Survey Tools

By Jan.26, 2010

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:

  • Zomerang has an advanced feature. It offers mobile surveys, in case you have a very special, smart-phone type of audience you need to survey 😉

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.

Here is also a review on survey tools that Cosimo suggested. Irmeli also shared her bookmarks with us. Thank you both! 😉

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:

@ashleyhealy ; @gippopippo ; @karynromeis ; @Emmadw ; @hasan_tinmaz ; @tudo2ponto0 ; @ConnectIrmeli ; @johnmclear ; @beyza ; @angelarees and  Antonio Fini, and also some companies that got in touch.

Tips on how to use google forms and Survey Monkey

If you have some experiences with these or any other tools, please share them here!


10 thoughts on “Survey Tools

  1. 10 years ago  

    @Terry indeed that is a great point! I learned that the hardest way… in fact with this mega survey, and now have to re-order columns every time I update my collection of data.
    Thanks for pointing that out 😉

  2. Terry Wassall

    10 years ago  

    Another issue with Google forms is that if you do a couple of dummy submits to test the form or you want to delete any rows from the spreadsheet for other reasons, the deleted rows are not reflected in changes in the stats provided. This is a criticism that has been around from the start and a number of complicate work arounds have been offered but no satisfactory. Google recognise it as a known issue but I don’t think it has been fixd yet

  3. 10 years ago  

    @Emma – true. Only used it once and had totally forgotten about it. Just went back to it to check it.
    Yeap – in form >> edit form>> see responses .. summary. Am I right? Or are there any other hidden commands! 🙂

    @mark – looks like Survey Moneky is a winner 😉

  4. 10 years ago  

    Always used pro version of Survey Monkey – not been let down yet

  5. Emma

    10 years ago  

    … err, Google Docs does do quite a lot of stats for you … they just hide it rather well!

  6. 10 years ago  

    @Carlos thanks for this. Yes, survs [ ] is good too. I talked to them once. They seem to provide good support. 😉

    @Wolle: some do, but not all, as pointed out in my post. I take your point, but having toinstall software is a skills not everyone has or needs to have. 😉

    @Peter: have you tried the mobile version. am interested in learning more how it works…

  7. 10 years ago  

    Thanks for your post Cris.

    I’m totally happy with my self-hosted Limesurvey. Mainly because of the SPSS export it offers. Do the others offer such a functionality (or at least sophisticated analysis possibilities) as well?

  8. Peter

    10 years ago  

    I love Zoomerang actually – they have an easy to use site, it’s free and they give you alot of cool features. And, I trust them more as they were the first to come out with Surveys.

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