April 1, 2015

App vs. Web for Surveys of Smartphone Users

Conclusion

It is possible to conduct experience sampling method studies with a nationally representative survey panel. It is also possible to use an app for this purpose. App respondents can be used to represent all smartphone users both demographically and in their substantive survey responses. Apps also offer innovative features such as barcode scanning, passive data collection and offline capabilities.

However due to the disadvantages of using apps for surveys, researchers should proceed with caution. Apps results in lower response rates than web-based data collection, partly due to the technical difficulties that some potential respondents experience. The lower response rate in conjunction with a per survey cost structure make apps more costly than the web, especially for intensive data collection efforts like experience sampling. Apps also have design constraints that are not present in web surveys. Finally, apps limit data collection to a mobile device which affects both response rates and who can participate in app surveys. For these reasons, apps are best used under certain conditions, when particular innovative features are necessary or the population of interest lends itself to using an app.