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Clicktools reviewed

Clicktools has just made the Web survey upgrade path easier, reports Tim Macer

For anyone outgrowing the simple no-frills web survey tools like Zoomerang or SurveyMonkey, the step to products such as Confirmit or Net-MRup can be a mighty one, both in cost and in expertise required to use them. Clicktools is a new product, launched at last year’s Insight show, which claims to offer higher performance at lower cost and in doing so, is staking a claim on the middle ground.

Clicktools is particularly strong on allowing you to customise the appearance of your surveys, which is a common weakness of the cheaper tools. It offers an easy menu-driven method, or lets you paste HTML style sheets in directly. Both then become part of your library of styles, which you can apply to any survey. Rather cleverly, one questionnaire can be published as several different surveys, each with a different template and addressed to a different sample. This also makes it easy to separate different waves or periods in a continuous survey.

The software comes with quite a nice questionnaire design tool. Typically, features go a bit further than the no-frills products, but don’t yet match the likes of Confirmit. There are many built-in question types, à la Net-MR, to make set-up speedy and simple, from standard multi-choice through to rating grids, numeric grids that must sum to 100% and rank order questions (though it only offers one rather limited way to analyse rank order questions). However, question options are limited: text piping only lets you include the actual answers; you cannot designate a single answer within a multiple response question and you cannot manipulate the answers in questions at all, by recoding or assigning values to them.

Routing is very elegantly portrayed, with colour coding for each separate condition. It is fine for simple conditions, but start combining several question, numbers, or more than two levels of logic and it runs out of steam.

The design tool also makes it very to preview and test your questionnaire, which is a big plus. Sadly, the routing logic does not work in preview mode.

Another grown-up feature is full multi-lingual capabilities, with Unicode support for non-roman alphabets too. Entering translations is simple, but there is no bulk import capability. And while openends can be captured in any language, there are no built in tools for either coding or translation.

During interviewing, there are some good built-in reports to track response by survey and even by individual question, and preliminary results can be viewed online. In fact, the instant results reporting and publishing are really nice features of the product. Again, power-users will find some features missing, but there is a good level of core functionality, including charts, toplines and simple cross-tabs. For an additional fee, Clicktools will also create custom reports on request. However, data exports are limited to comma-separated files: no triple-S or SPSS formats are offered.

An unusual feature, aimed at those doing customer satisfaction surveys, is the ability to create alerts and actions. Furthermore, these actions can be tracked using a built-in workflow module that call-centre staff can access independently of the survey. This way, a particularly poor score to a question can trigger an email alert to the relevant account manager for one-to-one contact. It is something I have not seen in any other off-the-shelf product.

The user view: Andrew Palmer at The Economist Intelligence Unit

The Economist Intelligence Unit, which is the business information arm of the Economist Group, carries out a range of international surveys—typically at senior boardroom level. Andrew Palmer, global director of EIU’s Executive Services, came to Clicktools, having outgrown several of the mass-market hosted survey tools. In his view: “They were very good as far as they went, but their look wasn’t quite what we needed, especially for the senior group we were contacting.”

“Clicktools is now our primary provider,” states Palmer, “and it is working out extremely well. It is a stable platform and Clicktools have been very client focused.”

Describing the program overall as being most “welcoming” to new users, Palmer has found it does always apply with some of the more advanced options. “At the back end,” he says, “there is quite a learning curve. But once you are familiar with it, it works well. As a tool for gathering data and basic analysis, it is excellent. Its cross-tabbing and filtering of data has got progressively better, but for really complex crunching of the data it probably has further to go.”

Hosted DIY web survey tool with a midrange level of functionality.