We may not realize it, but forms show up quite often on the internet. If you’ve already participated in a digital survey or bought something online, you’ve definitely filled in a form as part of that process. And although online forms are usually associated with research or polls, they can also be used in many other situations.
Polls, surveys, and forms are quite similar; they’re usually a list of questions that other people need to answer. Where they differ is in their intention, or rather, in what those answers lead to. So even if they seem similar, they may actually have profound differences between them.
In this piece, we’ll explain some of these differences, explore the use cases for each, and explain how online forms in particular can be helpful for several situations at work.
What are polls?
The simplest of all these is a poll. A poll is essentially a single question asked to a wide audience. Its goal is to assess the audience’s opinion on a certain topic. It’s extremely likely that you’ve already answered a poll. For example, if you’ve ever visited a product’s customer support page and answered the question “Was this page helpful?”, then you’ve participated in a poll.
But polls are also conducted offline. For instance, a teacher may ask their students to raise their hand if they know what a certain word means. Some TV shows also have telephone polls: they ask a question, and then show two (or more) phone numbers. Viewers can then call the phone number that corresponds to their answer.
In all of these cases, a poll’s goal is the same: understanding something about the audience. The fact that a poll has only one multiple-choice question means it can be answered quickly by a lot of people. Because of this, it is useful for gaining a general knowledge about a broad audience. But it might not be adequate if you want more detailed information.. In that case, a survey is the better choice.
Some use cases for polls include:
- Quickly letting a group of people decide between two alternatives;
- Getting a broad understanding of how the public evaluates a certain product;
- Assessing users’ consideration about a service they’ve just used.
What are surveys?
Surveys are lists of questions made to a specific group of people with the intention of understanding their perception of certain ideas, products, or services on a deeper level. They differ from polls in that they have more than one question, and they can have multiple-choice questions as well as open questions. With open-ended questions, respondents don’t need to pick from the given options and can instead give a more customized and detailed answer.
These differences also mean they take longer to complete, which in turn makes people less likely to answer them completely. People and organizations that create surveys know this, and tend to send them to smaller groups of customers or audiences that generally have some type of common characteristic (such as age, gender expression, or recent experience with a product or service).
On the other hand, surveys offer a lot more insight into how that group thinks than a poll. Brands and companies can use them to assess what their customers like the best about them. And researchers can also use surveys to gain scientific knowledge on how these groups view certain topics or situations. Hence, they’re an incredibly powerful tool for figuring out how target audiences think.
Some use cases for surveys include:
- Market research: Brands can use surveys to understand how people feel about their products;
- Public services: Government agencies can apply a survey to a given population in order to figure out the best public policies for solving social problems in a given territory
- Academic research: Universities and colleges can use surveys to gain a scientific perspective on how a group feels about certain ideas, products, services, people, institutions, and so on.
What are online forms?
A form is, in essence, a list of questions that need to be answered. In that sense, it is similar to a survey or a poll, as those also contain questions and their goal is also to gather information from a determined group of people for a specific purpose.
But unlike polls and surveys, online forms are also frequently used to gather information that is essential for a task (or set of tasks) that need to be completed in order to carry out a business process. If you’ve ever purchased something online, then you’ve already seen an example of how online forms can do this. In order to complete the purchase, you need to fill in an online form with your personal information, payment method, and delivery address.
This data isn’t just collected in order for the online shop to understand the type of people buying their products, or to assess how their customers feel about certain topics. Instead, this information is essential for the purchase to be carried out.
Some use cases for online forms are:
- Businesses that sell custom goods: Forms allow their clients to share exactly how they want their custom product.
- Online shopping websites: Online forms gather essential customer data, such as billing information and delivery address.
One particular use case that is worth explaining a bit further is workflow management.
Companies can use forms to streamline, organize, and speed up several of their essential processes, such as hiring, employee onboarding, accounts payable, and receivable. Forms allow teams to centralize requests, and reduce manual data input, which is a common source of errors and rework.
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