Monday, December 22, 2008

Web-based survey software and Google docs

For a few years now, I've been using QuestionPro to create, store, and administer online surveys. I started with the free version, but upgraded to the "web professional" ($15/mo) version when our research group needed to house and administer multiple surveys. We currently have about 20 surveys posted (not all active) and they are pretty easy to work with. Downloading the data is pretty easy, though it does require a bit of cleaning before you can do anything serious with it (e.g. analysis, loading into a database, etc). 

I've also used Survey Monkey and Zoomerang in the past. Some folks in our building currently use Zoomerang. I think they're all pretty similar in that they each have a free version (usually limited to one survey and/or a limited time or number of respondents) and various levels of paid services, in which you can have the ability to house multiple surveys or use built-in analysis tools.

I recently discovered the ability to create surveys in Google Docs using forms created from spreadsheets. If you haven't checked this out, see the Google Docs help section on forms. It's very cool because it is so simple- almost elegant. You can create a form based on an existing spreadsheet, or from scratch. A variety of question formats can be added to the forms, such as multiple choice, open-response, rank-order, pick from list, etc. The form can then be embedded into a web page, sent in an email, etc. The really cool thing is that as people submit completed forms, the data is written into your associated spreadsheet in Google Docs. 

One limitation I've discovered so far is the inability to build a form with branching logic. Often in a survey, you would like for certain respondents to skip questions or get extra questions based on a previous response. If it wasn't for this limitation, I'd probably move a lot of my research surveys over to Google Docs right away. Perhaps this feature will be available in the future. Another limitation is the inability to easily label scale choices in Likert-type items (e.g. "on a scale of 1-5")- you can only label the endpoints with descriptions.

Jason Morrison has a great blog post about using spreadsheets and forms in Google docs to create a survey for your blog.

So, in keeping with the theme of this post, here's a short survey. Notice that a few of the items are required, and notice the potential need for the two things noted above as limitations: branching logic and Likert scale descriptions. Anyway, I'd appreciate you feedback so enjoy the survey. 


  1. of course anyone is familiar with surveys, and most people have completed a web survey at one time or another

  2. Google docs now supports branching logic. It was added very recently.

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