I get officially involved with less than five surveys a year. I don’t like conducting surveys, heck, I don’t even like responding to surveys, but they have their place in the information gathering world. Ironically, two of the surveys I have to conduct this year, launched at the same time. One was for our company, and we run it out of our Internet facing SharePoint server to known users. The other was for a Toastmasters club I am president of, and I used Zoomerang (the free edition). Both surveys are awful, but at least Zoomerang can say “this would be better if you ponied up a few bucks.” I’m not sure if Microsoft has an excuse. Still, since I don’t plan on being president for life of our Toastmasters club, this may be my only time to compare the two surveys, so here goes:
Ease of Building – I’m going to declare this a tie. Both sites allow for similar style questions, and the choices are clear and the settings are just shy of intuitive. I feel less angst when working in SharePoint, but I’ll chalk that up to experience, not the quality of the product. I did notice that Zoomerang gives you two option buttons: Create a Survey or Create a Poll. Clicking either of those buttons takes you to a screen where you are asked if you want to create a survey or a poll – I don’t like things like that.
Appearance – OK, Zoomerang takes the lead here without much effort. SharePoint surveys just look bad. The lack of ability to add any formatting leaves you with a survey that is just blah. Zoomerang doesn’t actually offer much more than SharePoint’s lame capabilities, but they do present the pages in a better looking package.
Results – Comparing SharePoint to the free version of Zoomerang is a bit like comparing a cross country bus to walking. You don’t really want to ride that bus, but it is better than walking. Zoomerang gives you tons of options for downloading and analyzing results, but each one is positioned next to that “PRO” upgrade link. For one survey a year for an organization I pay to belong to, I’m not likely to spring for Pro. SharePoint provides a mediocre graphical analysis, about 85% of which will show up on the page if you push print. The parts that are missing seem randomly selected at runtime. At least with SharePoint you can download to Excel and then work your butt off making the results pretty.
Management – SharePoint wins this round, hands down. I can change the survey mid-stream (though it may mess with my analysis spreadsheet) if I have to. A more important option is that I can edit the results. What? Edit the results, why would we need to do that? We use surveys for planning events. Somtimes, someone completes the survey and then calls up a week later and says “my wife won’t be able to attend with me.” These are our customers, we don’t really want to say “go back and edit your survey results” so we do it for them. One of the things I hated about SharePoint surveys in SP2007 was the fact that you couldn’t run workflows against them; that seemed dumb, but it appears you can run a workflow against an SP2010 survey.
Addendum: this year the SharePoint survey results are looking a little better. We are using Data View Web Parts to show the results in real time, on a separate page. I am using some of the techniques we learnedfrom Marc Anderson earlier this summer. I still hate conducting surveys, but the results are a little easier to work with, and that is something I can’t do with Zoomerang.
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