-to-face or telephone surveys.

With the increasing penetration of the internet around the world and access to mobile devices, the online survey has displaced surveys that use other types of data collection techniques and has become by far the most widely used option for creating a survey.

Benefits of an online survey

The rise of the online survey is driven by its advantages, which make it the widely preferred option for reaching respondents:

  • Accessibility: participants can complete the survey online from anywhere with an internet connection, which eliminates geographical limitations and facilitates large-scale data collection.
  • Efficiency: An online survey is cheaper than a traditional survey because it is self-administered – no interviewers are required. Since the data are recorded directly by the sample, there is also no need to incorporate the recording of data that might have been collected in analogue form.
  • Speed: Unlike traditional telephone or face-to-face surveys, an online survey can generate data almost instantaneously. This is crucial for quick and agile decision making.

Thanks to these advantages, the online survey has become a very valuable tool for gathering information in market research, UX research and public opinion. Other interview methods are relegated in practice to specific situations. A face-to-face survey may be the best option to easily interview people outside an establishment they have visited without leaving their contact details. Telephone interviewing is still sometimes used to interview people in a very specific geographical area. But apart from these exceptions, in all other cases the online survey is used.

It should also be noted that an online survey generates data of the same or better quality than any other interview method. Nowadays, the use of digital tools makes it possible to incorporate quality control mechanisms that ensure the maximum reliability of respondents’ answers. Control questions that everyone knows the answers to, IP checks, speed checks and response pattern checks can identify any participant who does not meet the desired quality standards and eliminate them so that their answers do not form part of the results.

How to create an online survey step by step

An online survey can be easily created by following the steps below:

  • Define your universe. The universe is the target population that you want to address with your online survey. Sometimes it can be very broad groups, such as the resident population of a country, or smaller groups, such as a company’s customer base. Whatever your universe is, the online survey will explain their habits, attitudes or opinions.
  • Choose your sample. The sample is the set of people you will interview who will represent the study universe. Choosing and calculating the sample size is one of the most delicate aspects of a survey. You may have access to the study population through your own databases (e.g. of customers or employees) when conducting a survey. When you want to interview consumers through online market research, you usually have people who are part of a consumer panel and who participate in surveys on a regular basis.
  • Design the questionnaire: To conduct an online survey you will need to define the set of questions you will ask respondents. Creating a questionnaire from scratch is easy if you have experience, but even the most experienced researchers have questionnaire templates to help them design from a validated base.
  • Program the questionnaire. Upload the questionnaire to your research platform. Include any visual stimuli you need such as images or videos. Schedule your logic jumps and branching to make it easy for respondents to answer. If you have to conduct an international survey, create the questionnaire versions in the different languages with the help of automatic translation tools or with the support of expert translators. Before launching your online survey, test it yourself or with the help of others to make sure there are no mistakes and that you don’t overlook anything.
  • Create your crosstabs. Once the data has been collected, it can be summarised in statistical tables that represent the study population. The tables include the frequencies of each response and the percentages they represent of the population. The tables are cross-referenced by various socio-demographic data and other possible cut-off variables. Crosstabs are a great help to analyse large volumes of data easily.
  • Generate your report. If you have to share the findings of your online survey with others, you will most likely want to create a report that captures them. A research platform such as We are testers reports results in graphs, which are easier to read and more intuitive than statistical tables. You can share these reports by creating users on the platform for as many people as you want. If you prefer, you can export your graphs and take them to presentation tools such as Microsoft PowerPoint, Google Slides or Keynotes to share them with the right people.

10 tips for creating your online survey

If you want to create the perfect online survey, you will be interested in the tips we have compiled to help you create your own with confidence.

  • Use a sufficient sample. With simple surveys it is possible to use a short sample and get reliable results. But if you want to cross-check results by different demographic variables or by previous responses, you will need to expand the sample size so that it remains robust when you apply filters. Check out our article on calculating sample size if you are in doubt.
  • Motivate your sample. Thank respondents for their participation in your online survey from the beginning so that they can feel the importance of their contribution. If the sample comes from your own database, offer incentives to encourage the survey to be answered as carefully as possible.
  • Avoid making your online survey too long. Many of your respondents will be answering from their mobile phones and may not have much time to answer it. If your respondents have decided to take the survey over coffee or on the go, if your online survey is long, they may not make it to the end. Keeping your online survey to a few minutes will help reduce the abandonment rate and improve their attention span. To contain the length of the survey, you can forgo non-essential questions and introduce skip logic.
  • Use clear language. Unless you are conducting an online survey with professionals, assume that the people you are interviewing do not know the technical words of your industry and certainly do not need to know acronyms that may be very familiar in some specific contexts.
  • Avoid asking difficult questions. What products did you put in your shopping basket on your last visit to the supermarket? Possibly no one will remember exactly. What is the right price for this product? A consumer may be able to imagine what is the maximum price he or she could pay to buy it, but not what is the right price in the market.
  • Use symmetrical rating scales. They should have the same number of positive and negative options. A symmetrical rating scale might be: strongly agree, strongly agree, somewhat agree, slightly agree, strongly disagree, strongly disagree. If you want to help your sample decide on an issue, use four-choice rather than five-choice scales to prevent them from choosing the middle option.
  • Ask for help verifying your survey. Even experienced professionals ask their peers to test their online surveys. This helps to identify possible errors that you may have overlooked. Ask them to pay more attention to the questions you have doubts about.
  • Choose the timing of fieldwork wisely. Avoid periods of extreme seasonality in your market if you want to investigate habits. If in doubt, space the fieldwork over an extended period of time.
  • Create straightforward and simple reports. Often decision-makers want to see all the data that will help them make a decision, but not every single piece of data collected. It is better to present little data that is highly relevant than a lot of data that can overwhelm your audience and cause them to lose focus on the decision to be made.
  • Help your organisation understand the value of the data. The most important job of a research expert is to transform data into insights, those key insights based on knowledge of the target audience that get to the heart of the business strategy. Make sure you have enough time to evaluate each piece of data and imagine what your organisation can do with it. Help your decision making teams see what you see and bring your data to the heart of your organisation’s strategy.

Your online survey with We are testers

Whenever you are creating an online survey, We are testers can help you get the most out of it. Our team of research experts can help you plan your study, calculate the sample you need and design your questionnaire to be effective.

We have a consumer panel of 120,000 people so we can provide you with the sample you need at any given time, and because we know many of their characteristics and consumption patterns, we can do this quickly and efficiently. Our research platform will allow you to create your online survey autonomously, but we can also create it for you if you prefer – it’s up to you!

Finally, if you would like help with analysis and presentation of results, we can also support you.

Contact our team of experts for more details.

Update date 17 March, 2024

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