Three Popular Online Survey Tools – What They Give For Free
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Almost every day I find out about a new survey tool. As we all know, the advent of online survey tools has lowered the cost of data collection and made it easier for many internal market research departments on the client side to deploy their own online surveys.
Reduced or non-existent market research budgets continue to be the norm, and since the first publication of this post (3/30/2010) clients are still looking for free survey online tools or very cheap solutions to get the job done. When I ask what tools they use, the most common answer is still SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang.
I used SurveyMonkey a while back when I was on the client side with no budget, but it had so many limitations, when I wanted to do more advanced surveys, that I had to search for another tool. I tried Zoomerang, but I found it to be expensive given the limited features it offered. Besides, I found the interface wasn't very intuitive. At another company, where I led the research team, the budget allowed me to use VantagePoint, which I then abandoned for Confirmit. The latter is a very advanced tool, but also quite expensive. So my quest continued and then a couple of years ago I stumbled upon SurveyGizmo, which really surprised me with a long list of features I wanted in an online survey tool at a very low cost.
Lately, I have had the chance to use Qualtrics, on behalf of several clients. As I have said below in response to some comments, Qualtrics is a terrific tool. It has tons of features, but it can only be used for free for one project. After that, you need to buy the license, which starts at a higher price point than SurveyGizmo’s equivalent option, the Enterprise edition.
There are many online survey tools that offer a free limited version so people can test the tool and have a feel for it. However, not all free versions are equal. Some give you more than others and you get the chance to really experience how useful the tool can be. This is the case of SurveyGizmo vs. SurveyMonkey. Even at the lowest subscription plan ($19/mo), SurveyGizmo offers many more features than SurveyMonkey.
Since people still ask me what online survey tools they can use for free, I decided to share the free online tool review I made of the three online survey tools that seem to be most popular, on a set of features that would allow me to create from simple to slightly more advanced surveys. By popular demand, I have reviewed the first comparison I did, published on 3/30/2010, and found a few changes and improvements, but nothing substantial.
Last update 6/28/2011
There are many other tools that offer a free version, but I found them ever more limited that those shown here. As you can see SurveyGizmo has many more useful features in its free version, although a few are missing. Survey deployment capabilities continue to be a weak area for Survey Gizmo, where SurveyMonkey does better. For example, in SurveyGizmo's free version I miss the ability to send survey invitations within the tool (you can do it with a paid subscription), but that can be fixed using MailChimp or any other email distribution system. If you use an external system, be aware that in order to send reminders, you have to download the data to check who answered the survey and then extract those from the reminder list. It is a bit of work, but doable. Neither SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang let you download the data without upgrading to a paid subscription.
In this updated comparison, I added Polls, which both SurveyGizmo and Zoomerang offer as a separate survey type, given some specific features they have (voting, sharing, one-question). I find both pretty comparable.
As a professional market researcher I usually need very robust tools, so free online survey tools usually fall short on providing features needed to develop complex surveys. Notice that none of these 3 free versions offer skip logic, but if you only need to deploy linear surveys without having to skip questions or reroute respondents, and don't want or can't spent a dime, I recommend you give SurveyGizmo a try. If you have some change to spare, I recommend you use one of SurveyGizmo paid subscription plans, which don't require a long term contract obligation and have many more features at a very low price.