Online Market Research Tools

Easy Online Surveys for Simple Projects

March 23rd, 2010 by Jared Bothwell

The Stuff website published the article “Easy Online Surveys” which highlights a couple of key players in the DIY online survey tool market. They are and

Having reviewed by tools before I prefer over Both products offer free plans but I found to have more flexibility.  Be warned though the free plans are a bit of a tease and are more than likely to leave you thirsting for the features and benefits of the paid (professional) plans.

Off course the real challenge with market research is not in selecting the research mode (i.e. the survey delivery mechanism) but the questions you ask.

DIY surveys are great for small research projects i.e. polling your teammates on uniform design more complicated research projects are best left to the professionals.

Posted in Online Market Research Tools, Online Research, Survey Technology | Comments Off

Google Makes Online Surveys Easier with Google Docs

September 4th, 2009 by Jared Bothwell

google-docs-good-logoJust saw in TechCrunch that Google have enhanced some of the Google Doc  features which have improved Google Forms survey capabilities.

 Just last week I wrote a quick tutorial on how to build a online survey using ‘Google Forms’.

The key changes that Google have made are:

  • Introduction of grid question type - while the type of questions offered are still limited, having another to choose form is very handy.
  • Improved summary charts
  • Bi-directional Language Support- this means that questions can now appear right-to-left – great for multiple languages.
  • Sign-in to view form- this means that you can potentially secure your survey- great for sensitive type surveys
  • Pre-populate a form with parameters – gives you the ability to pre-populate fields via form URL

While the changes are a definite improvement, as I have said before, I would still hesitate in using Google Forms  for anything but  data collection or internal surveying requirements.

Posted in Online Market Research Tools | Comments Off

Using Google Forms for Online Market Research

September 1st, 2009 by Jared Bothwell

Previously I wrote about using Google Apps to build quick and easy online surveys. Rather than take somebody elses word for it I thought I would take a closer look and find out just how easy it was.

The first step is to setup up a Google account. I guess most folks would have one by now but if you don’t it is a fairly easy process and can be done when you sign up for Google Docs. By the way if you haven’t heard of Google Docs it is essentially a bunch of office tools that are available online. The great thing is that they are based on cloud computing so the software and data is not stored on your system but stored on severs somewhere in Google land meaning you can access your documents from anywhere. Being online means it makes document collaboration a cinch too.

To demonstrate how Google forms can be used I have set up a basic survey in order to get a feel for it. Click here to have a look.

How to Set Up A Survey Using Google Forms

Once you have your set up your account you create your first survey.

1. Select form from under the ‘New’ tab

You can see that you can also select other documents including spreadsheets, word documents and presentations.

Select form

2. Select Question Type

The question types available are fairly basic but should suit the requirements for most simple surveys. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Online Market Research Tools | 8 Comments »

Excel 2007 + SP2 + PDF = Distorted Charts

July 9th, 2009 by Jared Bothwell

Microsoft released Office 2007 Service Pack 2 (SP2) on the 24th of April 2009. I quickly installed this and was pretty impressed with some of the new features and fixes.

What I wasn’t aware of was a bug that SP2 brings with it. The issues arises if you try to save a excel sheet or workbook as a pdf and if your workbook features any charts. The result is that any charts featured in your workbook will be severely distorted. To date there is no known fix for this issue and you have two choices to resolve the issue.

They are:

  1. Uninstall SP2
  2. Uninstall and reinstall Office 2007

Uninstall SP2

Apparently Sp2 is the first service pack which Microsoft has enabled you to actually uninstall. The download required is here Following this process is easier said than done though and while their a number of blogs that provide some detailed instructions on how to accomplish the removal of SP2, it was beyond me and I gave up (after four hours or trying).

Uninstall and reinstall Office 2007

I recommend not wasting too much time trying to uninstall sp2 and just do a complete reinstall of 2007. A repair will not work because as far as office 2007 is concerned there is nothing to repair. I admit that doing a reinstall is not ideal but it does work.

I do wonder two things through, why did Microsoft release SP2 with such serious error and secondly why haven’t they come up with a fix yet. Quite disappointing and quite frustrating.

Beware of SP2

Posted in Online Market Research Tools | 7 Comments »

A LimeSurvey Survey

June 22nd, 2009 by Jared Bothwell

A while ago (and I really mean a while ago), I wrote a review about the open source online survey tool called LimeSurvey. Part of the review included the ability for readers to complete a LimeSurvey survey in order for readers to give it a try. The focus of the survey was to find out if respondents had heard of LimeSurvey and whether or not they would consider using open source software for their online survey requirements.

Over this time 136 respondents have completed the survey and have provided some useful insights into user perceptions of LimeSurvey.

