WebSurveyor 4.0 offers easy entry of surveys

If price is a motivating factor for an online Web survey solution, then perhaps WebSurveyor 4 is just what you seek. With a low starting base price of $3,000 and no extra costs per user, chances are your purchasing department won't even blink, especially when you explain that the solution also comes with an easy-to-use wizard driven interface, thus maximizing usage. Although finishing last against the other products compared, I found the solution to fare well. Had it offered a bit more flexibility in deployment options and database support, it would have scored much higher.

Similar to the other solutions, WebSurveyor offers minimal system requirements for both the client as well as the server. Being a native Windows-based system, WebSurveyor relies solely on the Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS) to manage and collect survey results on behalf of the users. This limitation on one provider, and specifically one product, greatly reduces the solution's availability to be deployed across disparate platforms.

New features for the release include the ability to selectively insert page breaks into a survey, provide persistence for users needing to quit in the middle of the collection, multiple language support, as well as advanced skip logic, wherein users can create complex conditions that take into account any of the questions a participant has been asked up to that point.

For those on the upgrade path, the ability to set the charts colors for each response option, as opposed to having them previously randomly generated by the solution, will be a relief.

As the solution was downloaded from the company's Web site, I needed only provide the user ID and password obtained during registration to begin my tests. Installation of the server consisted of selecting whether an existing SQL Server database would be used, or the included MSDE. Choosing the latter, I needed to only specify the IIS virtual directory where my surveys would be placed, and I was on my way. Configuration of the server was also a non-issue, requiring me to only choose whether I wanted to find users, add users, or view statistical information generated from the survey. From a user's perspective, I could specify whether I wanted to impose limits such as amount of disk space used, number of surveys, as well as durations for surveys to remain active. Upon execution of the application, I was prompted with a screen asking me whether I wanted to host my surveys on an internal server, or on the WebSurveyor's hosting server. As the focus of our comparison was to test internally hosted solutions, I opted for the first choice.

I was pleased to find a nice assortment of question libraries, response libraries and sample surveys included, making development fast and easy.

The actual creation proved to be an easy and rewarding exercise. I was able to implement various response types including, single and multiple choice, matrix-style questions, as well as pull-down list options.

In addition to offering numerous ways to graph data including pie, bar, and scatter to name only a few, users can also export to either comma- or tab-delimited files, or Access. My main complaint with the product was that, being a native Windows-based system, WebSurveyor relies solely on Microsoft IIS to manage and collect survey results on behalf of the users. Moreover, with database support limited to SQL Server 2000 as well as the embedded MSDE, the product is far less attractive than competitors such as Perseus and SurveyPro, which provide greater deployment options.

Fielden is a systems architect and freelance writer based in Minnesota. He can be reached at tfielden@attbi.com.

REPORT CARD

Main story: Web-based surveys: Queries made simple

***

WebSurveyor 4.0

Grade: B-minus

WebSurveyor Corp.

Herndon, Va.

(800) 787-8755

www.websurveyor.com

Server starts at $3,000 (clients free).

In addition to providing a low entry cost, the solution offers an easy-to-use interface for building surveys. While currently working only with Microsoft Corp. applications, a stated change in the architecture may signal new options ahead.

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