Selecting Survey Software
No one survey software package is the perfect choice for all people to do all surveys. People who just want to get answers to a few simple questions might be well served by free or cheap online tools – if everyone they wish to survey is online. Examples might include a club interested in the opinions of their members or a newspaper conducting a nonscientific poll for entertainment purposes.
On the other hand, research professionals usually need powerful survey software tools that can handle the kinds of sophisticated logic that can lead to better-quality data and that can create professional reports. The first question professionals should ask is how they will need to collect their data. If they will only be collecting data from people who are online, they have a wide variety of online tools from which to select. These can have monthly, annual or per-survey fees.
Even if you are only surveying people who are online, you need to consider the kinds of questions you will be asking. For example, if you will be getting reactions to pictures or video, you must make sure a tool would let you present pictures or video. If you would like to show sliders, you must pick a tool that can show sliders. If you want to be able to ask people to rank items by dragging them or to click on a heat map, you must make sure a tool supports that kind of data collection.
If you want to be able to reach people via telephone, mail and/or in person, a web-only tool would not meet your needs. Even if you only want to reach people in these ways only occasionally, you would find a program that can handle all these kinds of data collection would save you time. Using different tools for different kinds of data collection would waste time in learning how to use each one of them.
Using a survey program that can produce the kinds of reports you need would save you a great deal of time, compared to using one program for data collection and another to produce reports. Even if two separate tools both have all the abilities you need, moving labels, data and other instructions between them would waste time on every study.
Most survey tools can tell you how many people picked each answer to a multiple choice question, but many leave it at that. Some offer simple crosstabs, for example telling you how men and women answered your questions. These are often all the typical nonprofessional needs. If you need significance testing, the ability to code text answers and/or the ability to create banners (multiple crosstabs side-by-side by side), make sure the tool you pick has these features.