Market Research

Create a survey online: How to use our free survey maker tool

Whether you’re testing out an idea, running a poll or doing market research, free online survey makers can help you get the insights you need. Here’s how to create the best online surveys around.

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As well as creating an online survey easier than ever before, our tool comes backed by a ton of expertise and experience gained from millions of research and survey projects.

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Thanks to the internet, gathering actionable information through surveys has never been easier. There’s a huge number of free survey creators available out there – so many that you could be left wondering which one to pick. At Qualtrics, we offer a free survey tool with a difference.

Why our online survey tool is different

The best survey tools go way beyond simply designing a set of questions, emailing them out and then seeing your results in a spreadsheet at the end of it.

In fact, the most successful tools use the survey as the starting point to gather data and add in a whole host of different functionalities that help you to analyze it, find insights and take action. Here are 11 ways that our software goes above and beyond the competition:

1. A super-smooth survey experience

Survey creation on our platform is incredibly simple. Our surveys are hosted on an online platform that’s fast, intuitive and really easy to use. That means your respondents are more likely to maintain focus and complete your survey, and you get high-quality data that tells you what you want to know.

It goes without saying, not everyone should need to be an expert researcher to start fielding surveys. Look out for a survey tool with a user-friendly interface that makes building a survey as easy as writing and sending an email.

WYSIWYG editing and drag-and-drop functionality help you to build your surveys easily - just type your question in and, if you need to move it, click and drag to a new position.

Our survey tool also provides simple dropdown menus of different question types to ask – e.g. open text fields, matrix tables, multiple-choice, Net Promoter Score®, and even more complex ones like heat maps or pick, rank and sum.

“Different

In fact, in Qualtrics, you’ll find over 200 types of questions to choose from with handy hints and tips to help you choose the right questions to get the data you need!

2. Customizable look and feel

If you’re sending a survey from your company - say to customers or employees - you’ll want to be able to customize your survey's look and feel.

Like any communication, your surveys are an opportunity to reinforce your brand. Our survey tool provides the flexibility to create your own look and feel or update your branding.

3. Dashboards and other data visualizations

Sending out a survey is just the start — the hard work starts when the data comes in and you need to make sense of it.

Avoid survey platforms that simply present the data in a series of tables or spreadsheets — these require time and effort to interpret and, unless you’re a seasoned researcher, this could lead you to miss vital insights from your dataset.

Mobile Survey dashboard report Our online survey tool includes reporting functionality that allows you to:

  • Visualize your data in easy-to-read charts
  • Create your own reports with a wide range of visuals to choose from
  • Choose your format, from PDF and word document to web pages
  • See different demographics or data cuts side-by-side
  • Share reports quickly and easily with others in the organization

Our survey tool also gives the ability to build reports using filters and breakouts. This is useful if you want to cut the data for different stakeholders in the business — you simply create your report, choose your breakouts and the software automatically creates the different reports you need.

For more advanced researchers, the ability to export data to other formats like SPSS is a useful addition that allows you to take the data you’ve collected and use it in the programs and software you’re using for data analysis elsewhere.

4. Dozens of distribution channels

Once you’ve built your survey, you’ll need a way to get it out to your target audience. Our survey platform offers a multitude of ways to get your survey in front of people.

Here are some of the most common ways people distribute surveys through Qualtrics:

  • Email
  • QR code
  • SMS
  • In-app or website pop-ups
  • Online feedback buttons
  • IVR

5. Built-in panels and online sampling services

While many surveys are sent to customers and employees, you may also want to look outside the organization to gather responses, for example when your database is particularly small or you’re doing research into a new group that’s not represented in your existing database.

Qualtrics offers built-in panels or online sample services — these provide responses from whichever audience you need to provide the data for your research.

Find out about Qualtrics online sample

6. Quantitative data analysis

Reporting on data is one thing, but in many cases, you’ll want to dig deeper to start making connections between different data sets.

Built-in analysis tools can help turn a simple free online survey tool into a sophisticated research platform. Qualtrics' survey tool makes it easily accessible and available to everyone in the organization — not just the data scientists.

