Have you ever conducted an online survey as part of your research? Are you thinking about creating one soon, and don’t know where to start? Or are you simply looking for tools that can best support your data collection strategy?
Well, then this post might be of some use to you.
I have recently been asked to give some tips on the kind of software to use when it comes to develop surveys. I immediately formed my suggestions around two criteria: (1) usability and (2) cost.
I always look for straightforward solutions. I, personally, dislike complicated software. Anything that takes me more than a couple of minutes to master, usually puts me off. I like intuitive tools. I see these tools as a way to ease the research process, not as something that is going to make it even more complicated!! Hence, usability of the tool is important to the researcher. And so is the cost associated with the tools. Most of us are on a tight budget. Unfortunately, not everything can be free. Yet, if I am going to pay for it, I want to be given value for money. That should be translated in the ‘user-friendliness’ of the tool and the features it presents.
So here are the basic suggestion I immediately came up with:
I always try to dig for the free options first, and then compare with what the commercial ones have to offer.
In the ‘free survey tools’ category I must say that google forms (which is a feature in google docs) is a winner. It is a rather simple tool, which, nevertheless, has been enhanced over the times since it was first launched. And to be fair, it does the job! Furthermore, it does not offer any limits regarding the number of questions you can ask, nor the number of responses you can get. And trust me, I think I have tested it well. The last survey I conducted has received more than 500 responses, and we are still counting!
The Drawbacks? it does not do any of the statistics for you
Correction: As Emma pointed out it actually does some stats. Please check comment box.
Another tool that I like a lot is Survey Monkey. It’s easy to use. It has a clean look and generally does not offer problems. It does some basic quantitative analysis for you too.
The drawback is that the free version only allows 10 questions and up to 100 responses per survey. If you need more than this, you will have to get a pro account.
So those were the two solutions I came up with at the top of my head when asked about online surveys. But then, I thought I would ask who knows better, i.e., my Personal Learning Network (PLN). Nothing like getting the views of a diverse lot. I received loads of feedback through various channels ( from twitter to facebook, I got a lot of responses with useful information).
Many tools have been suggested. Some of them offer free trials, which is always useful:
An Open Source survey tool – LimeSurvey – was also suggested, but that would imply to have your own server and the knowledge to install the software. That might just not be the ideal solution for now.
OK, so now what to do with so many suggestions? Sometimes, too much to choose from can be a bit overwhelming!! Nevertheless, it is good to know what’s available.
So here is my personal opinion:
If what you are trying to do is something quite simple, I would definitely give google docs a chance. It is a fairly stable tool. It’s also very easy to use. And you don’t have to worry about the number of respondents your survey might attack.
If you want something more supported, then I would say you try SurveyMonkey or QuestionPro, depending on the level of automated data analysis you are looking for.
All the other tools might also be worth a try. I just chose to provide my views on the ones I know better.
Regardless of the one you choose, always test it before setting up the ‘real’ survey or purchase a pro account. Then you can see what suits you and your audience better.
You may be wondering what were the most popular suggestions provided by my PLN…?
You’re right: google docs and survey monkey were the most suggested! 🙂
I would like to thank everyone who provided input on my question regarding survey tools:
If you have some experiences with these or any other tools, please share them here!