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Like many other product fields, the amount you spend on something can depend on what you want and, of course, your budget. However, you don't need to spend as much as you may think and may need the most expensive software products for online research software.
For those new to online data collection, it’s not such an easy question to answer. However, here’s some tips to help you decide.
Most online survey platforms will allow you to collect traditional research questions – for example, questions with responses where one or multiple responses may be chosen, numbers, rating scales etc. Most software products will also allow some level of filtering and routing, so that you can choose which people answer a question.
However, you may want to show videos, pictures or play some sound to respondents. The lower level products may not include these features whereas the higher level products will. Further, you might want to make use of mobile technology and ask respondents to take pictures or videos and upload them.
Then, you come to the important issue of how interesting the survey needs to be. Online respondents are impatient people and can quit your survey at any time. Broadly speaking, the longer the surveys you plan to run, the more tools you will need to make the survey engaging. It has been proved that people are willing to spend more time completing a survey when it is interesting. So, the longer the survey, the more features you will need and the more high end the software you will need.
My view on software is that you want just enough power to do what you want to do. If it’s something complex that comes up once a year, it’s usually better to hire a specialist who will know what to do.
Therefore, the question that you should ask yourself is ‘how prestigious is the survey?’ If it’s going to pop up on a client’s website, it needs to look good and be styled to fit in with their website. If it is just a regular survey for a panellist, the questionnaire needs to be good enough – that means interesting enough, clear enough, attractive enough etc.
Maybe, midrange software is all you need.
Some products will automatically render questionnaires so that they look good on any device – a PC, tablet or smartphone. Others will only be good on one or two of these devices or need a lot of extra work to prepare them for each device type.
Again, cheaper products may do not more than basic design work for each device or, alternatively, have no or limited capability to make your survey look good. And, if the respondent can’t complete it easily, they will probably give up.
Most online surveys are completed online – that sounds obvious. Sometimes though you may want respondents to take videos or pictures offline – or you may want interviewers to collect data in areas where an internet connection may not be present or may be unreliable.
Some of the high end products do not work offline – or, if they do, are not geared up for this. If this is important, you need to find a product that works in this way.
There are many tools that you may need over and above the survey design and implementation tools. Such things as managing mailouts, quotas, giving topline data, making the webpage look like your own URL, styling, linking to online panels etc. will be covered well by the top end products but are less likely to be covered by low end products.
So, where does this leave the person responsible for deciding what to buy? Our advice is buy ‘just enough and a little bit more’ but don’t go top of the range unless you need top of the range. There are free products like SurveyMonkey which may do all that you want. There are mid-range products that are competitively priced such as the products we sell – Snap and Survelytics. These will do most things that you will ever want – Snap for web surveys and Survelytics for mobile surveys that need to be online or offline. At the high end, there are products like Confirmit which will need scripting specialists who can program the software to produce and manage the questionnaires you need.
Our advice would be to buy enough for now and not to commit to any long term deals which might be more than you need in the longer term or, conversely, inadequate for your future needs. Similarly, find out what level of user is needed to drive the software. And, always ask to do a test survey of 5-10 typical, slightly tricky questions that you would need for a live survey.