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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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.

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.

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:


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 account, you’ll find over 50 easily editable templates, ready to go.

They include:


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


  • 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


  • 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.

Get started with free surveys today