Offline Surveys: How to Collect Data Without Internet Access

Using mobile surveys to collect data on phones, tablets, and other devices can dramatically increase your reach with an audience, but there will always be times when you need to collect data without internet access.

Typically known as “offline surveys,” these projects free you from the tether of an online connection while still giving you access to all the functionality of online survey software.

Using an offline survey allows you to collect data in remote locations, or simply in places where a wifi connection is unreliable. SurveyGizmo’s offline surveys have been used all over, from inside small businesses to rural Africa.

Although convenient and useful, these surveys require some additional upfront planning to ensure that they collect the data you need in the moment.

Join us for our upcoming webinar with offline survey expert Maryalice Wu, who ran a three-year long study in Africa!

Common Uses for Offline Surveys

Anytime you’re going somewhere with questionable wifi, such as a conference with thousands of attendees sharing one network, offline surveys can be a great backup to your standard online offerings.

Other instances where offline can save the day include:

  • Salespeople collecting feedback during client meetings
  • Researchers gathering data during field excursions
  • Trade show exhibitors getting attendees’ contact details without relying on conference wifi
  • Quizzing students without giving them access to potential answers online

These are just a few common uses, but offline surveys are useful in any situation where you want to gather data but don’t want to be fully reliant on an internet connection.

Setting Yourself Up for Offline Success

There are a few specific question types and interactions that won’t work their best offline (and we’ll be covering those shortly), but there are two things you can do to give your offline survey its best chance of success:

  1. Test your survey offline on the device you plan to use in the field.
  2. Practice uploading your survey data and running a report.

Familiarizing yourself with this entire process before your data collection efforts are on the line will greatly reduce the stress around the project.

When using SurveyGizmo, be sure that you’re not using the Private Browsing mode of your browser. Our offline mode uses the SurveyGizmo application cache to run properly, but when private browsing is enabled no history will be recorded to the application cache. This will prevent the application from working properly.

Project and Question Types to Avoid Offline

In SurveyGizmo, only surveys and forms are supported offline, so be sure to consider your project type before you build a poll or quiz to use offline.

There are also several question types that don’t function well outside of the online interaction, and you should avoid those too:

  • File upload
  • Custom tables
  • Semantic differential
  • Max diff
  • Audio/video player
  • Cascading dropdowns

Basic question logic will work as usual offline, but page randomization and answer option randomization will not.

It’s also important to remember that email actions, which send an email when particular conditions in your survey are met, won’t work without an internet connection.

Remember Action Limitations When Designing Offline Surveys

All survey actions need the internet to function, so leave these out of projects that you may conduct offline.

Common actions you’ll need to avoid include:

  • URL redirects: sending a survey taker to another website upon completion.
  • Salesforce action: pushing or pulling data into or out of Salesforce requires you to be online.
  • Login/password action: having a respondent login won’t work offline.

For the complete list, please check out our documentation.

Where Will You Take Your Offline Surveys?

Are you using offline surveys to collect data in new and exciting places? Tell us all about it in the comments!

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