Advantages and disadvantages of online surveys

online surveys

Word has spread that opinion polls on the street or by phone are not exactly popular with the people they address. The Internet offers far more and better possibilities. But how do online surveys fare in practice? Where do we stand in terms of data quality, feedback and feasibility? What are the advantages and disadvantages of online surveys? A brief overview.

Disadvantage No. 1: High abandonment rates

The abandonment rate is not only a dreaded SEO parameter, it also is a negative factor in surveys. Internet users are short on time. As a result, their attention is of high value. Numerous typical mistakes in a survey design are responsible for a high abandonment rate. These include:

  • Too many questions
  • Too much text
  • Unclear and misleading questions
  • Lack of answer options

There are several ways of attracting the user’s attention and interest. Interesting questions and a pleasant user interaction can work wonders. When in doubt, fewer and shorter questions translate into a higher success rate. It is therefore worth checking whether every question is really necessary.

Disadvantage No. 2: False information

A widespread phenomenon in online surveys is false information. In order to obtain a small fee as quickly as possible, some participants click their way through a digital questionnaire quickly and without paying attention to the content. A tick here, a cross there and then within seconds to the next page — the survey is finished.

The inhibition threshold for false statements is obviously lower on the anonymous Internet than in a face-to-face survey. This is why a foolproof survey design is crucial for the quality of responses. What is the best way to weed out black sheep in a survey? The following solutions are possible:

  • Include trick questions. This is an easy way to check whether the participant is actually reading the questions. Following a text on any given topic, for example, the participant must click on a specific box and not on any other, to be able to move on.
  • Include comprehension questions that only allow one correct answer.
  • Set a minimum response time. This forces the user to slow down.

This clearly shows that many incorrect responses can ultimately be attributed to the design and programming of the online questionnaire. There are proven methods to optimize the quality of surveys.

Disadvantage No. 3: Multiple participants

In surveys that pay a small fee, in particular, it is tempting to participate more than once and conceal one’s true identity in the process. However, there are various mechanisms to prevent the same participant from clicking into the survey again and again.

Blocking access can be achieved with cookies. Small text files that are stored on the survey participant’s computer prevent duplicate and triple entries. But cookies are easy to delete. And you have to ask for permission first, of course. The same applies to the storage of IP addresses.


With clickworker, conducting online surveys is very simple and multiple participation is automatically excluded.

More about online surveys

Advantage No. 1: It’s fast

Speed is the most frequently cited advantage when it comes to online surveys. Time is money. Online surveys are created in no time at all and can be published immediately. On crowdsourcing platforms such as clickworker, it is easy to narrow down the field of participants. The more potential survey participants there are, the faster there are results.

Advantage No. 2: Can be used on an international scale

The circle of participants in an online survey is in virtually unlimited. This is true for geographical boundaries, as well as for temporal boundaries and any demographic characteristics. Physical distances are irrelevant on the Internet.

Anonymity is another advantage. Unlike face-to-face surveys, users are more willing to disclose private information behind the screen or display. This is especially true when they are confident that the survey results will not allow any conclusions to be drawn about them as a person. Ensuring that survey participants are clearly informed about confidentiality has a positive effect on the reliability of the results.

Advantage No. 3: Cost-effective

Online surveys save costs — directly and indirectly. Printed questionnaires are extremely cost-intensive. They have to be printed and mailed. Paper costs money, as does shipping (to the addressee and back again). Indirect savings result from the time saved. In addition, less staff is required.

Thousands of survey participants can be reached within minutes. Intelligent analysis tools provide direct answers to the questions for which a survey was designed. In addition, automatic analysis eliminates errors that are ubiquitous in manual analysis.

Advantage No. 4 Efficiency

Traditional printed questionnaires and telephone calls do not have the numerous multimedia options provided by an online survey. Surveys conducted via the browser can be equipped with many gimmicks that not only increase the quality of the answers, but also increase the fun factor of a survey — and thus reduce the abandonment rate. Examples:

  • Sliders for infinitely variable, individual answer options
  • Dropdowns for individual ranking of offers
  • Integration of graphics, videos and audio files
  • Automatic plausibility check

Randomization is also a key success factor for online surveys. The random arrangement of different questions, for example, ensures that psychological confounding factors are ruled out. A user who answered nine questions in a row with “yes” may be more inclined to choose “no” for the tenth. This distorting effect can be ruled out when the questions appear in random order.

Summary: More advantages than disadvantages

Street and telephone surveys are time-consuming and expensive. Online surveys are simpler, more cost-effective and faster. They also produce much better results — if only because of the large number of potential participants. The advantages outweigh the disadvantages. And there are effective ways to deal with the handful of disadvantages.



Jan Knupper