Selecting a Web-based Survey Tool
Have you used an online survey system? They often provide quick and easy solutions for gathering data and can be helpful as part of the design and development process to get feedback from testers, students, and instructors. Most of these products offer an intuitive dashboard for creating survey questions with templates and generate a URL that you can send in an email or post on a website to provide direct access to the instrument.
If you are interested in using a web-based survey system there are a few questions to answer first:
- What is your budget? Most of the vendors offer free and paid versions. The free versions, as you might expect, are more limited.
- What types of questions do you need to ask? Multiple choice, open-ended, select all, rank order… take a close look at your instrument see if there are special considerations related to item type.
- How many (items and participants) do you anticipate? Free versions often have a maximum number of items per survey and/or a maximum number of responses.
- Do you have any special requirements? If you need to add branching logic, for example, or randomly present your survey questions, these capabilities and many others are possible with online surveys.
- What are you going to do with the data you collect? These systems allow you to export participant responses in multiple formats – do you need something specific for reporting or analysis purposes?
- Do you need to customize? Different systems offer different options for creating custom URLs, adding images (e.g. logos), and creating color schemes. These may be more important if you are creating an instrument for distribution outside of your organization that would benefit from branding.
Recently I had the opportunity to review and select a survey tool for a project associated with Inside Online Learning. I had previous experience with SurveyMonkey and QuestionPro, so started with these first. It didn’t take long to see that are a lot more tools to choose from so I asked my Twitter network for suggestions. That request resulted in a nice list of tools to try – some with personal testimonials, others from the survey companies themselves.
My preference with this project was to go with a free version if at all possible – a brief survey with limited release as a pilot. I reviewed the websites of the 7 survey systems that were recommended and created these comparison charts (below) along the way. These charts include the features I was looking for, but there are many, many more available including social media integration, secure SSL connections, multiple languages, analytics, etc.
|# of responses||100 per survey||50 per survey||250 per month||100 per survey||1000 total|
|# of questions||10 per survey||12 per survey||Unlimited||12 questions||100 total / 10 surveys|
|mid-range option**||$299/yr (Gold Plan)||$200/yr (Pro Plan)||$588/yr (Pro Plan)||$199/yr (Pro Plan)||$240/yr (Basic Plan)|
|# of responses||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||500 total|
|# of questions||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||5000 total / 50 surveys|
|Export responses||Excel, CSV, PDF, SPSS, HTML, XML||Excel, CSV, SPSS||CSV, PDF||Excel, CSV, PDF||Excel, CSV, PDF|
* These charts are based on my interpretation of the information posted on the websites.
** In most cases there are multiple plans to choose from, offering a range of service packages and price points. This chart lists just one of the price categories. There are more and less expensive options for each system.
- Qualtrics: This is an enterprise level system, which was overkill for my current needs with one small survey.
- JotForm: Interesting! For me, not quite as intuitive as the others, but a customizable interface with emailed responses.
The comparison charts helped me narrow my list down to two: Zoomerang and SurveyGizmo. I then created my survey in those systems. My final selection was SurveyGizmo – It gave me the most room to work with in terms of number of questions and responses allowed, and had a (slightly) more intuitive interface for creating and managing my survey. I deployed it with little difficulty and have been pleased with the results. I was able to create a professional looking survey, insert a logo, and set up matrix-type questions. Should I need to upgrade to a paid version in the future, I will complete another comparison. While SurveyGizmo offers a lot of room in the free version, the paid options seem more costly than the other systems.
What additional features and functions should we consider? If you have deployed an online survey and have tips for selection and/or lessons learned, please consider sharing your recommendations here.
Image credit: stock.xchng