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Globalpark Survey Center & OPST reviewed

Germany has fallen for this panel management software. Will Tim Macer be equally besotted?

If you are looking to move up to a more powerful web survey platform, or are nervous about having to develop your own panel management software, Globalpark’s Survey Center and Online Panel Site Tool (OPST) is definitely one for the shortlist. The software is not well known in the UK, though it is very widely used in Germany by both research agencies and many major corporates, where it was first developed in 1999.

Two things mark this product out from the proliferation of other hosted and web browser-based tools: the sheer serious depth of functionality it provides for professional online interviewing, and the software’s very versatile panel management module. Add to which, it is one of the very small number of web survey products, and as far as I can tell, the only high-end one where all the set-up and management tools are fully multi-platform. Everything worked as well on my Mac as on my PC, and in Germany, many of its users are in universities that use Linux browsers.

Both web survey and panel modules may be purchased independently. If both are used, they are accessed seamlessly from the same, integrated interface. However, the functionality offered can be tailored through the system administrator’s interface to offer different groups the appropriate set of tools, such as panel administrators, survey designers, research analysts, clients - really, any way you want to allocate responsibilities or determine access policies.

A challenge for high-end web survey tools is to allow people to create imaginative, design rich surveys and questions. In this, templates are easily applied, and there is a very wide range of built-in functions. There is a wider than usual set of question types and even an integrated adaptive conjoint module (If you want to do something really novel, you can either develop it in HTML or Flash yourself and use it within the survey as a ‘custom question’ or get Globalpark to create your custom question using their question development toolkit.

The program places great emphasis on questionnaire reliability and integrity. Some examples of this include sensible, user-definable support for missing and non-response data; shareable and re-usable answer lists and unusually, machine logic checking to identify problem routing that could result in questions never being asked.

It cannot be faulted on all the other features web survey designers take for granted – until they find their software does not support them – such as a printable counterpart to your survey, foreign language and UNICODE support, complex routing, randomisation, data validation, quota control and so on.

In this, it is all there, with options upon options. Indeed, my only niggle is that the interface has ended up a bit sprawling in places, and could benefit from some ergonomic improvements, such as to prevent continually having to scroll down when authoring questions, to get to the answer section. Neither is the logical structure as clear as it could be, despite some clever signposting.

The set of standard reports Globalpark provides to monitor survey progress and completion is exemplary. But reporting rapidly runs out of steam if you wish to do more with your data than produce a topline. There is definitely an assumption that analysis is done elsewhere, but this does mean a range of SPSS format exports, as well as triple-s, which will take you to a wide range of other tab programs.

On the other hand, the panel management module is amazing. There are quite a few web survey tools on the market that offer basic sample management as so-called panel management capabilities but still leave you having to make your own arrangements for how your panel is recruited, administered, how incentives are handled and how panel quality and participation is maintained. On the back of this, there is an entire set of panel community-building tools. There is customisable content management system to let you run news, quizzes, polls, post results and create compelling content for your panellists with no more than some online form-filling and cutting and pasting of content. There are tools to create and manage contact forms and even to define discussion forums and bulletin boards.

Each panellist can log in to a personalised page, update their profile (which can be staged for approval by a panel manager), review which surveys they are eligible to take, view their rewards and request their gifts or vouchers, see news, information, help or whatever else you decided to put up there. It is all highly configurable, so you could use the same tool to manage quite diverse panels in parallel, each with their own rules and look-and-feel. Yet it is designed for the non-technical panel manager to use without having to become a database or HTML programmer.

Globalpark is planning on opening an office in London in the near future, but for the time being, support is provided from Germany. However, the quality of that support also seems exceptionally high. There is also very comprehensive documentation in rather good English too.

The user view: Susanne Reese from Scopos

Susanne Reese, Online Research Manager in Scopos’ London office rates the program very highly, observing: “With a lot of online programs you have to have a knowledge of HTML. But with this, you do not have to have this and can still program surveys that look very professional. Most of the functions you need are already programmed in. One really nice thing is that even the basic set-ups look so professional.”

Susanne estimates that a week and a half to two weeks training will give users enough knowledge to be self-sufficient with the product. “To know everything there is in OPST is not really possible, and they are always introducing new features.”

So far, despite increasingly sophisticated requests from clients in the construction or presentation of their online surveys, Susanne has yet to find something she could not get the software to do. “If we ever do get stuck, we use our support team at Global Park, who are very efficient and very friendly, and they show us how to do it,” comments Susanne.

“Because we have our own panel it is important that the panel management tool that OPST provides is efficient. With this, we are able to target specific people on our panel, check how many bonus points people have, or when they are due a cash reward. When you get an email from a member, you can quickly search for them and can even track down what surveys they have participated in, or look at their recent responses. The statistics are very very good: they tell you who is on your panel who is active and so on. It has everything we need. It’s brilliant.”

Published in Research, the magazine of the Market Research Society, October 2005, Issue 473.

© Copyright Tim Macer/Market Research Society 2005. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission.

High-end suite of software for online interviewing comprising a web interviewing module and a panel management module. Offered as a hosted ASP service; also available as enterprise software..

Ease of use
Cross-platform compatibility
Value for money