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Online Surveys

An online survey is a structured questionnaire that your target audience completes over the internet generally through a filling out a form. Online surveys can vary in length and format. The data is stored in a database and the survey tool generally provides some level of analysis of the data in addition to review by a trained expert.

Benefits of Surveys

Unlike traditional surveys, online surveys offer companies a way to collect information from a broad audience for very little cost.   When conducting an online survey, you have an opportunity to learn:

  • Who your users are
  • What your users want to accomplish
  • What information your users are looking for

When to Conduct an Online Survey

You can conduct an online survey at any stage of the development process:

  • Before a site redesign you learn about current users and what they are trying to accomplish
  • After launching a new or revised site, you can learn if your new design meets the needs of users and identify areas for improvement
  • When you want to have content or features rated or ranked, you can conduct ongoing surveys to gain ideas for future improvements

Best Practices for Developing Online Surveys

Before creating an online survey, you should identify:

  • Your purpose
  • Where you will find respondents
  • The software you will be using
  • How you will collect the data and any limitations to information collection
  • Who will analyze the data

Once you outline those basics you need to consider the following:

  • Keep your surveys as brief as possible
  • Provide the participant with an estimate of completion time up front, as well as something that indicates their progress 
  • Include a mix of open-ended questions—in which users complete the answer—and closed questions
  • Ask if a respondent is willing to answer more in-depth questions in a follow-up survey or interview

Creating Questions

Create your questions once you have determined the software and purpose. You may want to consider collecting information about:

  • If users are able to find the information they seek
  • How satisfied users are with your site
  • What experiences users have had with your site or similar sites
  • What users like and dislike about your site
  • What frustrations or issues users  have with your site
  • If users would recommend your site to others
  • If users have any ideas or suggestions for improvements

Information Collection in the Government

To avoid overburdening the public with federally sponsored data collections, the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) requires that federal agencies obtain Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval before requesting or collecting most types of information from the public.