10 advantages and disadvantages of questionnaires

Have you ever wondered if conducting a questionnaire is a viable option for your research?

There are tons of options you can use for your research.

In this article, we will focus on the one we know best: questionnaires.

As with every research method, there are pros and cons. We’ve gathered the biggest treasures and pitfalls so you can make the best possible decision.

Get ready to discover the 10 biggest advantages like cost efficiency, scalability and quick results.

But also disadvantages such as respondents with their own agenda and a possible lack of personalization.

What is a questionnaire?

We define a questionnaire as an instrument for collecting data, which almost always involves asking a given subject to respond to a set of oral or written questions.

So it’s like a survey then?

Well, yes and no.

A questionnaire and survey are not the same.

Survey vs Questionnaire

A survey is a process of gathering data that could involve a wide variety of data collection methods, including a questionnaire.

In essence, every questionnaire is a survey, but not every survey is a questionnaire.

But what makes questionnaires such a great tool for research and data collection?

There are many reasons for that, here are the ten biggest advantages.

10 Advantages of Questionnaires

What are the 10 biggest strengths of a questionnaire?

Questionnaire advantages

1. Questionnaires are inexpensive

First of all, questionnaires are one of the most affordable ways to gather quantitative data.

Especially self-administered questionnaires, where you don’t have to hire surveyors to perform face-to-face interviews, are a cost-efficient way to quickly collect massive amounts of information from a large number of people in a relatively short period of time.

A questionnaire can be placed on your website or emailed to your customers. These methods have little to no cost, though strong targeting is necessary if you want to have the highest possible response rate and receive the most accurate results.

Still, no matter what type of questionnaires you pick, it will be more affordable than outsourcing to a market research company.

Create your
for free!

2. Questionnaires are practical

Apart from being inexpensive, questionnaires are also a practical way to gather data. They can be targeted to groups of your choosing and managed in various ways. You can pick and choose the questions asked as well as the format (open-ended or multiple choice). They offer a way to gather vast amounts of data on any subject. They can be used in a wide variety of ways, like customer feedback.

3. Questionnaires offer a quick way to get results

It’s quick and easy to collect results with online and mobile tools. This means that you can gain insights in as little as 24 hours (or less!), depending on the scale and reach of your questionnaire.

You don’t need to wait for another company to deliver the answers you need.

Dajo Associates needed quality feedback fast. The South African consulting firm needed a way to make informed decisions quickly. An online questionnaire allowed them to collect the data they needed in the shortest time frame possible.

4. Scalability

Questionnaires and surveys allow you to gather information from a large audience.

Online, you can literally distribute your questions to anyone, anywhere in the world (provided they have an internet connection). All you have to do is send them a link to your survey page. And you don’t even need to do this manually. This could be done through an automated email in your customer onboarding or lead nurturing campaigns.

This means that for a relatively low cost, you can target a city or a country.

You can use multiple data collection points, for example via multiple tablets in kiosk mode.

Geography no longer stands in the way of market research either, thanks to the internet. But be aware of cultural differences between people and countries when conducting worldwide research. Thanks to Pointerpro’s multiple languages feature, you can easily create a single questionnaire available in multiple languages.

5. Comparability

When data has been quantified, it can be used to compare and contrast other research and may be used to measure change. This makes monthly or yearly questionnaires more and more valuable over time.

Improving comparability implies that errors due to translation have to be minimized. In terms of questionnaire translation for multi-national, multi-cultural and multi-regional surveys the aim is to achieve a level of comparability across all local versions.

6. Easy Analysis and visualization

Most survey- and questionnaire providers are quantitative in nature and allow easy analysis of results. With built-in tools, it’s easy to analyze your results without a background in statistics or scientific research.

You might think that questionnaires are not fun and getting respondents to actually complete them can be tricky. However, you can use interactive forms that will give you visual data insights to draw experienced user stories organized in dynamic timelines.

Tools like Pointerpro offer easy to interpret reports and visualizations, meaning that you’ll quickly be turning your data into results. These results can be put in a wide variety of charts and tables to present them to your boss, colleagues, clients or customers.

7. Questionnaires offer actionable data

Look at research as a blank canvas.

The more data you gather, the clearer the painting becomes. All this information gives marketers the capability to create new strategies and to follow trends in your audience. Analyzing data and building reports can be used to generate predictions and even create benchmarks for follow-up questions or questionnaires.

The best part?

You don’t need any additional statistical software.

