Technically speaking, a web survey is an ordinary web application. Creating web surveys is thus (from a broad point of view) similar to developing other web applications.
Several options exist when creating web questionnaires:
- Carrying out the survey on the server or at the client;
- Making web surveys from scratch or using web survey creation tools;
- Creating surveys online (on the Web) or offline.
There are hundreds of professional web survey tools. More than 400 of the most prevalent online survey software tools that are mostly available in English are listed on the WebSM.org website.
Crawford (2006) structures the development of Web Survey Software (WSS) into three stages:
- WSS 1.0 – Specific software of individual programmers that offers faster survey creation with the use of certain standard components. Most of these tools were developed in the beginning and in the middle of the 1990s. The main characteristic of such software is that only the author (programmer) is able to use it.
- WSS 2.0 – Software for mass use was developed in the middle and especially the end of 1990s. These tools are mostly designed for offline use, where the questionnaire is developed on the PC and then transferred to the Web. Such software was developed for their own needs by specialised organizations and for commercial use by professional programming organizations specialised for data collection support.
- WSS 3.0 – Cutting-edge tools with high added value, much more elaborated architecture, highly developed general functionalities, detailed support for web questionnaire characteristics and advanced support for sample and data management. An important feature of third generation software is a specific development and user experience adaptation.
- Integration of different survey methods. Unified and integrated (web) support for combining different survey methodologies: mail, field, telephone and web survey. This way the respondent can be presented with different survey methods within the same questionnaire (when sending out invitations or during the survey itself).
- Integration of context. Web survey results are automatically processed and integrated into the information system in order to meet the users' needs, usually in the field of marketing, human resource management, customer relation management, direct sales, event organization, etc.
- Integration of online statistical analyses. Web survey software itself includes advanced statistical analyses and graphical display of survey results.
- Integration of web surveys and panel research. Web panels are becoming the main way of modern data collection that requires a sophisticated support system for recruitment and control of respondents, quality control, incentives, etc. but especially for the management of respondent data (case management).
- Integration of related applications for web data collection and processing. This mostly includes support for preparation, organisation, registration and evaluation of events, quizzes, voting, petitions, analysis and evaluation of web applications, etc.