Reviewed by: Paul Schneider, Ph.D., May 2006
Published by: Baltsoft
Requires: Web browser and Internet connection; reviewed on Windows XP and Firefox
Ever wonder what your customers think? Perhaps you need to collect data from a group of individuals for your company, school, or non-profit group? In the past this often meant mailing or handing out paper and pencil questionnaires to collect information. Then came the laborious process of compiling the results. Having done quite a bit of this, I can tell you it is not a fun or easy activity. Fortunately, with the advent of the Internet we have seen a number of online tools developed that provide survey capabilities which are viable alternatives to the traditional paper and pencil method. MakeSurvey.net is one of these tools that aim to make your survey collection fast, easy, efficient, and inexpensive.
Using MakeSurvey.net you can create an unlimited number of surveys and send them out to an unlimited number of people. Survey data collection tools facilitate three key areas: Creation, Collection, Reporting. Depending on your own survey goals, any one of these areas may be more or less important than the other. Looking to the first area, creation, I found MakeSurvey to be quite competent.
The MakeSurvey admin interface is Flash-based and most of the features are fairly intuitive, but like many applications there are a few places where online help would be a benefit. Unfortunately the help is not online or linked, but resides in FAQs and a forum, as well as through e-mail. In most cases this is more than sufficient, but online help would still be a nice touch. The basic survey parameters MakeSurvey provides include survey name, end user survey instructions, skin type (look and feel), and maximum number of respondents. After you create and save your survey format, the system then allows you to start your question creation.
MakeSurvey provides all the basic question types found in a typical survey. These include; short answer, long answer, drop down, multiple selection list, check boxes and radio buttons (both with image options), and horizontal or vertical radio buttons (for Likert scale-based attitude questions, e.g., most likely to least likely, most favorite to least favorite, and so on). In addition to actual questions, you can also add formatting options including a horizontal line, simple text and HTML code. Adding questions, changing orders, and making edits are all fairly intuitive and easy to accomplish.
Once the questions are created, you can choose to have the survey display them on single or multiple pages, and require a response to any or all of the questions. You can also edit questions after deploying your survey (although the software wisely provides some recommendations that will help you to preserve the integrity of your data. Last, you can also add non English questions. This works well, but if you want the same survey presented in different languages, you will need to create a copy of the survey for each of the desired languages, and later export and combine your results with a separate tool.
MakeSurvey’s data collection features provide you with all of the essentials. You can send a survey link out to people via your own e-mail or distribution system, or use the built in mailing list and e-mail distribution tools. Users, once receiving the link, complete the survey online. The surveys are straightforward, and about the only downside is the advertising at the end. When the software is free, that comes with the territory.
Note that the browser stores a cookie to make sure users don't complete the survey twice. This is generally a good thing, but if you are in a lab situation, this can be a problem if you can't clear cookies between users. On the bright side, Baltsoft has indicated they will be making this an option that you can change.
The data analysis options are brief, but complete. The two reports you have are the tabulated results and individual respondent data. The tabulated results provides a list of all the questions with the data compiled where appropriate, and listed out in the case of textual responses. The individual respondent data provides a single table with session IDs, start and end times, and responses for all of the individual questions. This report also gives you the ability to search results for a specific textual response, limit the number of responses displayed, delete one or more of the responses, and export the response data as a Comma Separated Value (CSV) file which can be opened in any spreadsheet software.
While there are certainly plenty of Pros for using MakeSurvey, you should take some things into consideration before embarking on a major data collection project. First off, if you are using anything but Internet Explorer to administer the program, you will experience problems when creating questions with images and potentially in other administrative areas. This is a known issue that Balsoft has said will be addressed in a future version.
While MakeSurvey covers the basics well, advanced options like branching, administrator controlled look and feel, and data analysis are all features that are lacking. MakeSurvey also uses the software as a service model. Although I occasionally had a problem logging into my account, for many people this model will mean saving the trouble of having to install, maintain or update their own server software, which can be a great thing. For others, this approach represents a lack of control and thus a downside. You can install MakeSurvey on your own site, for an additional price, but you will need to make sure you have database support for MS Access or MS-SQL.
Overall Makesurvey.net makes collecting survey data easy. The interface is straightforward, the question types and result reports cover all the basics, and administering the surveys is a snap. The online survey world has quite a bit of competition and MakeSurvey is a worthy competitor. Web and e-mail support, no install required, encrypted data with export options, and e-mail administration combined with a great price (it's free), makes this a survey package that is very hard to beat.
KSN Product Rating:
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