Have you ever wondered how well your annual conference is perceived by attendees? Are you looking to evaluate a new product? How about collect data from clients about the new service you are offering? Online Surveys can be a huge help in understanding what your users think, what their wants are, and how successful your programs, products, or services are.
Conducting online surveys is a big part of collecting honest feedback. Online survey software solutions can be a cost-effective way to design and administer surveys, and collect and analyze results through one central software program. While an online survey software solution is not going to be the right fit for every research need, online surveys are a great tool to gather informal data quickly and efficiently. A paper survey, however, is likely to get a much-higher response rate at an in-person event, and provide more accurate data among populations that are not as comfortable with computer technology, or have limited or no access to computers.
There are a number of available online survey software solutions. What can these sophisticated programs do? Any good online survey software tool will allow you to easily create your survey questions and format the design using an online or desktop interface. From there, you can send respondents a link to complete the online survey. More sophisticated online survey software programs, however, have more advanced functionality that can be very handy when you’re planning a more complex series of survey questions. In this case, the following features may be useful:
Flexible survey design capabilities. An online survey that has prominent branding for a survey software tool rather than your own organization can be objectionable to respondents and may drive them away from completing the survey, decreasing your response rate. Using an online survey software solution that enables you to update the design in terms of colors, font, font sizing, columns, headers, graphics, and multi-media files can help you match your online survey to your organizational branding. Some advanced survey software solutions offer templates to help get you started. Additionally, the survey software solution should offer a good selection of question types including: single-response, multiple response, grid, time, date, free text (open-ended), and slider controls, as well as offer multi-language capabilities.
Multi-mode survey design capabilities. Advanced survey software solutions output the same survey in different formats, i.e. paper, online, mobile (including smartphones, iPad, iPhone, Andriod), kiosk, and telephone. The structure of the survey remains the same for each mode, but the appearance and the published output will be different for each mode. For example, kiosk surveys will require larger buttons and online surveys may contain routing instructions invisible to the respondent.
Routing or Skip logic. If you plan to design more complex online surveys, it’s often useful to let respondents skip a question or a whole section of questions that don’t apply to them. Routing allows respondents to ‘skip’ to the parts of a questionnaire directly relevant to them based on their answers, giving them a more friendly and engaging survey experience. Example: If a respondent answers “no” to question 5, the routing will skip the respondent to the next most relevant question, question 10.
Piping or Text Substitution. Piping or text substitution allows you to pull answers from one part of a survey into another. Piping reflects answers given by the respondent and changes the questions that follow depending on the context. For example, the answer to one question can be fed into the text of a subsequent question. Piping allows you to tailor questionnaires more closely to your respondent and provide a better overall survey experience. It is also useful for CATI, CAPI, and on-screen survey interviewing.
Which of the following countries you said you visited in the last 2 years was your favorite? Please choose one.
Are you likely to visit England again on vacation within the next 12 months?
- Don’t know
Randomization and rotation of questions. The order of a set of questions, or the set of answer options to a question, can often affect how respondents answer. The capability to automatically randomize the order of online survey questions or answer options will help avoid this issue.
Data collection and response management. Advanced online survey software solutions provide a greater platform for data collection and response management, including: applying quotas to control the number of respondents completing the questionnaire; use patterns to validate open responses; auto schedule email invitations and reminders; allow respondents to log-in to a survey; save partial response data; collect paradata (time, duration, etc.); track multiple iterations of a survey (for multi-mode or multi-language survey versions); and more.
Data analysis. One of the primary differentiators between low-cost and more high-priced online survey software solutions is their ability to analyze survey data and interpret results. Low-cost solutions provide simple reports summarizing the answers to each question, and in some cases, allow you to download reports into Excel or another software program for further data analysis. Advanced online survey software allow greater capabilities to conduct data analysis within the complete system, including cross-tabulation to see the data relationships between different sets of questions; customizable table and chart layout; filtering, weighting, and scoring; complex statistical analysis, including multivariate statistical methods such as Factor and Cluster Analysis.
While it’s easy to throw together a set of questions, designing a survey that will capture the data you need in a precise way is complicated. There is no online survey software solution on the market that can do the survey design work for you. To design a survey to ensure you collect effective, high quality data, you’ll likely benefit from consulting with an expert who has experience with survey design. Many online survey software providers have in-houses experts available to help you with your survey design needs.