Types of Survey Tools
Several different types of survey software tools are available. The one that would best meet your needs depends on the way or ways you plan to administer your surveys, how you would like to create and manage them and how you would like to analyze their results.
The most common ways to administer surveys are in person, via telephone, via mail and via Web pages. If you plan to administer surveys in more than one of these ways, you need to make sure that the survey tool you pick can handle all the methods you plan to use. Tools such as The Survey System can handle all these methods, but most survey programs only offer Web surveys. If you only need to do online surveys, then you can choose from most of the programs in the marketplace.
If you wish to conduct telephone interviews, you need a survey tool that can manage lists of telephone numbers, present them to interviewers and record the results of each call attempt. You have a much smaller number of options in this case. One factor that will help you decide between them is whether you have a telephone call center or plan to use interviewers working from home. Some telephone interviewing software supports both methods, while others support only one or the other.
If you wish to conduct in-person interviews, a major consideration is whether your interviewers will always have a live Internet connection during their interviews. If so, you can use web survey software. If not, you need a solution that can work off-line. The ideal solution for many is a tool that can work off-line and then automatically send the survey results to a Web server when it has a connection.
Other Survey Tool Considerations
Another consideration is whether you need complex logic. Most tools can handle simple branching, but if you need to base branching on the answers to multiple questions, randomize question or answer choice order, perform calculations, incorporate prior information you have about people who will take your survey, enforce quotas for different types of people or automatically send email based on survey answers, you must make sure a tool has those features.
Another consideration is how you would like to create and manage your surveys. The majority of current tools are cloud services that require a live Internet connection to use. These have the advantage of letting you work from multiple devices. Other tools are desktop applications. These have the advantages of letting you work when you do not have a live connection and of being faster and more responsive to use, for example by letting you use keyboard shortcuts.
A last consideration is how you will analyze the data. Most survey software tools only create rudimentary reports. At best these show basic crosstabs and simple charts. That can be all you need in a survey tool, if you wish to analyze the results using Excel or a general-purpose statistical package. A small number of survey programs have extensive reporting abilities, including complex tables and text analytics. These tools can save you time, because you don’t have to export and import data and reenter your labels, and because they know you are working with survey data, they can easily format your reports appropriately.