Statistical Analysis - Stats IQWe have analytical tools built in that perform complex statistical analysis at the click of a button. These include:

  • Relate
  • Multivariate regression
  • Key driver analysis
  • Predictive analysis

These statistical analysis tools are the difference between having ‘data’ and having ‘insights.’

7. Qualitative data analysis

Until recently, most people avoided having too many open text questions in their surveys. The responses were near impossible to analyze at scale — researchers had to dig through hundreds of thousands of responses and manually tag them to find patterns.

Today, the text analytics software that comes with our online survey tool makes light work of text responses — it automatically analyzes responses, assigns topics and sentiment scores, and automatically shows you the trending topics and sentiment.

Text Analysis - Text IQ It’s a vital feature for customer or employee survey projects because it allows you to see when a specific topic is being talked about more positively or negatively than before, signaling that you need to investigate what’s causing it.

Thanks to these additional features, more and more people are asking open text questions in their surveys — people talk much more freely in their own words than with a simple multiple-choice question, and these more ‘natural’ responses can generate much deeper insights as a result.

It also opens the door to pull in other sources of open text feedback, such as online reviews, or social media comments - the same analysis that applies to a survey answer can apply here too!

8. Pre-built integrations

Your surveys are often part of a wider project in the organization. Take customer experience for example – you may want to send out a simple customer satisfaction survey out to a selection of customers.

The data you get back is incredibly useful as it tells you about the sentiments and emotions of your customers. But when you combine that data with your existing software, such as your CRM, HR systems or ERP, you can see how those experiences impact behavior.

So do happy customers spend more with you? How much will a one-point increase in NPS deliver back to the bottom line? Or which part of the employee experience has the biggest impact on attrition.

Qualtrics Integrations

The best survey platforms offer integrations into a whole host of other systems that pass data both ways. So when someone fills out a survey, for example, their responses can be automatically sent to a customer database like a CRM — it’s great not just for analyzing different data sets but ensuring that you have a single record of all your interactions with people, giving you the full picture about your customers and employees.

At Qualtrics, we integrate into any system through an open API, and also offer a number of pre-built integrations including:

  • Salesforce
  • SAP
  • Marketo
  • Tableau
  • ZenDesk
  • Workday
  • Microsoft

It means all your systems talk to one another, so your surveys can help to drive initiatives across the entire organization.

See all our integrations

9. Artificial intelligence

In recent years, artificial intelligence (AI) has been at the forefront of some exciting new developments, making survey platforms even more powerful.

For example, AI is now embedded into the Qualtrics platform through Expert Review — whenever you’re building a survey it offers proactive suggestions to improve it. The tool can also proactively spot potential issues with data protection and personally identifiable information (PII), and flag them before a survey goes live.

Expert Review - ExpertReview by Qualtrics

With the help of AI, the best survey platforms can now automate much of the data and analysis too, suggesting the most important insights, suggesting next steps and even making a powerful prediction about the future - all based on your survey data!

10. Collaboration features

Make sure the survey tool you choose allows you to collaborate easily with colleagues. Here are a few essential features to help make sure your projects are more collaborative:

  • Sharing projects with a single click
  • Alerts and safeguards for multiple users editing a survey in real time
  • Scheduled reports and data sharing

11. Security and data protection

No assessment of a survey tool would be complete without close scrutiny of its security credentials. Whenever you deal with customer or employee data, keeping it safe and secure is paramount, with plenty of rules and regulations in different countries and some steep penalties for non-compliance.

Here are the basics to look out for:

  • ISO2001 certification
  • Sensitive data handling
  • GDPR one-touch deletion
  • User access controls
  • Single Sign-On
  • Data encryption in transit
  • Multi-factor authentication

In some industries, there are other regulations to remember too like FedRAMP for the US Government or HITRUST in healthcare. Make sure you check with your survey provider that they have the right policies and certifications in place.

However, no matter how great your online survey software is, before you make your own survey it’s worth knowing about some best practices.

Getting started: 11 steps to designing smarter surveys

Qualtrics experience management scientists know a thing or two about designing a survey flow. If you don’t have a PhD (and even if you do) you can get the jump on smart, strategic survey design right here in 11 short steps.

