You Get What You Pay For

 

FREE! is the headline, but there are two other claims shared by every one of the dozens of Free DIY Online Survey companies.

Our product is easy to use. Most say their tools require absolutely no previous experience or knowledge. Some say theirs is so easy that it turns work into personal amusement. These products are so much fun and so easy to use, that they make survey research a breeze.

We believe the claim that we need no experience or training to create surveys to be true at amusement-only levels, along the lines of the ones Family Feud uses when they tell us they surveyed 100 members of their studio audience.

Dig a little deeper on Free DIY Survey sites and you can sometimes find a section where they caution us about bias, phrasing, precision, and validity. This advice is helpful, but one can’t help but notice that they are telling us what to do without telling us how to do it, or why it’s important. Noticeable by their omission are such basic things as sequencing,  flow, context, response categories, sampling, analytical plans, and the like. There are scores of things survey experts know to be crucial to good design, and amateurs know nothing about them. Wikipedia lists more than one hundred types of bias. How many of them do you know?

Our product is fast. A typical claim is the ability to create and publish surveys quickly. So quickly that most of them say it will only take a few minutes. Our favorite is the promise that we no longer have to spend hours scratching our heads.

We believe this claim to create surveys in minutes is true at very simple levels. An excellent example is the email Hertz sends us after a rental, thanking us for our visit and asking us to click on either a green smiley face or a red frowny face. Calculating and reporting happy and unhappy responses can be done by a middle schooler.

We certainly will never believe the claim that we can create a masterpiece in minutes. We are steadfastly unwilling to assume outstanding workmanship is paint-by-the-numbers.

Free DIY Survey companies deliver on their fast and easy to use promises by the heavy use of standardized formats and boilerplate questions. The one-size-fits-all approach fits only situations where the information goals are simple and there is little at risk.

Remember the words of Warren Buffet, who said “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”