Questionnaire vs Survey: What’s the Difference?
User Research

Published on August 24, 2022

Questionnaire vs Survey: What’s the Difference?

Using surveys and questionnaires interchangeably is common, but in fact, they're quite different. A survey allows for more flexibility regarding how data is collected and what questions are asked rather than a questionnaire.

This article will help you better understand the differences between questionnaires and surveys. If you are looking for a way to get started with UX research, we recommend that you first start with a survey.

This way, you can accurately comprehend what your users want and provide the necessary solution. 

What are surveys?

Surveys are a method of collecting information. They’re used to gather information about a specific topic and are often used in business to manage this data.

In the words of the writing expert Andrew Geely, “Everyone takes surveys. Whoever makes a statement about human behavior has engaged in a survey of some sort.”

There are numerous ways to conduct surveys, including over the phone, via email, text message, or in person. For your survey to be valid and reliable – and therefore valuable – you need to ensure that it’s adequately structured so that respondents feel comfortable telling you what they think.

questionnaire vs survey

Surveys are attractive because they are affordable and allow for quick and easy mass communication. Nearly any question is acceptable, and evaluating the answers is simple. 

However, these are the same reasons that make surveys so risky: Surveys appear very straightforward. Don’t be tempted to skimp on these tests, even if they’re simple and affordable to run. You still need to follow standard practices to ensure that the data you obtain from a survey is reliable and valuable.

UXtweak is a free tool that makes it easy to conduct a User Survey with just one click. Get answers to any questions you have, gain feedback, and get valuable information on the demographics that matter to your business to your product!

Surveys in UX research

Surveys are often used in UX research, usability testing, and other quantitative surveys where the researcher needs to get an accurate picture of how many people will respond before beginning data collection.

Types of Surveys Used in User Research

questionnaire vs survey

  • Quantitative surveys

Quantitative surveys collect many responses to questions that can be answered using boxes or radio buttons. Like all quantitative research methods, these types of surveys are intended to produce statistically meaningful results that are representative of the general population.

Quantitative research involves collecting information from existing and potential customers using sampling methods and sending online surveys, online polls, and questionnaires.

  • Qualitative Surveys

The purpose of qualitative surveys is to gather more detailed comments, feedback, and suggestions using open-ended, exploratory questions. Insights from such responses can be precious, even though they cannot be analyzed as quickly or easily as data from quantitative surveys.

 Qualitative surveys are often conducted with a small group to gain a deeper understanding of respondents and identify the best questions and responses for a quantitative survey later.

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What are questionnaires? 

Questionnaires are a collection of questions given to research participants. It may be part of a broader survey. However, completing a questionnaire alone will not provide the answers you want.

The purpose of a questionnaire is to collect data from a target audience. It contains open-ended questions, closed-ended questions, or a combination of both. When participants complete a questionnaire, they are revealing valuable data. 

The individual results of a questionnaire provide information about a participant. Simply filling out a questionnaire is not considered a survey. This is because data obtained from questionnaires only become valuable when they are interpreted as part of a broader survey.

The questionnaire may be easier to understand if you think of it as a physical sheet of paper. There are many other ways to fill out questionnaires, such as online. But if you think of the questionnaire as the paper that contains all the questions, you can easily define it.

Questionnaires in UX Research

Questionnaires are commonly used to collect demographic data such as age, gender, occupation, and income level. However, they can also be used by researchers to gather information about attitudes, opinions, characteristics, and experiences (e.g., use of a website) relevant to the product development process.

Once you’ve created your questionnaire and collected responses, you’ll need to analyze them carefully. You may want to use statistical techniques, such as regression analysis (to find out how different factors influence user behavior) or logistic regression (to predict which characteristics are most likely to influence user behavior).

Questionnaires are typically used in qualitative research, where the goal is to learn more about users, customers, and target groups through behavioral observation. Questionnaires can also be used in quantitative research, where the goal is to measure a relationship between variables.

Types of Questionnaires

questionnaire vs survey

  • Open-ended questionnaires

The most commonly used questionnaire is the open-ended one, where respondents are asked to provide answers to the questions rather than delivering predetermined solutions or responses. 

Open-ended questionnaires allow respondents to freely formulate their answers, increasing the depth of information gleaned from them. Open-ended questions are asked by email, phone, or via face-to-face meetings in a questionnaire used in qualitative research.

An open-ended research question does not limit respondents to a predetermined range of answers. Instead, respondents are free to express their ideas, beliefs, and life experiences in long and short answers, which may consist of paragraphs, essays, or just a few sentences.

  • Closed-ended questionnaires

A closed-ended questionnaire allows only binary responses such as true or false answers. The respondent must select from a list of predetermined answer choices the one that most closely matches their ideas, opinions, or knowledge.

Closed-ended questions are ideally used in quantitative research because they allow statistical data to be collected from respondents. Closed-ended questionnaires are the best option when you want to organize a large amount of data that can be examined quickly.

Why is it important to recognize the differences?

In any type of research, you’ll be dealing with members of the public. These are also referred to as your participants. Participants may be picked at random from the general public or a target sample. In either case, the researcher must understand the terms they use.

If you understand these two terms, you’ll be more likely to be successful in collecting data. Simplicity is everything when explaining what you expect participants to do. This also applies to understanding the difference between a survey and a questionnaire.

Questionnaire vs. Survey

To clarify things a little further, here is a summary of the differences.

questionnaire vs survey

Questionnaires

A questionnaire is not a survey per se, but a part of a survey. Questionnaires are the basic set of questions that participants answer.

Questionnaires are often used to gather data from a group of people who may not be familiar with each other. In contrast, a questionnaire is usually written out in detail and requires more effort on behalf of the interviewer than would be required for a survey or poll (which can be done online).

Surveys

A survey uses questionnaires and other methods to collect data about a particular group of people.

Surveys tend to focus on one specific topic or issue. In contrast, questionnaires cover many cases at once – often because it’s harder to answer all questions accurately when dealing with multiple topics in such detail as part of an interview process rather than just answering a straightforward question at once like in surveys.

Surveys are generally conducted by asking a large number of people the same questions to get an idea about what they think.

What’s next?

Now that you know and can spot a difference between a questionnaire and a survey, it’s time to start implementing those methods in your research. Luckily, UXtweak has a handful of research tools that can help you do that!

Sign up for your free UXtweak account and streamline user research with the help of our free survey tool!

Eniola Olaniyi
August 24, 2022
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Eniola is a passionate UX designer dedicated to creating meaningful user experiences. She is also a freelance Content and UX writer.

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