8. Respondent anonymity

Online and email surveys allow respondents to maintain their anonymity.

Mail-in questionnaires also allow for complete invisibility, which maximizes comfort for those answering. Even phone interviews are not face-to-face, thereby making it a more private communication. This concealment puts respondents at ease and encourages them to answer truthfully; however, there is still a human touch to these phone interviews.

Digital questionnaires give the best sense of anonymity and privacy. This type of questionnaire is great for all sorts of businesses and subject matter and results in the most honest answers.

You can be sure your results will be much more accurate when you have the opportunity to complete it anonymously.

9. Questionnaires don’t have time constraints

When using mail-in, online or email questionnaires, there’s no time limit and there is no one on the other end waiting for an answer. Respondents can take their time to complete the questionnaire at their own leisure.

As a bonus, they will often answer more truthfully, as research has shown that having a researcher present can lead to less honest and more social desirable answers.

10. Questionnaires can cover every aspect of a topic

One of the biggest advantages is being able to ask as many questions as you like. Of course, it benefits the marketer to keep each individual questionnaire short, since respondents may find a long questionnaire frustrating. We suggest a limit of 10 questions for online surveys. 

However, since they are efficient, cost-effective in nature and have an easy mode of delivery, there is no harm in creating multiple questionnaires, each covering a subtopic of the main subject, that build upon one another.

10 Disadvantages of Questionnaires

We’ve gathered 10 disadvantages, so you can outweigh both the pros and cons of a questionnaire to make an informed decision.

Disadvantages of questionnaires

1. Dishonest answers

While there are many positives to questionnaires, dishonesty can be an issue.

Respondents may not be 100% truthful with their answers.

This can happen for a variety of reasons, including social desirability bias and attempting to protect privacy. Stop dishonesty in its tracks by assuring respondents that their privacy is valued and that the process prevents personal identification.

2. Unanswered questions

When using questionnaires, there is a chance that some questions will be ignored or left unanswered.

If questions are not required, there is always that risk they won’t be answered. Online questionnaires offer a simple solution to this issue: make answering the question required.

Otherwise, make your survey short and your questions uncomplicated and you will avoid question skipping and get better completion rates.

3. Differences in understanding and interpretation

The trouble with not presenting questions to users face-to-face is that each may have different interpretations of your questions.

Without someone to explain the questionnaire fully and ensure each individual has the same understanding, results can be subjective.

Respondents may have trouble grasping the meaning of some questions that may seem clear to the creator.

This miscommunication can lead to skewed results. The best way to combat this situation is to create simple questions that are easy to answer.

4. Hard to convey feelings and emotions

A survey or questionnaire cannot fully capture emotional responses or feelings of respondents. Without administering the questionnaire face-to-face, there is no way to observe facial expressions, reactions or body language.

Without these subtleties, useful data can go unnoticed.

Don’t get stuck trying to interpret emotion in data, instead go for a Likert scale, the response scale that often uses a rating scale from “slightly agree” to “strongly disagree.” This allows for strength and assertion in responses rather than multiple choice.

5. Some questions are difficult to analyze

Questionnaires produce a lot of data. Multiple-choice questions can be tabulated and graphed, but open-ended questions are different.

Open-ended questions allow for individualized answers which cannot be quantified and must be reviewed by a human.

Too many open-ended questions can produce a flood of data, that can take forever to analyze. Fix this pitfall by choosing your question types carefully. If you have ten questions, you probably don’t want more than one to be open-ended since these have no way to be quantified.

That’s why it’s important to select the right type of question as a questionnaire is only as effective as its questions.

The survey questions need to be evaluated quickly and they need to produce data that can be acted upon.

If you make questions too difficult or confusing to answer, you may end up with meaningless data.

Choosing the wrong type of question can also lead to incomplete results or data that is hard to interpret.

The main question types are open-ended, closed-ended and semi-closed ended questions. Within these types, there is an abundance of ways to present your query from ratings to yes/no questions.

Learn how to select the right types of survey questions for your needs in our essential guide.

6. Respondents may have a hidden agenda

As with any sort of research, respondent bias can be an issue.

Participants in your survey may have an interest in your product, idea or service. Others may be influenced to participate based on the subject of your questionnaire. These proclivities can lead to inaccuracies in your data, generated from an imbalance of respondents who see your topic in an overly positive or negative light.

Filter out a hidden agenda with a pre-screening. Come up with a few indirect questions that will remove those results wreckers.

7. Lack of personalization

Customization is the prevailing marketing theme.

