Which Type of Survey is Best for Your Situation?


Here at DataStar Inc., we are often asked which survey method is better, online or mail? While it might seem like a simple enough question, there are actually quite a few layers of the different methods that need to be addressed before an appropriate answer can be given. Because we are asked this question so often, we are going to take some time in today’s post to delve a little further into this issue. Comparing online surveys and mail-based surveys can often be like comparing apples to oranges, so we want to make sure that all of our readers have at least a basic knowledge of the pros and cons of these two services. Continue reading below to learn more.


Four Factors Need to be Considered When Comparing Online and Mail Surveys


While many people might automatically assume that online surveys are the most effective survey method available, this might not always be true for every situation. Below, we have listed four factors that need to be considered when choosing a survey type.



  • Presentation: Survey readability is one of the most important factors of an effective survey. Mail-in surveys, which almost exclusively utilize paper, are easy to read and offer a better resolution than you’ll find on any computer or laptop monitor. If the population you are surveying has any form of visual impairment or is not particularly tech savvy, mail surveys may be a better option when trying to collect data. Additionally, it is important to consider how your survey is designed. If your paper survey includes a lot of open-ended questions, space may become an issue. This issue is not a concern when conducting online surveys because, in reality, the “answer” area can be as large as the designer of the survey wants.
  • Timeliness: This factor is perhaps the most important one on the list. Mail surveys are limited in relation to speed because they have to rely on the postal service to distribute the service, wait for people to fill out the survey,  and once again wait for postal deliveries to collect results. Online surveys bypass these limitations, other than the time it takes for respondents to complete the survey. Additionally, it is important to factor in the amount of time it will take to process the results of the survey once it is collected. Mail surveys take time to organize and analyze, whereas online surveys can be analyzed as soon as they are submitted by an individual.
  • Population: With all surveys, it is essential to keep the needs of your population in mind. In some instances, a sample population may have a preference for one form of surveys over another or, in rarer instances, the sample population may have mixed preferences. An elderly population may prefer paper, while younger people are more likely to prefer online. Before determining which type of survey to implement, first establish which type of survey your sample population is most likely to respond to. A survey is worth nothing if no one from the sample population fills it out.
  • Flexibility: The final factor to consider when choosing between online or mail surveys is the level of flexibility that needs to be possible within the survey. Paper surveys are limited in their flexibility because once they are printed they can not be changed. Also, paper surveys, unlike online surveys, cannot take advantage of unique interface controls such as drop-down menus, slider controls, or multimedia files. If you require a highly flexible survey, online surveys are the way to go.

We hope that this short post has helped explain the factors that can determine whether or not you should a paper survey or an online survey. If you would like to learn more about our survey management services or to learn about the other services that we offer, please contact us today or visit our website.