Three Popular Online Survey Tools – What They Give For Free

Summary: Many online survey tools offer free trials and even free versions of the tools with limited capabilities. Here is a comparison of the free versions offered by Alchemer (formerly SurveyGizmo), SurveyGizmo, and QuestionPro.

10 minutes to read. By author Michaela Mora on September 14, 2013
Topics: Market Research, Online Survey Tools, Survey Design

Free Online Survey Tools

Customers are still looking for free online survey tools. Since I published this post in March 2010, a lot has changed in the world of online survey tools, so it is time to do a comprehensive update. The main change making the prior post obsolete is that Zoomerang, one of the tools in the initial comparison, ceased to exist after being purchased by SurveyMonkey last year (2012).

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, clients are still looking for free survey online tools or very cheap solutions to get the job done. When I ask what tools are being used, the most common answers I get are SurveyMonkey, Alchemer (formerly SurveyGizmo), or Qualtrics.

 I started using SurveyMonkey almost 10 years ago when I worked on the client-side and had no budget. Eventually, I had to look for an online survey tool with fewer limitations. For a while, I used 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 few years later I stumbled upon Alchemer (formerly SurveyGizmo), which really surprised me with a long list of features I wanted in an online survey tool at a very low cost. At about the same time, I also tested QuestionPro, but found I could get similar capabilities with Alchemer (formerly SurveyGizmo) at a lower price. Since QuestionPro still offers a free version of the tool I decided to include it in this review in lieu of Zoomerang.

 The reason why Qualtrics is not included in this post is that its free version is actually a trial version. You have access to all the features in the tool, but once you use up your allowed number of responses (250) you are forced to upgrade to the paid version. I have had the chance to use Qualtrics on behalf of several clients, and I think it is a terrific tool. It has tons of features, but also a steep price. For more on Qualtrics check the post “Review Of Three Powerful Online Survey Tools

 There are many online survey tools that offer a free limited version so you can test the tool and have a feel for it. However, not all free versions are equal. Since I still get asked what online survey tools can be used for free, I decided to share this review of three online survey tools that seem to be popular on a set of features that would allow me to create from simple to slightly more advanced surveys.

General Overview Alchemer formerly SurveyGizmo SurveyMonkey QuestionPro
Number of surveys 3 Unlimited Unlimited
Number of questions Up to 25/page, 5 pages 10 12
Number of responses 100/survey 100/survey 100/survey
Multi-page surveys
Account users 1 1 1
Question types 8 15 15
Graphic survey templates 22 15 18
Real-time reporting
Data exporting    
Never delete data
Supports all languages
Price Free Free Free
Question Types Alchemer formerly SurveyGizmo SurveyMonkey QuestionPro
Textbox – Short text
Textbox – Numeric Format Validation
Textbox – Email Format Validation  
Essay – Long text
Multiple text fields
Table of text fields  
Table of checkboxes
Radio button
Table of radio buttons
Drop-down menu
Tables of dropdown menus  
Ranking – Table format  
Ranking – Drag & Drop  
Ranking – Top X# of items    
Ranking – Stars    
Constant sum
Continuous sum    
Contact information form
Date format
Survey Formatting Alchemer formerly SurveyGizmo SurveyMonkey QuestionPro
Customizable font family  
Customizable font size  
Customizable font color    
Customizable background colors    
Add/Edit Options in Bulk
Add an open textbox so users can add to their own choice
Change orientation of labels and options
Change position of labels    
Editable Next, Submit, and Close buttons text
Optional question numbering
Fully Customizable XHTML/CSS templates    
Auto-format as currency, percentage, or a whole number
Editable general error message    
Change length, height, and width of textbox or table
Editable survey width  
Editable survey after deployment
Report Creation Options Alchemer formerly SurveyGizmo SurveyMonkey QuestionPro
Real-time online report
Graphing – Use a bar graph, pie chart or spreadsheet to view answers
Export Data to Excel, CSV    
Browse All Responses Individually
Can change titles and internal report values
Clear all responses
Survey Deployment Alchemer formerly SurveyGizmo SurveyMonkey QuestionPro
Send email using survey tool  
JavaScript option embed surveys using JavaScript
Embed surveys using an iFrame
Embed surveys into a Webpage
Kiosk Mode
Offline Mode
Post to Social Network (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin)
Password protection  
Set a cutoff date and time  
Set maximum response count  
Enable IP blocking    
Redirect browser  
Link to panel providers
Linked to own panel
Incentive Management tool    
Other Survey Options Alchemer formerly SurveyGizmo SurveyMonkey QuestionPro
Make questions required
Randomize the answers to your question
Randomize columns    
Reorder Questions
Set how many checkboxes someone can check
Pipe in values from answered questions into later questions’ answers
Upload images  
Embed external images and media  
Min and Max options for numerical answers
Prevent search engines from indexing survey
Thank You page    
Add a “Close” button to Thank You page    
Back Button Optional
Progress Bar Optional
Add custom variables to each link
Create hidden variables    
Compliance with Section 508 guidelines of the Rehabilitation Act
Export survey to PDF  
Export survey to Word  
Polls Alchemer formerly SurveyGizmo SurveyMonkey QuestionPro
Poll Types Single choice, Image choice, Ranking   Single choice, Multiple choice, Text Box
Poll result sharing
Vote protection  
Poll Widget sizing  
3rd Party Integration Alchemer formerly SurveyGizmo SurveyMonkey QuestionPro
Open API access
Via ClickTools
MailChimp integration    
Affiliate program  
Support Alchemer formerly SurveyGizmo SurveyMonkey QuestionPro
Support via email
Support – FAQ, Tutorials
Support – Chat    

You can see SurveyGizmo and QuestionPro have many more useful features in their free versions than Alchemer (formerly SurveyGizmo), although a few are missing. Survey deployment capabilities continue to be a weak area for the free version of Alchemer (formerly SurveyGizmo), where SurveyMonkey and QuestionPro do 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.  

Although Alchemer (formerly SurveyGizmo) and QuestionPro have similar capabilities in basic functions, the latter doesn’t let you download the data without upgrading to a paid subscription, which in my opinion is a big deal breaker since you don’t have access to the raw data to do any analyses you may need. SurveyMonkey has the same limitation.

 As a professional market researcher I usually need very robust tools, so free online survey tools often fall short of 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 spend a dime, I recommend you give Alchemer (formerly SurveyGizmo) a try. If you have some change to spare, I recommend you use one of SurveyGizmo’s paid subscription plans, which don’t require a long-term contract obligation and have many more features at a reasonable price.