Any piece of marketing material is at risk of seeming impersonal unless time and care are taken to personalize it. If you’re unable to add touches of personalization, some potential respondents may be put off and ignore it.

This can be particularly difficult when the questionnaire or survey is taken voluntarily on a website, regardless of purchase or email.

Fix this by always sending emails containing respondents’ names. Use dynamic content on websites, and strive to use names, personal data and personalized content in all communication.

8. Unconscientious responses

Every administrator hopes for conscientious responses, but there’s no way to know if the respondent has really understood the question or read it thoroughly before answering.

At times, answers will be chosen before fully reading the question or the potential answers. Sometimes respondents will skip through questions, or split-second choices may be made, affecting the validity of your data.

This drawback is tough to defeat, but if you make your survey short and your questions simple you’re likely to get the most accurate responses.

9. Accessibility issues

No matter what form of delivery is used, lack of accessibility is a threat. Surveys may be unsuitable for users with a visual or hearing impairment, or other impediments such as illiteracy. This should be considered when choosing to do research in this manner.

Always choose a questionnaire platform that has accessibility options built in.

10. Questionnaire or survey fatigue

We’ve all received survey invitations and the trend of companies using customer feedback surveys is up. This means that some level of survey fatigue is setting in with respondents.

In general, we can identify two types of survey fatigue:

Survey Response Fatigue: This occurs before the survey begins. Overwhelmed by the growing number of surveys, respondents will be less inclined to take part in your survey. As a result, you’ll suffer from a low response rate.

Survey Taking Fatigue: This type of respondent fatigue happens during the survey. It’s the result of surveys that are perceived as too long and include questions irrelevant to the respondent. An indicator of survey taking fatigue can be found in a low completion rate.

How much survey fatigue affects your questionnaire depends on you. If you make it easy for respondents to answer and you actually do something with the information then fatigue will be lower.

Why use an online questionnaire

There are numerous advantages to using online questionnaires.

Firstly, as mentioned, they can be sent out quickly and the turnaround can be relatively short. You’re able to reach your audience in the moments that matter – while they’re browsing your products, as they read your content, as soon as they’ve made a purchase.

Online questionnaires allow users time to consider responses – a distinct advantage over face-to-face or telephone methods. Besides these great perks, the cost of online questionnaires is low and actionable items produced by the data can produce a high return on investment.

There are additional benefits as well.

User responses can be precoded, eliminating transcription errors. The data is already in an electronic format, allowing for easy analysis without the hassle of digitizing data.

Lastly, guidance and/or software is available through providers such as Pointerpro at an affordable cost and with a wide range of possibilities to make it fit your brand and your requirements.

How to motivate respondents to participate

Questionnaires have a bad rep and over the past years, many researchers saw their response rate decline due to their unpopularity. That’s why we’ve compiled an extensive list of tips that can help you boost your response rate.

The most obvious way to do this is to reward respondents for their time through gifts, credits or payment. Pointerpro even offers fun reward tools like a digital scratch card or slot machine.

Rewarding a respondent is just one means of getting responses. Respondents also want to make sure their privacy is protected, make it clear that answers are confidential and make sure the privacy policy is up-to-date. Emphasize how the data will be useful to the user experience or helpful to society. People like to feel like they’re doing a good thing.

They also want to know that they can complete your questionnaire without the hassle of dinner time calls. Respecting the respondent’s time goes a long way towards showing you appreciate their participation.

Be sure to send reminders as well – many people forget anything that isn’t at the top of their minds.

Find inspiration for your Questionnaire Design

Designing a questionnaire may sound simple until you sit down to write the questions. Planning, content creation and graphic design are all important. Not everyone has the time or professional design skills to create a questionnaire.

That’s why some software companies like Pointerpro offer templates to create questions in minutes.

Now that you know how helpful and effective questionnaires and surveys can be, get a free Pointerpro account!

Create your
for free!

About the author:
Stefan Debois

Stefan Debois

As the CEO of Pointerpro, Stefan focuses on how to get the best results from the tool - preferably backed with real-life data.

Recommended Reading

54 Responses

  1. Generally I don’t read article on blogs, however I wish to say that this write-up very compelled me to take a look at and do it! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thanks, quite nice article.

  2. Market research can no longer be done manually because of the advancement in technology and the internet. Without a market research tool, marketers will not be able to keep up with the increasing demand for data-driven strategies.

Leave a Reply

Want to know more?
Subscribe to our newsletter and get hand-picked articles directly to your inbox