  1. Start with why.
    Begin by reviewing your objectives for the survey. What are you trying to discover? What actions do you want to take as a result? A quick refresh of your goals will help you steer away from questions that don’t add value and home in on the important stuff.
  2. Visualize the end result.
    Imagine you ran your survey already. What will the report look like? What information do you need to make a decision?
  3. Rank your priorities.
    Steps 1 and 2 will have given you a wishlist of topics your survey could cover. List them out, putting the most important ones first. Remember, you can’t solve the problem if you ask the wrong questions.
  4. Ask yourself “how easy is it for people to provide information on each topic?”
    If it’s difficult, can you change the question format to make it easier? (For example, free text instead of a list of things to tick.)
  5. Banish bias.
    Introducing bias at the survey design stage is easy to do, and it can skew your results. Make sure you don't provide too much information or disclose what you want the study to show. Look out for question order too – make sure earlier questions don’t bias the respondent’s answers to later ones.
  6. Choose question types that will deliver the best information.
    Use open-ended text questions, dichotomous (yes/no), multiple-choice, rank order, scaled, matrix, or constant sum (ratio scale) questions as appropriate. (You can find out about all these and more in our Support library). Consider using our skip logic function to make certain questions only appear to those who answer a particular way.
  7. Write the questions.
    The questions in your survey are all that your respondents have to interact with. Be sure to thoroughly think them through. It’s a good idea to write several possible questions for each topic and select the best ones. (Hint – remember step 5 and look out for bias in your wording and question order.)
  8. Repeat all of the previous steps to find any gaps.
    Having another person review your work is helpful too.
  9. Check how long it takes to complete.
    To avoid respondent fatigue or failure to complete, a survey should take less than fifteen minutes. The best way to check is to have someone else take it with a stopwatch at the ready.
  10. Pre-test the survey with 20 or more people.
    Assemble a group of trusted testers and get their detailed feedback. What were they unsure about? Did they have questions? Did they have trouble understanding what you wanted? Did they take a point of view not covered in your answers or question?
  11. Revise your survey, or start distribution.
    If step 10 gave you some changes to make, revise the survey and give it another road-test. If not, you’re all ready to go. You can share your survey by distributing a single link, or invite people directly by entering in their email addresses. Be sure that you're getting your survey in front of the right target audience.

Going one step further: 4 more tips from an online survey expert

Effective survey design, flow, and great survey questions give power to your research. Continually try to optimize the different aspects of your survey until you've achieved perfection. As you go through the 11 steps listed above, here are 4 more tips to consider.

1. Keep your survey simple

Do you remember taking the SAT or ACT? It’s a long and boring process.

Your average survey respondent can start to feel that way about 15 minutes into a survey. Fifteen minutes is a good upper-limit for most surveys.

When a survey is too long, three bad things can happen:

  1. Respondents drop out: They simply quit taking the survey. It costs money to find respondents, and a high drop-out rate can not only cost a lot, but can influence the quality of your survey results. Having a reward for completion can reduce drop-outs, but you can’t stop it completely.
  2. People stop paying attention: Remember your elementary-school classmate who just filled in random bubbles during a test? He grew up. If it takes too long to take your survey, he might do it again. We actually see this a lot, and encourage researchers to use attention filters.
  3. Clients get angry: The irony of upsetting customers with an overly long satisfaction survey is not lost on your respondents.
    The best way to collect quality data is to keep your surveys short, simple, and well organized.

2. Use scale questions whenever possible

Scales are more than a little important.

Rather than asking respondents a basic yes or no question, use question scales that measure both the direction and the intensity of opinions.

This is critical for research.

Someone who “Strongly Supports” a decision is very different from someone who only “Slightly Supports” it.

Scales extend the power of analysis from basic percentages to high-level analyses based on means and variance estimates (like t-test, ANOVA, regression, and the like).

Use scales whenever you can. You will get more information from each question.

3. Keep coded values consistent

Every survey response, option, question, or answer is coded as a numeric value that is reported as a percent of responses or as a mean, median, range, etc.