It should be noted that the respondents to the survey are limited only to individuals who have visited the review on the  blog and who opted to participate the survey. The survey is by no means scientific, still let’s have a look at what people said.

Had you heard of LimeSurvey before answering this survey?

77% of respondents had heard of LimeSurvey before. Given that the survey was placed on a review for LimeSurvey this high level is not terribly surprising and not very telling.


Have you ever used any open source survey software before?

Only 46% of respondents to the survey had used open source software before. So it would seem that LimeSurvey is not only attracting the attention of open source software junkies but also those that are interested in survey software first.

Have you ever used open source survey software before

Would you ever consider using open source survey software?

91% of respondents said that they would consider using open source software.

would you ever consider using open source survey software

If no (to the question above), would you, could you with a fox?

In an effort to demonstrate the branching functionality of the survey tool those that answered no to “Would you ever consider using open source survey software?” were asked if they would consider using open source software with a fox. It is interesting to note that 37.5& of those that said they would not consider using open source software would change their mind if a fox was present.

Would you could you with a fox

How likely would you be to use Lime Survey for your online survey requirements?

44% of  respondents were quite likely or very likely to use LimeSurvey. 7% would not use it in a thousand years and 3% would not use it in a million years. 46% said maybe.

how likely would you be to use lime survey


While it is hard to conclude much from this survey, LimeSurvey is an interesting project and I remain interested in watching how it develops. One of the most interesting developments on the horizon is LimeSurvey 2.0 will be a complete rewrite.

Posted in Online Market Research Tools | 3 Comments »

Survey Questions – Mandatory or Optional

June 11th, 2009 by Jared Bothwell

One of the great things about online surveys is that you can create a world where free will no longer exists. Or in other words you can choose to make your survey questions mandatory or optional. This power should be used wisely though as although you can make your survey questions mandatory it is a far harder exercise to make your survey mandatory and making survey questions mandatory can be a great way of increasing your survey dropout rates. I thought it was worthwhile investigating then when questions should be mandatory and when caution should be applied.

To begin with it is probably useful in determining what a mandatory question actually is. A mandatory question is when the survey respondent is forced to respond to the question.  If no response is received then the respondent is not able to proceed with the survey. Generally this is achieved by a simple piece of javascript which in practive is as simple as ticking a box marked “Mandatory”. So far it sounds pretty good. Mandatory questions mean that all your survey questions will be answered – what could be wrong with that? In practice a lot -the major downside is that making questions mandatory can bug the hell out of your respondents and cause them to simply dropout of your survey.

A good rule of thumb is the more mandatory questions your survey has the higher your survey drop-out rate will be. All that is achieved by a high drop-out rate is a high non-response error, which is something which should be avoided at all costs. It pays then to seriously consider when you should make questions mandatory.

  • Screening Questions

Often when conducting your survey you have a target segment in mind. You may wish to research all females aged  between 18 – 40. It makes sense then that any screening questions are made mandatory. In this example gender and age are required to be mandatory to ensure you get to speak to the right people. i.e. females aged between 18-40

  • Branching Questions

Branching questions are when the respondents answer to a question sends them off in a particular direction whilst a different response will send then in a different direction of the survey and asked another question. It is essential to make branching questions mandatory otherwise the survey will not know where to send them and your survey respondents will be stuck in survey limbo for ever (not a nice place). 

  • Essential Questions

Essential questions are those questions that you really need an answer to. You really need to take a step back on this one. If you wrote the survey you are likely to believe that all questions are essential. Before you make all questions mandatory take a long hard look at the survey questions and ask yourself what if any damage will be done if the respondent chose not to answer the question. If you can live without the data then give the respondent the choice (another note, if you can live without the data ask yourself if the question is required at all).

The three tips above are pretty good guidelines to keep in mind when considering if you should make your questions mandatory. But like most thing there are a couple of mitigating factors that should also be considered when making this decision.

  • Length of Survey

If your survey is short you are more likely to be able to get away with mandatory questions than if your survey is long.

  • Relationship with respondent

If you have a close relationship with your respondent’s i.e. if they are staff members then you are more likely to be able to get away with mandatory questions.

  • Incentives

If you have some generous incentives for respondents the above rules for mandatory questions. The rule of thumb with incentives and respondents is the greater the level of incentive the more your respondents will be willing to put up with.

So while mandatory questions are pretty useful to ensuring you get the data you need they also have the potential to really bug your respondents. In a way mandatory questions are a lot like drinking – moderation is the key!

Posted in Marketing Research, Online Market Research Tools, survey design | Comments Off

How to Spot a Fake Online Survey

April 29th, 2009 by Jared Bothwell


A story came up recently regarding a survey scam which is doing the rounds. I was pleasantly surprised then when I also received the survey invitation supposedly from McDonald’s. Below is the text from the email I received.

