What SharePoint can learn from SurveyMonkey (and vice versa)

surveyI have always hated SurveyMonkey. Not that I knew it well, but out of principle: I try to help my colleagues work with SharePoint, and the more SharePoint they see, the faster they will get familiar with it. Using a survey on another platform is downright confusing.
But some time ago I looked at SurveyMonkey, to find out the reason of its popularity. The Basic (free) version will be the largest competitor for SharePoint in organizations, so I have limited my comparison to that version.

What is good about SurveyMonkey?

It is a very nice tool, if only because the larger font and sharper contrast are easier to read for me :-).
There are more options in terms of design (themes, images between the questions), they have a few different question types (a.o. ranking), you can draw from a reservoir of  example surveys and “bias-free questions” and you can randomize the answer options.
That may not be a surprise, since SurveyMonkey is a “one trick pony”, focusing on surveys, while SharePoint is more of an “all-rounder”.

Which functionalities should be in SharePoint?

Still, there are some useful SurveyMonkey functionalities that I would expect in SharePoint:

  • SharePoint knows the date and time, so why does it not have a “cut-off date/time”, after which it is no longer possible to fill in the survey?
  • SharePoint can count, so why is there no option to stop responses when the number of replies exceeds a certain number? How useful that would be for registrations for events or trainings with a limited number of places!
  • Why can’t you add a description to the questions in SharePoint? You can do that in any list or library, so why not in a survey?

One point where SharePoint could make a big step forward is in the multiple-response questions. SurveyMonkey allows you to show the answers in columns, which need less vertical space.

Input for a multiple-choice question in SurveyMonkey

In SharePoint, answers are all in one column.

Input for multiple-choice question in SharePoint.

Now, let’s take a look at the way the results are shown. SurveyMonkey provides you with a nice, clear graphical overview.

SM-MultipleChoice-Result
Results of a multiple-choice question in SurveyMonkey

While SharePoint is a mess, so you always need to do a manual scoring afterwards.

SP-MultipleChoice-Result
Results of a multiple-choice question in SharePoint

Does anyone know if this has improved in SP2013? If not, would someone please forward this post to Microsoft so they know what to work on for SP2016. 🙂

In favour of SharePoint.

SharePoint also wins on a number of points:

  • You can use any number of questions and receive any number of responses. (Not that your audience will be too happy with too many questions). The free account of SurveyMonkey allows you up to 10 questions and 100 responses.
  • You can send respondents to a “Thank you” or “Next steps” page after completion, by configuring the link you send to your audience. (described in this post-scroll to 2f) SurveyMonkey offers that in a paid version only.
  • You don’t have to log in to make a survey or to see the results.
  • You can use a “lookup”(existing content in the site), currency and select “People and Groups” as answer options.
  • SurveyMonkey allows you to export to spreadsheet per question only. Exporting the complete survey needs the paid version.
  • SharePoint allows branching (the next question depends on the answer you gave to the previous question), while SurveyMonkey only provides that in the paid version.
  • Your survey has more context if it is in your own Team Site.
  • The data are stored in your own environment.

If you know other good arguments in favour of the SharePoint survey, please add them below!

What is the verdict?

I understand the attraction of SurveyMonkey. It is easy to use and it has more visual possibilities. (Now that comes as a shock :-)) It also does the multiple-choice questions much better, and it has a ranking question type.

However, for the average in-company survey, SharePoint will do the trick. It will be one step forward in providing employees with their “daily dose of SharePoint”.
And in those cases where I have found that the SharePoint survey was too limited for a certain purpose, the free SurveyMonkey tool was not an option either.
Sometimes the demands of the business required a SharePoint list or an InfoPath form to collect data, or even an Excel file, because there were too many dependencies or people wanted to have too many different slice-and-dices. In those cases, the Basic version of SurveyMonkey provided no solace. We would have needed a paid version or an even more advanced tool.

Does this sound familiar? How do you handle surveys in your SharePoint environment?

Image (top left) courtesy of 89studio at FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Screenshots are my own.

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2 thoughts on “What SharePoint can learn from SurveyMonkey (and vice versa)

  1. SamMarshall September 10, 2014 / 7:30 pm

    Hi Ellen
    An extra plus is that if you do the survey on SharePoint you don’t have to fill in your name etc.!

    The downside is that if you claim a survey is anonymous, nobody will believe it because they know they are logged in to the system (in an intranet context anyhow).

    • Ellen van Aken September 17, 2014 / 9:45 am

      Nice addition, Sam! The SharePoint survey is indeed not really anonymous – you can toggle the settings and then all names are displayed. But for most purposes within the enterprise, this should not be too big a deal. And if you do not want people to see eachother’s comments, you can always change settings into “read only own items”. (By now I have a lot of arguments to move people to SharePoint. :-))

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