Online surveys and online questionnaires are an increasingly popular way of surveying customers, potential customers, web site visitors, clients, employees, etc. – pretty much anyone in fact. However, knowing the best way to go about conducting these isn’t always straightforward.

Besides the problems that any researcher needs to consider – such as sample size, sampling methodology (probability, non-probability, random, simple sampling, etc.), quantitative vs qualitative – there are lots of approaches that need to be considered. I may yet write an article or two about this, but the purpose of this post is to consider the online survey tools that are available.

For a while, the main one that I’ve been using is called Survey Monkey – which has a range of accounts ranging from free to premium ($16.67 per month) for unlimited surveys. However, they’re great for starting out in the surveying world, but I feel that they can lack the professionalism that is often required.

For those willing to delve into a bit of web development and are happy installing and setting up applications on servers, there’s App Nitro’s MachForm – which provides a much cleaner interface and surveying mechanism, with Ajax enabled graphics and Web 2.0 graphics. On the surface it seems much more user friendly, but perhaps lacks some of the more advanced features of Survey Monkey (especially when it comes to analysing survey results) and other surveying tools. MachForm costs $39 for a single site licence too, so whilst it is cheaper than Survey Monkey in the long run, it is worth also considering other options too.

For those willing to invest a little more time and experience a steeper learning curve, there’s the PHP based application Lime Survey. It’s an Open Source project, so is completely free (besides the hosting costs you’d be paying anyway for your web site) – and once you actually get used to the packed interface it demonstrates some excellent functionality and lots of features. I’m most impressed with its Ajax based logic based questions as it allows for a fully variable and flexible survey to be developed.

There are, obviously other surveying tools available… these are obviously just a snapshot and ones that I’ve used before so feel in a position to comment on. Generally, most CMS’s these days have modules or plugins that allow for some degree of polling to take place and some have surveying tools, but from a casual browse through these, none have the flexibility that a business user would require for any in-depth research.

Other survey software that I’ve come across but didn’t use, include:

From Free to £29.99 per month – with lots of big name customers already. The Free version is limited to just 50 responses and 10 questions per month, but can include unlimited surveys, unlimited questions and unlimited pages. Even the professional version, at £29.99 month is still limited to just 1,000 responses per month. It looks good, but the capped nature of the service makes it lose out to Survey Monkey or the other options outlined earlier in my opinion.

Free version has unlimited surveys and up to 250 responses per month. There are a range of packages with Survey Gizmo, going up to a whacking great $599 per month. This is surely overkill and much of what is available here, is available for a fixed monthly cost with Survey Monkey! However, Survey Gizmo does also include a WordPress plugin version of itself, so that might come in handy.

Alternatively, other options for surveying can depend on whether you want to carry the job out in-house, yourself – or whether you want to engage the services of someone to do it for you. B2B and B2C researchers exist who will help you carry out your research projects, for a fee – and will provide professional advice and guidance about the best way to find out the information you need.

For those wanting somewhere in between, there’ll be freelance advisers (such as me!) who will charge much smaller fees for the design, administration and running of specific surveys on your behalf. (Blatant plug now – but if you’re interested use the Contact Me form to make an enquiry.)

Finally, don’t take my word for it. There are other sites out there where others have posted their summaries of the online survey and online questionnaire tools that are available. One of the better ones I came across was this one: