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HOW TO

Understanding Survey Software Features
By: Developer Shed
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    2004-06-25

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    Understanding Survey Software Features
    by Web Based Survey Software

    If you take a look at the features that different survey softwaresoffer, you will quickly realize that understanding all of them is nomean task. But it is very important that you do because only then youcan choose the right survey software. It is important for one otherreason, it determines your price. More features invariably means moredollars. So if you don't choose the right survey software, you mightend up paying more for features you don't need.

    While it is impossible and not even worthwhile to look at all the features, here is a look atsome of the important ones. Chances are that these are the ones willmakeor break your decision. The features have been divided into 6categoriesbased on their function in the process of conducting an online survey.

    Survey creation

    • Images, sounds, video -This allows you to insert images, sounds, and videos in yoursurveys, and can enhance the appearance of your surveys. However, useit only when necessary since it increases the time it takes to downloadand display your survey, and certainly don't overdo it.

    • Question library, responselibrary, sample surveys - These allow you to createsurveys quickly since you don't have to create them from scratch. Theyare a must if you do a lot of surveys regularly. And they don't impactthe price that much, so you might as well opt for them.

    • Skip logic - This allowsyou to skip questions depending on the answers to previous questions.Most survey softwares allow either AND or OR logic to decide whetherto skip or not, but some allow a combination of any logical conditions.It might sound like a "nice-to-have" feature rather than a "must-have",but you will be surprised how often you need to skip questions in yoursurveys.

    • Data piping - Thisallows you to use the answers to some questions in thefollowing questions. This is a very neat feature and it allows you to"personalize" your surveys. For e.g., you can say "Thanks Steve"instead of only "Thanks" if you know that the name of the respondent isSteve from a previous question. It also allows you to ask questionslike"What do you like most about Coke?" when the respondent has selectedCoke as his/her favorite drink in the previous question.

    • Advanced survey creationfeatures (spell check, auto-correct,thesaurus, import from MS Word) - These are fairlyadvanced features and not really required in most cases, especially ifyou don't do surveys regularly. You can spend the time to spell checkthe survey yourselves. However, if you do a lot of surveys, then youmightwant these features. But they will impact the price quite a lot sincethey areconsidered as "premium" features.

    • Branding (your logo andbackground color) - This allows you to place yourcompany logo and use your company website's background color for yoursurveys. This is good enough in most cases, but not if you arelooking to customize each and every aspect of the survey. It is quitean important feature since it gives your respondents the feeling thatthey are still on yourwebsite.

    • Advanced survey presentationfeatures (pre-designed editable survey templates, new templates,full-customized look) - These are fairly advanced featuresand allow you to customize almost every aspect of the survey.Survey softwares do this in a variety of ways: they have pre-designededitable templates, ability to create new templates, or createsurveys with a full-custom look. These features are also considered as"premium" features and will impact the price quite a lot.

    Survey Distribution and Tracking

    • Handheld device - Thisallows you to distribute your surveys on hendheld devices. Thismethod of distributing is not as common as the other methods likeplacinglink on website, embedding entire survey in websites, sending emailinvitation with link, or embedding entire survey in emails andnewsletters.But it is definitely becoming popular because of the convenience itoffersfor taking surveys "on the road". As of now though, it is considered asa "premium" feature and will impact the price.

    • Track respondents - Theseallow you to track your respondents after they receive your emailinvitations. The simpler ones allow you to maintain an email list andsend email invitations to all or some email addresses in the list. Themore complex ones allow you to create an "audience" from the list in avariety of ways. They also allow you to track who read your emailinvitation and clicked on what links, who took the survey and whodidn't, send reminders to the ones who didn't, etc. All these complextracking activities fall more under the realm of "campaign management"than conducting surveys though. If you need these features, you aremuch better off going for a full-blown campaign management solutionthan a survey solution with half of what you need.

    Taking Survey

    • Password protected surveys- This allows you to protect your surveys with a password. Therespondents have to know the password to be able to take the survey.

    • Save and continue later -This allows your respondents to save the survey and continue later. Itis a very good feature to have especially if your surveys are going tobelong. Some survey softwares make the respondents explicitly save a linkandbookmark it to continue later. These don't work that well compared tosomeothers that don't require the respondents to do as much.

    • Response validation -This allows you to validate the responses your respondents enter. Thesefeatures are very important since they ensure that your respondentsenter"valid" responses and increases the quality of the results. Alwaysprefersurvey softwares that have more types of response validation.

    • Respondent uniqueness control- This allows you to ensure that a respondent takes the surveyonly once. There are a few ways to do this and not all of themare "full-proof". If you want to strictly enforce respondentuniqueness,make sure that the survey software allows you to send unique URLs toevery email recipient. It is the only "full-proof" method of enforcingrespondent uniqueness.

    Response Collection

    • Email notification upon responsesubmission - This allows you to get email notificationswhen a respondent completes a survey. It is the only way to getthe responses with survey softwares that don't store them in adatabase. But it is also offered as an addon by those that do storethem in databases.

    Survey Analysis

    • Graphical reports - Thisallows you to graph the results and not all survey softwares have thisfeature. If you like to see results in neat-looking graphs, make surethat the survey software has this feature. Check out the samplereports;most companies have them on their website. Or better yet, try out theproduct and generate them yourselves!

    • Advanced analysis features(cross-tabulation, sub-set analysis,360 degree feedback, etc) - These allow you to perform advancedanalysis on the results. Cross-tabulation allows you to relate theresponses of one question to those of another. Sub-set analysis allowsyou to perform analysis on a sub-set of the responses by filtering outcertain responses. These are definitely "premium" features and willimpact the price.

    • Export data - This allowsyou to export the responses so you can do analyses in your favoritetool, like Excel or SPSS. Make sure that the survey software has thisfeature, especially if it doesn't natively support the advancedanalysesthat you want to do.

    Report Distribution

    • Save in PDF, Word, Excel,Powerpoint format - This allows you to save the report in one ofthe mentioned formats. It is a very convenient feature to have if youare going to distribute your report a lot.

    Credits

    This article has been copyrighted and has been reprinted with thepermission of WebBased Survey Software. If you want to reprint this article, pleasesend us an emailto inform us and we will grant you the permission. But please ensurethat this message appears at the end of the article and proper creditsare given to WebBased Survey Software.
    DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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