Moving surveys online for data collection and reporting
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If you type ‘survey software’ into Google, you will be presented several alternatives – for example, Qualtrics, QuestionPro, SmartSurvey, SoGoSurvey, SurveyGizmo, SurveyMonkey, SurveyPlanet and SurveySparrow. If you type in ‘free survey software’, you will probably find the same list of products. However, finding the price of a survey software platform can be a lot more complex than you might think. This blog article investigates the pricing of 8 products as at the date of this blog post. This review covers these first eight searches in Google that came up for me.
Before starting, I would like to admit that I have a vested interest in this information myself as we are resellers of Snap Surveys. I would call Snap, a professional tool for online surveys and online analysis. I will cover this more towards the end of the article.
Most products will offer a limited free version. However, unless you are wishing to conduct a survey on behalf of your club, amongst your friends or you only run one or two small surveys each year, these free offerings are likely to be wholly inadequate for commercial purposes.
Some software suppliers will detail their features in good detail; others will leave this information in vague terms. Most suppliers have three or four price bands which start with a free limited version up to a basic version (which may not be called ‘basic’) and up to a more advanced version which has all the features that are on offer.
The free versions almost always have severe limitations. These limitations are mostly the number of questions that can be asked and often the number of respondents that can answer your survey. Unless you are conducting a small, one-off survey, they offer little more than the chance to get a feel for what the software is like. I did notice that Qualtrics spelt out that the fact that they did not recommend the free version for commercial use – that ticks a box for me.
Now it gets harder. Knowing exactly what features are included in a base version and the full version is hard to ascertain. As a general, if somewhat vague, guideline, I would consider the base version as one that is good enough to handle some surveys, but possibly lacking when it comes to being able to handle most surveys, particularly for an agency carrying out research.
The full version comparison is yet again complex to explain. What one package offers as a feature in the full package may be inferior to what another offers in the base package. The sorts of things that tend to be lacking in the free and base versions are anything more than basic routing, randomisation of questions and answers, analysis features and the ability to output data as you want it. However, you will need to explore whether the features you need are present, but I can offer more help on that after the 8 product reviews.
Some packages offer only one user, some offer 3 or 4 users. You would have to inquire further to find out if these are concurrent users or individuals. Having a one user licence is, in my view, quite dangerous and sharing a login may break the conditions of your licence.
So, let’s get started with the overviews of pricing packages. In order to show no preference, I’ve covered each in alphabetical order.
There is a free cut-down version of Qualtrics and they rightly advise that it should only be used for evaluation purposes. That's all good advice, but at that point, I found it hard to see what features the program had and the pricing points. I have no doubt the Qualtrics software is full of good features, but the website is very corporate and packed with information that either hides or does not reveal details. Maybe, if you do a lot of reading on the website, you will get enough information to decide whether it might be right for you.
QuestionPro's website is much easier to explore. It tells you about the software from the moment you arrive. There is a free version for surveys of up to 10 questions and up to 100 respondents, which would be enough for evaluation except that you cannot use most of the features, it would appear. Its basic version only costs USD180 per year for one user, but it is severely restricted in terms of features you are likely to need. However, the full version is USD899 per year for one user. This seems like a decent price. If it does what you want, it looks good value.
SmartSurvey has four price points. The free version allows up to 15 questions per survey and up to 100 respondents per month. Again, this would be enough to evaluate but most features are not available. The first price point (called Pro) seems to have too many features removed to be good enough for most users, but at GBP270 (about USD350) per year for one user and up to 1500 responses per month, it is a good starting point for trying as a live test. To get most of the full features, you probably need to go the next price point at GBP540 (about USD700) per year for 2 users and unlimited respondents. Annoyingly, for the full version and more users, you need to ask as the cost will be, to use their words, Tailored for You. The pricing looks reasonable. There seems to be a good range of features and the Pro package, lets you explore inexpensively.
I had little success here. Maybe, it's the website. The website menu looks promising when you can choose between Products, Solutions and Services, but pricing seems to be a secret unless I couldn't find it. And, as for finding the features, I found little detail. I briefly had hope when I found the Take a Tour button, but my disappointment shot up when I was immediately asked to Request a Demo followed more sales stuff. Maybe, it's great software at a great price, but you will have to find out for yourself.
Like some of the other products, SurveyGizmo has a free trial. It is very limited in terms of features and allows three surveys of up to 100 respondents. With four price points, the next level up is USD300 per year for each user. It has a decent number of the features enabled in this version and probably enough for evaluation. The next price point gives you a lot more but not everything and is set at USD1020 per year. I couldn't help thinking that their own sticker of Best Value on the USD300 price point was fair and that Most Popular sticker on the top price point of USD1800 per year should really read Recommended. The top price point appears to be full of features, although I did find the checklist of features excessively long. Still, that's better than the other extreme.
SurveyMonkey has succeeded in becoming an obvious survey tool for non-specialists. To use commercially, it looks to have a good set of features which are easy to follow. It does have a free version which is limited to 10 questions, but it doesn't display this information with great visibility on its pricing page. Its Standard version uses an old marketing ploy of being dearer than the more fully featured Advantage version. The Advantage version is priced at GBP384 (about USD500) per user per year. The Premier version which you probably need jumps up to GBP1188 (about USD1500) per user per year. The Advantage version certainly looks good enough for evaluation. Pricing for three users is roughly 2.3 times the single user price, a fairly meagre discount of about 25%. If you want more than three users, you need an Enterprise licence and prices are on request. You get even more features with the Enterprise licence, some of which you may need.
I had difficulties with the offering from SurveyPlanet. The features are expressed in vague terms. It was not easy to discern what each pricing level offered. The free version had a list of these vague features, although I was impressed that you can have unlimited free surveys with unlimited respondents. The first price point comes in at USD180 per user per year. This is very cheap and if all the features are very good it offers magnificent value. Somehow, I suspect it is lacking for people wishing to do anything but basic surveys. I looked at the Examples page and still felt that I knew little or nothing about this offering. Maybe, it is better than it looks.
I thought at first that SurveySparrow did not have a free version, but hidden at the bottom of the pricing page, I discovered that I could run up to 3 surveys with 10 questions collecting up to 100 respondents per month. It's not clear what features are restricted though, probably most. There are five price points. You probably need the third level to get enough features for even a basic survey. This is priced at USD588 per year which is a reasonable price, particularly for evaluation. The next level up is their Enterprise version which allows 5 users to use the software for USD2388 per year. There is a superior Elite version which is by quotation but it has few extra features over and above the Enterprise version. Finding the details of what features are included at any price point is the concern here. It really is hard to judge if it is suitable for commercial use or not.
So, where does this leave us as vendors of Snap? I have tried to be objective in appraising these other software packages they are, in some ways, competitors, but, in other ways, they are not. I noticed some significant differences between the above 8 products and Snap. In summary, here are my observations:
** CAPI = Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing - an interviewer using a tablet or other devices conducts an interview face to face with someone – e.g. at their home, in the street, at an exhibition
I recently encountered a post on LinkedIn when someone asked ‘how do I choose the right tabulation software?’ My reply was not to say that ‘our software is best’, but to reply – look at three things - whether it feels right, whether it will make you or your company productive and whether it is priced right. Snap may not be for you, but it might feel right, make you more productive than some other products (which may be cheaper or dearer) and, I think, is priced about right. But, you tell us what you think.