What do you like best?
I’ve been using SmartSurvey for social science research for about 6 weeks now, and agreed to write a brief review and first impressions of the product and my experience using it in return for a not-for-profit discount on the product.
I’m using the service to conduct open-ended social scientific questionnaires about how online communities help people care for those with chronic health conditions, and have so far found SmartSurvey to be quite a nice way for doing so. It allows me to post links to surveys within online communities and efficiently each a globally distributed population.
I was originally attracted to the product because I needed a service provider that adhere to EU data privacy laws but offer a product that is in English (since this my native language and the common language of my respondents). A lot of the US providers could not meet the requirements, especially regarding data deletion. SmartSurvey quickly responded to a question I had on this account and told me they could guarantee that upon request, survey data would be deleted from active servers within a week and from backups within 30 days. Most US providers could not come close to guaranteeing this.
While you can get a basic survey going quickly, there is a lot of customizability on the back end, and this can take some time to learn. My experience is that documentation is good and support tickets I have submitted have always been answered promptly and helpfully.
What do you dislike?
One example of the tool’s behavior that takes some getting used to—so this is not so much a con as a part of the tool that is a bit more complex and takes more time to learn—is the “anonymous response” function. This function hides respondent IP and geographic information from responses when activated. However, if it is off, and then someone responds, and you then turn it on, the system seems to continue to log the information, although it hides. You can then turn the setting back off and reveal all this information. This means a survey is not a truly anonymous UNLESS you design it so from the get go. Similarly, it is possible to activate both the “complete it later” function, which lets respondents save incomplete surveys by entering a name and email (identifying information that allows them to receive a unique link). But this identifying information will only be permanently hidden if you set the anonymous response feature to on before your first response. Otherwise, the “complete it later” function undoes the “anonymous response” setting. So make sure you peruse the full set of privacy features before opening up your survey to respondents so that the settings are correct before you begin. (Also, if you are testing features, be sure to start with a fresh, unopened survey, rather than just changing features on a survey that for which you have already gathered test responses.)
Recommendations to others considering the product
it is a cost effective way to gather lots of data from highly dispersed populations of respondents. I have not had the opportunity to play with the features they offer for analyzing responses, since I have not generated enough at this point. But I plan to export the responses as word docs and then analyze them in qualitative data analysis software, anyway. I would certainly recommend giving SmartSurvey consideration if you are looking for an online survey provider that is in English, that is compliant with EU law, and that offers both the ability to get going quickly and to customize, depending on your needs.
What business problems are you solving with the product? What benefits have you realized?