How to Conduct an Online Survey

Get survey best practices, discover which key fields to implement, and learn how to build a survey in Formstack.


Surveys allow you to get a better picture of your current and potential customers. You can use them to investigate buying habits, get feedback on products or services, and more. Formstack gives you all the features of an effective online survey form. If you’re wondering how to create a survey, look no further: use these steps to conduct a survey that will be simple and effective.

Using Formstack to Conduct a Survey

Step 1: Establish Goal What are you trying to accomplish? Without a clear goal, you are more likely to create a rambling, frustrating survey. Your customers will appreciate a survey that is short, to-the-point, and logical. For example, if we owned a doughnut shop, we might create a survey to determine if our shop’s offerings are meeting our customers’ needs. Who wouldn’t want to participate in that survey?

Step 2: Build The Survey First, you need to learn how to build a form. Log in to your Formstack account, click the green plus sign and you’re ready to go! You can select a ready-made survey from the Field Guide or start with a blank form. With either option, just drag-and-drop the elements you want to include. Remember to check out the Analytics tab, once you get your form up and going, so that you can use Formstack’s data-crunching abilities.

Step 3: Create Your Questions The questions you ask determine the data you collect, so choose them carefully. Formstack offers several options; play around to determine which fits your survey best.

Radio Button - These are great for questions that have a set number of options, like days of the week or how important an item is to your customer. With radio buttons, only one choice can be selected. For our doughnut survey, we will ask, "How important are fillings to you?" and we can use radio buttons to allow users to select an option from "very important” to "unimportant."

Select List - This is a drop-down box that allows your users to choose one or more options. “Select Lists” for doughnuts might say, "Choose your favorite shape of doughnut" and the drop-down menu offers choices of doughnut holes, long johns, filled, and traditional o-shaped. If users hold the CTRL key while clicking, they can select more than one option.

Checkbox - The checkbox is perfect for offering more than one choice, including an option for "other." With a checkbox, we can ask our doughnut customers, "What new flavor(s) would you like to try?" and let them select as many as they would like. If they select "other," they can fill in a text box with a suggestion of their own.

Matrix - Matrix questions allow you to compare or rank related statements or ideas. For example, we want to know if our doughnut customers agree or disagree with certain statements such as, "I buy only one flavor of doughnut at a time" and "I would like to see more creative flavors and fillings."

Short/Long Answer - These fields are for open-ended questions, which let you capture feedback that you might not otherwise gather. Giving your customers a chance to speak freely can be an opportunity to improve customer satisfaction. (Don’t worry: you can set a maximum number of characters to limit long-windedness!)

Step 4: Test Your Survey Ask a few trusted friends or colleagues to fill out your survey to reveal if you have any errors or confusing questions. Then, review the sample results and determine if you are capturing the data that you intended. If needed, make adjustments and retest. (Before you launch your survey, you can clear all of your test data so it does not affect your analytics.) Although this step takes a little extra time, it’s worth it to ensure that your survey is clear and effective.

Step 5: Publish it! Formstack offers several methods to distribute your survey. You can link to your survey in your email marketing or on social media. Additionally, you can embed the survey on your website with the Javascript, iframe, lightbox and Advanced HTML embed codes under the publish tab of your form.

Step 6: Analyze Your Results Using Formstack’s analytics, you can sort and search your data and use it to create charts and graphs. Additionally, you can evaluate the effectiveness of your questions—for example, is there a bottleneck where users get stuck and abandon the survey? If so, you can refine your questions to maximize responses.

Best Practices for Conducting an Online Survey

How do you create a survey that gets responses? This chapter includes best practices to help you to increase the effectiveness of your surveys. Best of all, by using an online form builder like Formstack, you can monitor data like unique views, abandonment rate, and more.

Offer an Incentive - But Not Just Swag Studies show that people respond to incentives in filling out surveys, but this doesn’t mean you have to constantly ship out tchotchkes. People also participate out of altruistic reasons: they want to be helpful or have an interest in the topic. Appealing to customers’ values can encourage them to take part in your survey.

That said, prizes do work. For certain surveys, you may want to offer a free t-shirt, a coupon code, or a chance to win a high-value gadget. Customer data can be priceless, and incentives can encourage people to participate who might otherwise ignore a survey.

Keep It Short Your survey should take less than five minutes to complete. Any longer than that and you will start to lose participants out of feelings of inconvenience. Formstack allows you to include a progress bar, which helps users to see how far along they are.

Collect Email Address for Follow Up If you are trying to determine customer satisfaction, be sure to collect email addresses so you can follow up. Nothing is more frustrating that receiving a complaint in a survey but having no way to make it right.

Pay Attention to Language The words you choose can impact your results, so be sure to avoid biased language or leading questions. Also, keep away from confusing questions like, "Do you like icing and sprinkles on your doughnuts? Yes/no." Some people prefer icing, some sprinkles, some both, and some neither.

Options for "other" Sometimes the choices available simply do not apply to a customer. For those cases, remember to include "other." Formstack’s "Other" option automatically includes a text box so respondents can offer additional explanation.

Limit Required Fields Think carefully before making fields required, as they can slow down the survey process for a respondent. The fewer required fields you have, the easier your survey will be to fill out.

Start with Softballs Make your respondents feel more comfortable by starting with easy, engaging questions. Start with quick-response options like radio buttons or checkboxes to establish the impression that the survey will be fast. Save more personal information for later in the survey, after you have established some buy-in.

Key Fields & Features to Include in Your Survey

Formstack includes form-building options that make it one of the best survey sites out there. To make your survey useful and successful, try including some of these fields and features.

Conditional Logic This feature allows you to customize a survey based on a person’s responses. For example, if a person selects that yes, they are interested in a gluten-free doughnut, we can set up the survey to ask a follow-up question: "What flavor of gluten-free doughnut would you be most likely to buy?" Because this question is set up with conditional logic, only the people interested in gluten-free options are asked to vote on flavors. This creates a dynamic experience for your customers and the best possible data for you.

Routing Logic If you would like to follow up with customers based on how they answer your questions, you can use Routing Logic.

Contact Information Collecting contact info in a survey can help you build up your marketing database. If you offer an incentive or contest entry, remember to indicate that an email is required to receive a prize. Include a privacy disclosure that indicates how you will use contact information; depending on the content of your survey, respondents may prefer to remain anonymous.

Demographic Information Asking a few demographic questions can help you learn more about your customers and build better marketing strategies. Limit yourself to only the most necessary questions, and be sure to respect respondents’ privacy by including a "prefer not to answer" option. Being too intrusive could risk their abandonment of the entire survey.

Suggestions/Additional Comments Offering a short- or long-answer field gives customers a chance to communicate with you about their experience. While these fields do not lend themselves to charts and graphs, they can reveal real issues for your customers, which translate to opportunities for your company.

Conclusion Formstack's simple online form builder can help you create effective surveys and build your online brand. Formstack offers all of the above features and even more functionality to help you engage with your digital audience and capture more responses. To learn more about Formstack's online form creation tool, visit

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