The Surveys application is a powerful tool enabling administrators to create online electronic surveys for their website. All survey responses are stored on the site, and administrators can review or download a CSV of the answers at any time.

To enable the application, go to the Content Management tab of the administration pages, then go to the Applications page, and click the Enable button next to Surveys.

Once enabled, you navigate to the administration interface for the application from within the administration pages for the website. Go to the Content Management tab, and click on Surveys in the Site Map.

You can create many surveys with the Surveys application. Each survey can be split into many sections and be displayed over multiple pages. To help provide a high quality survey we recommend that you plan it in advance, to have a good idea of the breakdown of sections and questions that you want before you start building the survey.

Managing Surveys

When you navigate to the main surveys administration interface all of your existing surveys will be displayed, listing the name, whether it is enabled, the creator and creation date, and a set of action buttons.

The edit (Edit logo) link takes you to the standard administration interface for that survey. The preview (Properties icon) link allows you to see exactly how the survey will look to a respondent before you've enabled it. The copy (Copy Icon) link allows you to create a complete copy of the survey. Finally the delete (Delete Icon) link deletes the survey.

Creating a Survey - Survey Settings

To create a new survey click the Add a Survey button and enter a name and description. You will also be asked if you would like to make your survey Public, which means users do not need to be logged into the dotCommunity service to submit answers. If you are considering making your survey Public be aware that under these conditions there will be nothing to stop automated spam software from answering your survey and it is highly likely that you will receive a large number of answers containing useless spam answers.

After you have created the new survey you will be presented with the survery administration interface, viewing the Survey Settings sub-tab. Here you can edit the name and description and configure a variety of aspects of your survey:

  • Enabled - If a survey is not enabled it will not be available for answering by any visitors. Once you are happy that the survey is ready for use make sure to mark the survey as enabled.
  • Public - Public has the same meaning as the initial question when creating a new survey, as above. It determines whether a user needs to be logged in to answer the survey.
  • Single Response - While this option is checked all users will only be able to submit one response to a survey. If it is unchecked then users can submit multiple answers. Be aware that if the survey is "Public" the service cannot stop non-logged in users submitting more than one response, as it cannot tell when a public user has already responded.
  • Respondents Can Edit Their Answers - This option determines whether users can go back and edit their answers after they have submitted a response.
  • Single Section - Usually for smaller, simpler surveys - checking this option uses a single section for the entire survey. If you're survey is longer or more complex you may uncheck this option to spread your survey over many sections and/or pages.


Modifying your form to include multiple sections breaks the form up making it more manageable for users to respond, and gives you greater control over the flow of the survey.

To use sections within your survey, firstly uncheck the Single Section option from the Survey Settings. The Questions tab will now display an Add New Section button. Whenever you add a section or edit an existing section you will have the following options:

Section Name - The heading given to this section

Variable Name - The text entered here will be used as the label for the section in a CSV download of the survey responses. Note: you may not use spaces or special characters in this field.

Description - The description of this section

The Above Description is - Defines whether the description provided is HTML or plain text.

Branch - Enabling this option will treat this section as a branch condition. For more information see the Branching section of the manual.

Begin New Page After This Section - If selected the next section of the survey will be presented to the user as a new web page after the current section.

Position - The position of this section relative to other sections in the survey.

Adding Questions

To add questions to a survey select the Questions tab, and click the Add a Question button, complete the resulting form, and repeat this process for each question you would like to add. Each new question will be added to the end of the form. If you would like to add a question in the middle of your current questions please see the Managing Questions section.

The form for a new question consists of:

Question - The text of the question you would like to ask the respondent. The question will be displayed to the user exactly as you type it here.

Presentation Type - There are several types of question available when creating survey questions, and for each type you will be presented with further options on the following page if there are any for that type.