Dear McDonald’s Customer,

We are planning big changes for 2009 at McDonald’s New Zealand chain of restaurants and because your opinion is very important to us, we invite you to take a short Customer Satisfaction Survey that will help us improve the quality of our food and services.

We know your time is valuable, so we will give you a $50 bonus just for taking our quick 7 question survey. The entire process will take no more than 5 minutes.

<survey link>

Terms and conditions apply. Click here to take the survey.

You can participate in this survey only once.

Visit our Privacy Policy and User Agreement if you have any questions.
© 2009 McDonald’s. All references marked with a â„¢ or © are trade marks of McDonald’s Corporation and its affiliates except where third party trade mark ownership is indicated. All rights reserved. 

While the email is effectively a spam email, there are two reasons why it drew my attention.

  1. The email purports to be a survey invitation
  2. The email has received considerable attention by the main stream press.

I thought then it would be useful to issue some guidelines on how to spot a fake online survey by critiquing the McDonald’s attempt.

The Email

The following are the key points that highlight the survey invite as a scam.

1. The survey invite ended up in my SPAM folder.

While I get a number of false positives in my spam folder, the fact that your mail client smells something fishy should set your alarms bells ringing.

2. I have never given McDonald’s my email address.

It can be hard to keep track of who you actually have given your email address to. But I was pretty sure that I had not given it to McDonald’s.

3. The survey invite had no unsubscribe

Under NZ email laws all commercial messages are required to enable recipients to unsubscribe from the mailing list. The fact that this email did not have this is a clear indicator of something fishy going on.

4. The survey invite did not have any one’s contact details.

When we send out a survey invite we always include the name of the survey manager and their contact details. This is to ensure that if anyone has any questions regarding the survey they can speak to someone about these.

I would advise that if you receive a survey invite out of the blue and it fails to meet the conditions that have been outlined above – just delete it!

The Survey

While the survey itself was full or errors (New Zealand was called New Zeeland), the most alarming thing about the survey was the fact that it asked for an incredible amount of personal details.

This included:

  • Credit card details
  • Date of Birth
  • Postal Address
  • Bank Account Details

The credit card and bank details were supposedly to be used to pay an incentive to the survey participant. Now I think you would have to have you head checked if you ever gave your credit card details in an online survey. But if you must remember one thing, never ever give your credit card details when completing an online survey.

Posted in Online Market Research Tools | Comments Off

Buzzdash Shuts its Doors due to Lack of Funding

April 13th, 2009 by Jared Bothwell


Online polling website Buzzdash has had to shut its doors due to a lack of funding. I received this email this morning.

Dear rockresearch,

We’re very sad to say that, due to lack of funding, BuzzDash will be winding down in 7 days.

We truly appreciate everyone’s involvement in creating a national forum where people can gauge and share opinions on everything. Over our two and a half year history, you’ve done just that, and we’re proud to have been a part of it.

From the entire BuzzDash team, thank you, and all the best!

David Gerken

Buzzdash faced stiff competition from PollDaddy whcih is owned by Automattic (who also own blogging platform WordPress ). PollDaddy is available as a WordPress plugin and it seems that this advantage may have sealed Buzzdash’s fate.

Posted in Online Market Research Tools | Comments Off

Facebook Cripples New Homepage Poll

March 23rd, 2009 by Jared Bothwell

facebookI saw this on that Facebook have moved to restrict the distribution of the ‘New Layout Vote.

It seems that a lot of Facebook users are not happy with the new look which has helped spawn one of the fastest growing Facebook apps yet.

I can’t help think that bashing website changes is becoming quite a trend. As soon as a popular site makes some changes to their website a large number of vocal dissenters seems ready to mobilise and criticise any changes. Maybe the changes are not that good or maybe people are just resistant to change and the nature of the Internet means that an angry posse is easy to mobilise.

Posted in Online Market Research Tools, Online Research | 1 Comment »

Use Google to create Free Online Surveys

March 17th, 2009 by Jared Bothwell

googleOnline Tech Tips has an article titled How to create an online survey for free using Google Docs 

While I applaud the resourcefulness of this approach I can’t help thinking that it may be a little under powered for this kind of purpose.

In a nut shell the “Google Survey’ is using the Google Docs Spreadsheet function. It appears that there is some function that allows an online form to collect data in your spreadsheet. This came as a surpirise to me as I have used Google Spreadsheets for collorobnration before and had no idea that you could create a form for this purpose.

If you are looking for a free survey tool there are more suitable options that will offer greater functionality, Survey Gizmo is one that springs. For most small basic online surveys this should suit most needs.

Posted in Online Market Research Tools, Online Research, Survey Technology | 3 Comments »

Next Page »