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A review of free online survey tools

February 14, 2017

 

 

Folks who have worked with me know that I get pretty passionate about how much I dislike the free version of SurveyMonkey. Lots of organizations use it – because it’s free. But it has major drawbacks. The most important is that you can not export your data. So, after you carefully craft your survey and get a lot of wonderful responses, they’ll be trapped in SurveyMonkey’s system. You can’t export to Excel or any analysis software and you can’t rebuild the charts in a tool like Excel to make them match the look of your materials or increase the readability of the charts. 


In addition, skip logic is not available in the free version. So if you want to ask people follow-up questions based on their answer to an earlier question, you can’t do that. Every respondent will have to go through all the questions in the same order. 
By default, SurveyMonkey does not allow an individual to respond to a survey more than once. That’s usually OK, but the way it works is by recognizing the computer from which they have accessed the survey. If you survey will be completed by several people sharing a computer (for example multiple students in a computer lab), you’ll need to turn that setting off. It’s do-able, but a little hard to remember.


Finally, it’s extremely limited in the number of questions you can include in your survey and the number of respondents you can have. 


In short, I don’t recommend SurveyMonkey. So what’s better?


First, Google Forms. Google Forms allows unlimited questions and unlimited responses. The system allows for skip logic. You’ll need to separate your survey into sections, and then the response to any question can direct the respondent to any section. I found a great tutorial on how to do this, plus an innovative use for Google Forms here.


You can distribute your survey by email or generate a link that you can distribute via social media or your webpage. You have the option of limiting people to one response, but by default, that feature is turned off.


Google Forms does present some simple graphs based on your survey responses. But you can easily export your data for analysis. Responses go directly into a google sheet. You can review them there, or export into a .csv and from there, into any analysis package you like. 


Your Google Forms are visible in Google Drive, making them easy to keep track of and share, and especially convenient if your organization is already using Google Docs.


Second, eSurv. This super, free tool allows you to create surveys with unlimited responses and unlimited questions. The design is a little more elaborate because it provides extensive options – multiple response types including rating scales and multiple response matrices, skip logic, and the ability to export your data.


You can customize most elements of your survey’s appearance, including adding your logo, changing background colors and changing fonts. You can also apply an existing theme from their library. 


One thing that is missing from all these free tools is the ability to present your questions in multiple languages. If your survey needs to be distributed in more than one language, you will have to create it multiple times and then combine the responses manually.


In future blog posts, I’ll address such questions as: When is a survey the right thing to do? an Who do I send my survey to?


 
 

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