No question, Survey Select helps ease the circulation of surveys

Most agencies that circulate surveys have learned that answers are meaningful only if
you ask the right questions.

Survey Select takes much of the headache out of conceiving and formatting survey
questions. It distributes surveys on the Web or by e-mail and analyzes the results. You
can draft a survey from scratch or work from the package’s templates, which give
valuable guidance in designing questions to draw usable responses.

Because the template focuses on private-sector issues, its questions will require
customization for agency use. That detracts somewhat from Survey Select’s primary
purpose: fast, working surveys.

Another problem is that the built-in questions are repetitive. I didn’t notice
this at first, but when I applied the randomization feature, the template inquired about a
respondent’s gender five times in 50 questions. Other items also were repeated. That
would likely annoy some respondents enough to make them refuse to complete the form.

I was, however, impressed by the ease of formatting questions in survey format. For
example, you can choose a format that asks whether the respondent agrees, strongly agrees
or disagrees with a statement.

Once the survey is ready, the software translates it into Hypertext Markup Language for
Web posting. After respondents fill it out, they click one button to return their answers
as e-mail. My tests showed that the Web interface worked well.

Survey Select also can distribute surveys by e-mail links to Microsoft Exchange,
Outlook, Lotus cc:Mail and Novell GroupWise. One handy tool is an encouragement feature:
If someone does not answer the survey within a set time, electronic reminders follow up
automatically until results come back, and then Survey Select e-mails a thank-you.

The package really shines at data analysis. Survey answers that come back as e-mail are
imported without any typing. No data entry is involved unless some surveys are returned on

You can set the package not to record certain responses, such as no opinion. Otherwise,
it automatically graphs all the responses in a choice of pie chart, bar graph, line graph
or plot.

Although a 200-page booklet detailed the program’s features simply enough, I
couldn’t tell when the online help was working. It turned on by default whenever the
program started, bringing up at each step a window that exactly resembled the real program
window beneath. But when I clicked on features in the help window, I got only more help
windows.  Animation or sound would reduce the confusion.

Survey Select could give a big assist to administrators or human resources personnel
who send out frequent surveys. Its e-mail and Web capabilities do away with the annoying
chore of post-survey data entry.

The only real weaknesses are the question duplication, the confusing help app and
templates that are unsuitable for government use.  

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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