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|Author||John Towler, Ph.D.|
The benefits of 3rd party survey providers over doing the work in-house.
There are many ways to create a survey. Doing it yourself is certainly the cheapest way and, if you have the expertise and time, it could be the solution for you. If you have never created a survey before or you want to do something more complex, you may want to consider using one of the survey software packages or services that are available. If you want to create a professional, comprehensive survey that looks good and lends itself to sound statistical analysis, you may want to hire a firm that specializes in surveys and knows exactly what to do and how to do it.
After you decide among these options, you will need to consider how comprehensive you want the survey to be, how skilled you are at designing and analyzing surveys, how much time you want to invest in this, and how adequate your budget is. Once you have a set of questions, you can post them on your Web site and ask people to respond. But remember that collecting the data is just the beginning. You will need to analyze the data and figure out what it means. If 35 people take your survey, you can do the analysis by hand with a calculator or a spreadsheet program. But what will you do if you get 2,000 or 70,000 responses? If you think you might run into this kind of problem, you may want to consider purchasing a survey software program.
Build Your Own Survey
If you are planning a short and simple survey, you can think of some questions, post them on your site, and find some way to keep track of the responses. Doing it yourself is certainly the cheapest option. If you have never created a survey before or you want to do something more complex, consider using one of the other options, such as a turnkey solution. You can find some hints on what to look for in a good survey and how to design your own on the Creative Organizational Design Web site.
One option is to use an online service such as Zoomerang. This service guides you through the development of questions and then posts them on its site for you. But be careful, sites often charge for other services and for downloading and storing your survey results. For example, it will cost you extra to test your survey on respondents that Zoomerang provides.
Hire An Outside Firm
If you are not familiar with survey design, sampling procedures, statistical analysis, and the use of spreadsheets and graphics, or simply don't have the time or inclination to learn all these things, it would be better for you to hire a firm that specializes in surveys. There are many available, and an Internet search will turn up dozens. They usually charge a basic setup fee and then a per-person-surveyed fee. Usually, the more people you survey, the cheaper it becomes on a per-person basis.
Use Off-the-Shelf Software to Design Your Web Survey
The Survey System is a full-scale survey software package. It enables you to do everything. It comes with a comprehensive tutorial on creating questions, assigning weighting systems, doing basic statistical analysis, and creating paper-and-pencil forms or putting the survey on your Web site. This is an excellent package. It will take you some time to learn how to use it, and as you become more proficient you may want to add modules that will allow you to refine and expand what you are doing. The basic package starts at $499 (U.S.), and the seven modules range in price from $75 to $750, although most of them cost $200.
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