The 6 Best Free and Open Source Survey Tools to Power Your Research
Originally posted in Capterra’s Sales & Marketing Blog
My life has revolved around surveys for seven years.
Ok, that’s an exaggeration. Well, that’s a slight exaggeration. But I love surveys. I take them. I run them. I chase people down the street and make them answer my questions (Only that one time, but you’re welcome, group members from that class project we did three years ago). Surveys are a great way to make educated strategy decisions and ultimately grow your business.
Want to know who your target customer base is? BAM, run a survey. Want to know how to better serve your current customers? BAM, run a survey. Want to start measuring your Net Promoter Score? BAM…you get the idea.
And thanks to the internet, there are hundreds of survey tools out there to make your survey dreams a reality.
The best news? A bunch of them are free.
We’ve already told you a bit about the most popular survey software options out there, but below I’ve gone through some of the top free survey tools for your burgeoning survey needs (alphabetically below).
If you have a Google account, you already have access to a decent survey tool. Google Forms can be private or public, and will sync with Google Sheets to automatically collect responses, which allows you to dig into the numbers on your own.
This is a good option if the questions you ask are basic, and you only plan to use multiple choice, multi-select, and open-answer formats. The answer options can be randomized, which makes your results more reliable (this combats any selection bias that might be hidden in the answer order), but the lack of page or question logic makes it harder to ask follow-up questions. For a quick poll, or a high level overview, it’s a simple and easy solution.
KwikSurveys is a fantastic tool. It is a free option that is ad-supported, so when you run your survey, respondents will see a few ads on the perimeter. You can’t customize the templates, but they have 30+ available to choose from, some of which are nothing short of adorable (you can have a floral theme, or play host to an encouraging group of penguins in your top margin). As an added bonus, they have a handful of simpler designs ready to embed in your website, which is a great and easy way to collect responses.
The dashboard is easy to navigate, and you can build your survey with a simple drag-and-drop editor. The types of questions you can ask are a bit limited — no open answer — but to be honest, open-ended questions have no business in a successful survey anyway. So it’s no great loss.
The other huge benefit compared to other options is that KwikSurveys allows you to export your results completely, in multiple file types, which means you can analyze your results in Excel or a statistics software. This is a big deal. Instead of just seeing your overall results, you can manipulate the data and get more interesting insights by testing for significance or putting related questions together in crosstabs. KwikSurveys will clear your data after six months, so this is also important for keeping a record of the surveys you’ve already run.
LimeSurvey is an open-source download. There are a lot of benefits to an open-source option over a free/freemium option. While some tools ask you to pay a fee to get phone or email support, LimeSurvey has a whole network of developers and users who can help you out, as well as an in-depth manual to help you work through any hiccups.
The collaborative nature of open-source means that you can ask your survey in more than 80 different languages. Surveys and survey responses are unlimited. From their example surveys, it’s clear that this is a no-fuss kind of option, but they do have add-ons for additional templates and question types. These options and add ons will grow over time, as more and more developers around the world work together on this project.
LimeSurvey has most of the functionality of a paid tool, but the drawback is that is requires more work on the back-end. If you have an IT team you can rely on when issues come up, all of the features you need are in arms reach. If you’re going solo on your survey efforts, you might find that you prefer a web or cloud-based option that is less manual.
PollDaddy is another good option for general surveys, with a few extra features. For starters, PollDaddy lets you brand your surveys by importing a logo — a feature that is often only available with a paid subscription. You need to have a WordPress account to login, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use their service if you don’t have a blog, or use a different platform to build your website.
If you do use WordPress, though, it’s easy to embed your survey to your website, or serve your survey as a popup. Another benefit is offline data collection. By downloading the PollDaddy app to your mobile device or tablet, you can collect responses on a street corner, at the park, at a tradeshow or conference — wherever you can target your ideal audience.
The con here is that PollDaddy does not allow you to export your data, which means you can only see your responses in the aggregate. Though this limits the insights you can draw from your data, it is sufficient if you just want the big picture, or aren’t confident in your analytical skills. The type of surveys you’re looking to run will decide whether you need this feature or not, so be sure to think through your survey plan in advance.
If you’re planning on surveying people who use mobile devices, Responster is your tool. Its page-by-page question design is responsive to screen size, and means that your respondents won’t be getting cramps in their thumbs trying to scroll down a page of questions, or trying to click teeny tiny buttons on their mobile screen. The design is sleek and professional: you can add your logo to the start page, brand the buttons with your company colors, and even upload your own background image.
Personally, I find the build page and dashboard so over-simplistic that entering the questions can feel a bit clunky. But from the other end, there’s no arguing that your respondents will be served a seamless user experience.
Again, you are limited somewhat in your question format, but this free version comes with question logic, which helps you guide respondents down a customized path. And, in addition to a built-in chart creation tool, you can export your data as an Excel file so you have full control over how you display your final results.
SurveyGizmo is a flexible freemium option for surveys. The free version has 20-some question types, allowing you to write a survey that caters to your specific needs. If you need even more question types, it’s easy to bump up to the next paid level when you need to, and fall back down when you don’t ($22 a month, the lowest paid level, gets you additional branding and logic options).
You can have as many surveys as you want running at one time, and you have no limit on the number of respondents you get. SurveyGizmo also does a neat job of pulling an overall report. It will auto-populate the averages and standard deviations for each question, but still lets you download your responses for a deeper dive. Plus, the data is never removed from your account, so there’s no time limit to go back and review old surveys.
If you find that the basic survey options aren’t cutting it for you, SurveyGizmo is a great option. It lets you ask more layered questions, more complicated questions, and ultimately get more insightful results.
This list only accounts for about 2% of all of the survey tools available. Needless to say, this is not inclusive of all of the options — even all of the free options — that you have at your disposal.
Are there any free survey software options you love that I haven’t included here? Let me know in the comments!