SurveyGizmo is among the most easy to use, best priced, feature packed internet survey software packages I have seen. And I’ve seen a number of them. I highly recommend it. And if you’re conducting fewer than 250 responses a month, it is absolutely free and includes just about everything you need. And it’s easy…very Web 2.0ish.
Let’s start at the beginning: the survey design interface. Beginning a new survey is as easy as selecting “Create Survey” from the main screen. You can either start with a blank survey, use one of the nine templates that are available (not a very big selection actually…and they’re pretty simple too), or you can copy one of your existing surveys (SurveyGizmo allows you to create an unlimited number of surveys, even if you’re using the free account).
SurveyGizmo’s survey development environment is clean, easy to navigate, and doesn’t require any training or instruction. For example, consider the blank questionnaire I’ve started above — the page even includes a green arrow telling me exactly what I need to click in order to add my first question. The entire interface is like that.
SurveyGizmo has a number of question types — and as far as I can tell new ones are regularly added. It of course includes all of the traditional questions such as single choice radio buttons, multi-choice checkboxes, drop down menus, text boxes and essays,but it also includes some really fancy question types that I’ve never seen anywhere else. For example, SurveyGizmo offers a star ranking table question (see below) that makes it easy and fun for respondents to rate items. It offers image-based single selection question (and makes them easy to implement). It allows for tables/matrixes of radio buttons, drop down menus and checkboxes and also supports a fairly friendly continuous sum and ranking question. SurveyGizmo also supports custom matrixes (table questions that allow for multiple question types in each row) and custom question “groups”, as well as file uploads — but these three features are only available to paying customers.
SurveyGizmo gives you a number of “advanced” option for each question type without making the process intimidating — thereby ensuring that you’ll have an easy time creating your survey but still have the ability to make it do exactly what you want. For example, I created a simple single-selection radio button question with three options. After I finished entering the basic question, I could then easily change the type of answers (checkbox, radio button or dropdown menus); change the orientation of the answers; set a default value; change the number of columns; randomize the options; indicate whether I wanted the question randomized on the page; hide the question based on criteria; number or not number the question; etc. I could also add a custom CSS class name. That’s a lot of options!
For text questions, validation is available to ensure that the responses fits a certain criteria. It is extremely flexible, and is based on regular expressions (or you can choose an option from the drop down list). It is very easy at any point to mark a question as required or not required. If you indicate that a question is a date, it will pull up a calendar when the respondent clicks on it — if you indicate that the field is an e-mail address, the system will do validate that the e-mail address is valid — not just by checking the format, but by contacting the respondent’s e-mail server to make sure it exists. Numeric fields can be automatically formatted as percentages, currency, or whole numbers (it won’t let the respondent enter decimals).
SurveyGizmo’s development environment is entirely AJAX based, which means that when you click a button or make a change you don’t have to wait for a postback — the change takes place immediately. Not a lot of survey packages offer this and it will greatly speed up your survey programming. Surveys can be previewed at any time.
It is very easy to add images or multimedia to your survey — however, only paid accounts are allowed to upload media for storage on the server, so if you’re using the free account you’re going to have to store your images on an account on a different system. Hard to complain though since it’s free…
SurveyGizmo allows branching, skipping and piping. Skipping can either be managed through a simple drop down box (show this question when some other question equals some value) or using advanced rules which have to be manually entered. Piping can be used to add responses to other questions to either the question text or the response area.
In addition to questions, SurveyGizmo allows for “Actions” to be inserted between questions. Some of these actions are about as advanced as any I’ve ever seen in a survey software package and allow you to do random branching, send mobile messages, allow for subscribers to log in, retrieve web content and send e-mails. Most of the actions are available only in the “Pro” version and the “Enterprise” version, but I think it is fair to say that many of the features available in SurveyGizmo aren’t even available in many of the paid packages I’ve tried.
SurveyGizmo allows you to choose from around 20 different “themes” which let you control the color scheme and the general look and feel of your survey. You can have your questions appear in whatever font you choose, and you can add your logo to the top — even for the free surveys. If that’s not enough customization for you, SurveyGizmo gives you direct access to the survey page’s underlying HTML template and the CSS file used to control how your page looks. Most survey packages make it difficult to get this level of control…
If you sign up for an account, you also get access to response quotas, auto-close on date, vote protection (de-duping), forward-only surveys, URL variable patterns, and IP-based geotracking. With the Enterprise version you can also eliminate the “powered by” icon that appears on the page.
Launching your survey is very easy and the system lets you go back and edit it at any time. Every survey has it’s own custom URL, and you have the option of creating your own custom survey URL as well. Surveys can easily be embedded into your web site and all of the code is provided for you. Special code is provided so that you can embed the entire first page of your survey into a MySpace page, an e-mail blast, or just into a page on your web site.
SurveyGizmo will send out survey invitations for Personal, Por and Enterpise accounts (not for free accounts). Upload a list, and the software makes it fairly easy to track who has taken your survey. You can also send out followup invitations.
Data can be exported in either text format or as a CSV file (no SPSS option except in the Enterprise version). One neat feature is that all data is saved on their server until you delete it (not automatically deleted after a certain period). SurveyGizmo offers an external database sync which allows you to send/receive information to outside websites and databases.
Reporting is extremely flexible — you can create multiple reports for each survey including charts, graphs and crosstabs. All account types can filter reports by date range, although only paid accounts can filder data by responses.
SurveyGizmo Pro and Enterprise allow for multiple user accounts (5 accounts for Pro, 20 accounts for Enterprise). Permissions can be user based, and team-based permissions (where groups of users can be partitioned) is also available. Surveys can also be secured to ensure privacy, although media (such as videos and pictures) cannot be secured using the software.
SurveyGizmo offers a variety of tutorials (some of them as videos) on how to use the software, ranging from how to create a new survey to personalizing your survey to details on some of the more unique advanced features. In addition, SurveyGizmo has a very active support forum with over 2000 posts one of which is dedicated to new feature requests.
SurveyGizmo is available is four flavors: “Free,” which gives you access to all of the basic features, the ability to create an unlimited number of surveys but only allows you to collect 250 responses a month; “Personal” which costs $19 and offers 1,000 responses a month plus some of the more advanced features; “Pro” which comes iwth 5,000 responses a month and “Enterprise” which comes with up to 50,000 responses a month (that’s a lot of responses).
I really like SurveyGizmo. I like the clean interface, the variety of features and the fact that it appears that they are constantly updating it with new capabilities. I can say with a great deal of confidence that I will be using this survey package for my own future projects and may even consider the enterprise version for larger applications. Certainly, if you’re doing a simple project for school or for your internal organization, I would recommend the free version of SurveyGizmo over either SurveyMonkey or any of the other free applications out there.