  • Essay Answer - a text area to type the answer. When selecting this question type you will further be asked to indicate how large a text area to provide for the respondents answer.
  • One line Answer - a single line of text. When selecting this question type you will further be asked to indicate how large a text answer to offer the user and the type of response. If you specify a type other than "text" the system will check that the respondents answer is appropriate for the question response type.
  • Date - the user must reply with a date. The system will check that a valid date is entered before allowing the form to be submitted.
  • File Attachment - This question type provides the option for users to upload a file for their answer.
  • Multiple choice - There are a variety of options for multiple choice consisting of - whether to offer the list as a drop down list, a set of radio options where only one answer is allowed, or checkboxes in which multiple answers are allowed. All of the above can also be offered with an associated text field as part of the answer. When selecting this question type you will be offered a simple default set of options to offer as answers, or the chance to enter your own set of options. When entering your own set be aware you must provide each separate answer on a different line in the space provided.

Required - This option determines whether a respondent will be required to answer this question to be able to submit their response.

Managing Questions

To review the current list of questions select the Questions tab. They will be listed as they will be offered to the respondent. From here the action buttons under each question allow you to edit, move up and down, or delete the question. You are also able to use the Add button to add a question directly below this question, and the Copy button to create a copy of the current question directly below it, which you can then edit and move up and down as you require.

Managing Responses

All responses to your surveys are held on the system. To review them or download them to your local computer select the Responses tab.

The Summary link takes you to a page that breaks the survey down by question and lets you view the responses for each.

The By User link presents a list of all responses to the survey including a link to the users information page on the dotCommunity service if they were logged in, and their email address. The pen and paper icon lists all the answers from that user.

The two CSV file links allow an administrator to download all the responses (with or without those from anonymous non-logged in visitors) as a comma separated values file. As a CSV this file can be imported into a variety of tools, including most spreadsheet applications.

Finally this tab allows you to upload answers from a previously downloaded CSV of answers.

Email and Notifications

This tab of the administration interface offers management tools to support your survey.

Firstly it allows the author of the survey to configure notification emails for themselves whenever a visitor responds to the survey. The "Interval" drop down box specifies how often the system should send the emails to you, such that if hourly or daily is selected, emails will be grouped into batches sent with that frequency.

Secondly the author is able to create and send out two types of emails regarding the survey.

  1. Send Bulk Mail - This button will send the mail automatically to all registered users who have responded to the survey.
  2. Send Authenticated Link - This button will send the mail to all registered members of the website. The mail will include a link that will automatically log the recipient in and take them to the first page of the survey.

Visitor Access to Surveys

Before a survey can be filled in you must enable it. To do this go to the Survey Settings tab and check the enabled checkbox.

Potential respondents can then access the survey through one of three ways:

  1. If the surveys application is included in the main navigation of your site they can click the Surveys link and then click the Answer Survey link corresponding to your survey.
  2. The administrator can visit the first page of the survey and copy and paste the URL of the survey into your CMS content. See the Content Management System documentation for further details on adding links to pages.
  3. The Send Authenticated Link functionality can be used to allow users to access the survey directly.


To configure the permissions, go to the administration pages for your website, select the Content Management tab, and then the Applications page. Click the Permissions button next to the Surveys application in the list. For further details of how to use Permissions, see the Permissions section of the manual.

  • Users with Admin permission can edit and create surveys.
  • Users with Edit permission can answer the questions in any survey.
  • Users cannot create their own surveys, only administrators can do this.


Branching is a feature of the surveys application which allows questions to be displayed to a user only under certain conditions. It works by only displaying an entire section (or missing it out entirely) based on a users previous response to a multiple choice question. With a small amount of effort this can allow very complex surveys.

As a simple example, a survey might have 4 sections. Question 2 in the first section might be multiple choice with possible answers being yes, no, or don't know. The last section might be a normal non-branching section. Sections two and three might both be branching sections, one on the yes answer to question 2 and one on the no answer to question 2. In this situation if a respondent answers "don't know" to question 2, they will only see the first and last section of the survey. Where as a respondent that answers yes or no will see the first section, then the section that corresponds to the answer they gave to question 2, followed by the final section.