These values are the basis for analysis.

  • Mean: Often referred to as an average, it is the sum of all the values divided by the number of values.
  • Median: The middle point in a data set. To determine the median, lay out a distribution from lowest to highest and select the middle value.
  • Range: The highest and lowest data points in a distribution form the range. VARIANCE: A dispersion measure of how far a set of numbers is spread out.
  • Example: Assuming we have data points 1, 2, and 6: Mean: 3 = (9 / 3) Median: 2 Range: 1-6 Variance: 7

Values must be coded consistently. Generally, we assign the highest value to the best outcome (ie “Strongly Agree” that customer service is responsive) and then move down from there.

For simplicity, keep your scale direction consistent throughout your survey. This makes it easier for respondents to answer and for you as a researcher to conduct your analysis.

If scales have the same scale of points, you can quickly compare responses to different questions. For example, if a survey asks respondents to rate a series of statements from Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree, the responses are given these values:

buildingsurveys

Standard scaling helps managers to quickly understand customer service ratings by simply looking at averages.

For example, once managers understand that a 5-point agreement scale is being used, they could be given the mean results for the following customer evaluation (agreement) statements:

  • I am completely satisfied with the customer service — 3.15
  • The customer service is prompt — 4.12
  • Customer service representatives are polite — 4.67
  • Customer service representatives are knowledgeable — 2.08

Since all the statements are positive and the values are scaled consistently, a higher mean reflects better results in that area. A manager can look at these means and quickly identify the 2.08.

We see that customer service representatives are prompt and polite, but they don’t seem to know what they’re talking about. As a result, overall satisfaction with customer service is perhaps much lower than it could be.

You can reverse scales (or word questions negatively) to encourage respondents to read more carefully.

However, if you use reversed scales or negative wording for some items, be sure to recode the scales so that all scales point in the same direction. This will allow you to quickly compare multiple areas of customer service. (You can do recodes easily in Qualtrics.)

The simplest solution is just to keep all scales consistent throughout every survey.

4. Explain why respondents should help

Respondents are more likely to take your survey if they see something of positive value for them.

Value offerings can range from a very general altruistic appeal for their help to a very specific offer of an economic incentive. For instance, with a customer feedback survey, you can explain that feedback will help improve customer service.

Here are some quick examples:

  1. Make it specific to them: With employee evaluations, you can explain that feedback will be used to determine awards, promotions, and pay raises and will help management make organizational decisions that will affect them.
  2. Explain unexpected questions: For instance, if it’s important for you to ask toy store customers their preferred color of jeans, you might want to explain why that is relevant.
  3. Justify requests for sensitive information: For instance, you can explain that purchasing habits will only be analyzed in aggregate for benchmarking purposes or that survey results will not be shared outside your organization.

Launch expert-designed surveys in seconds with Qualtrics Surveys

While flexibility and the freedom to create any online survey you want are pillars of Qualtrics Surveys, we know that not everyone has the time, nor the expertise, to create best practice surveys.

That’s why we’ve included pre-designed templates in Qualtrics Surveys. When you open your free version, you’ll find over 50 easily editable templates, ready to go.

They include:

Marketing

  • Brand Awareness & Performance
  • Creative & A/B Testing
  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
  • Demographic Poll
  • Event Signup, Planning & Feedback
  • Store & Online Purchase Feedback

Product

  • Early Access Feedback
  • New Product Idea
  • Pricing Study
  • Product Naming & Package Testing
  • Product Satisfaction
  • And more

Business Operations

  • Employee Suggestion box
  • Employee Exit Interview
  • Employee Engagement
  • New Hire Onboarding
  • Interview Feedback
  • Manager Feedback
  • IT Help Desk

Academic

  • Faculty Satisfaction
  • Informed Consent Form
  • Student Recruitment
  • Student Satisfaction
  • Quick Poll

Support if you need it

We offer world-class support in the form of online tutorials, how-to articles and downloadable survey templates that work seamlessly with your free Qualtrics account. If you get stuck on something, explore our library of content and don't hesitate to reach out.


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