What’s in a Survey Platform?
Yesterday, we outlined your market research survey. Today, we’ll learn where to program this survey—that is, what tools and websites you’ll use to turn your survey into a real, live online instrument.
Survey platforms are online applications that enable you to program, host, and distribute your survey.
You’ve probably heard of some—SurveyMonkey, SurveyGizmo, SoGoSurvey, Typeform, Qualtrics, etc. These are popular survey platforms because they’re user-friendly and work well. But what are the differences and why do they matter? Rather than list the pros and cons of each one, here are the three most important things to look for when evaluating an online survey platform.
Survey platforms have a cost. While almost all of them offer some kind of free trial, these trials never offer the tools you need to run a useful market research survey. So, decide on your budget before choosing a platform. Basic licenses to these applications are typically billed on a month-to-month or annual basis and can run from $9 per month to $99 per month.
If you’re unsure whether you need a higher-level license to achieve your research goals (say that you have a video presentation of your product you’d like to include in your survey, but you’re unsure if a basic license allows for that), just go with the cheapest license to start. You can upgrade later.
But most importantly, don’t skimp out. Pay for the license you need. This is an investment in your product idea—one you absolutely must make before bringing a product to market.
Some platforms, like SurveyMonkey, make it easy to get started. They come with out-of-the-box templates and intuitive, highly-developed survey editors easy for almost anyone to use.
But ease of use often means sacrificing flexibility. While SurveyMonkey is great for getting started, you may decide in a few months that you’d like to try another, more advanced survey—perhaps one that requires custom code or a look-and-feel unique to your brand. Or there may be certain question types not offered on some platforms that you need to have for your particular product idea.
Review the options carefully. You’ll find that after running one successful market research survey, you’re going to want to run another. And another. And another. So, make sure the platform you choose gives you room to “grow”—to launch more complex and targeted surveys as you get closer to actually launching your product.
Any survey platform worth paying for should allow you to view your survey data in real time, without leaving the application. Typically, these features are found under the “Reporting” or “Analysis” tab. For a few reasons, you probably won’t be using these tabs to do your final analysis (we’ll discuss analysis in a later lesson). But they will help you monitor responses during fielding and for gathering general, topline data about your survey responses.
That said, make sure whatever platform you use allows you to view graphical presentations of your survey data: pie charts, word clouds, bar graphs, etc. And ideally, you’ll be able to slice and dice your results right there in the application—say, by respondents’ answers to a question about income or gender or education.
Bottom line: Don’t think it doesn’t matter which survey platform you choose. If you’re set on running one survey, you’re probably going to be running a LOT more in the future. So, choose a platform carefully. I fully endorse all the tools I listed at the beginning of this lesson.
Next, we’ll dive into how to program your survey in the platform you chose. Be sure to have your survey instrument draft handy!
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