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Snap 9 Reviewed

Tim Macer reviews the latest incarnation of the data collection and analysis tool that provides integrated factor and cluster analysis

Due out this month is the latest version of Snap, a program that has notched up an astonishing 25 year pedigree as a desktop application dedicated to market research data collection and analysis. You’d need to go to a computer museum to find kit capable of running version 1, but version 9 definitely buys the Snap user a high tech ride down today’s information highways, alongside the real heavyweight offerings from players like Pulse Train and SPSS.

Not that Snap is a particularly lightweight offering. There aren’t many off-the-shelf data collection and analysis tools that provide integrated factor and cluster analysis. But many others were providing support for multiple languages and mixed interviewing modes from the same questionnaire, which was becoming a serious lack in Snap, and online reporting and management.

Snap always supported different modes, but it was hard to design surveys that supported one mode at a time. It is a very slick affair now, in which you define different views of the same survey according to which mode you are using, and can easily step between these different views during the construction stage. Minor wording changes can be accommodated between, say, the online view and the paper view. It also means you can get a decently formatted topline report out of the even the most visual online survey, and not exhaust your colour printer in the process. Some users, including Nicola Stanley, who provides this month’s user perspective, do find Snap very capable for small-scale CATI.

Mulitple languages are now feasible too - though not yet in question libraries, and only for Roman and Greek and Cyrillic character sets.

Another improvement is essentially the removal of an anomaly. Unlike all its rivals, Snap used email as a curious delivery mechanism for each completed interview, which would arrive in your inbox as a kind of binary snowstorm, waiting for analysis. It was a bit of a trick to keep the complicated web deployment side to a minimum but made life complicated in other ways. With no online database of results, it meant you were on your own in managing and pushing out reminders. It also meant that online interviews that broke off part way were not only lost, but because there was no email, you never knew that they had been started.

Now, Snap has a full web server side implementation so that respondent’s data is saved after every screen. It also means that comprehensive online management and reporting is provided too for the first time. This includes invitation and reminder management, which avoids the risk of cluttering up your own email gateway. The downside is the additional cost. Until now, Snap Surveys had allowed any Snap user to use their online server at essentially no cost. Charges had not been finalised as we went to press, but we know it won’t be free any more. However, the old email route is still supported, where cost is an issue, and high volume users can also purchase the web server software to install on their own infrastructure.

At the other end, Snap now includes its own online reporting tool called ‘e-results’, which lets you set up tables and charts using Snap’s familiar and very versatile analysis or ‘results’ tool, as it is known, then make these available online, effectively creating a secure data portal for key members of staff or clients to access via Internet or intranet, which seems to work very well.

There has also been some welcome tidying up within the program. A much cleaner condition logic has now been implemented, though I was sad to see it still does not provide a tree view, as other tools do, as it relies on goto logic. Gotos may be quick to write, but it is too easy to make a mistake with them and not realise the error until you are reporting on the data - or not, as the case may be.

The list of other improvements is very impressive, and will please many a Snap user. To outsiders, the developments may come across as more catch-up than innovation - but in today’s overheated software market, staying power has a lot to commend it.

The user view: Nicola Stanley of Silver Dialogue

Nicola Stanley is Managing Director of Silver Dialogue, an independent market research consultancy specialising in stakeholder engagement. As she typically worked with data that either her clients or fieldwork companies collected for her, she was interested in acquiring Snap for its analytical capabilities. One of her clients had accumulated four thousand customer surveys over four years and was using Excel spreadsheets as the principal analysis tool. This was so unwieldy that most of the rich pickings in the data were being overlooked.

“I imported that data into Snap,” she recalls, “analysed it, charted it and produced a visual story over the four years of trends indicating what they could do to improve things – something I couldn’t have done without Snap. And I could also tell them where they were, actually, doing very well. It allowed me to change all their data into something meaningful for them.”

After experimenting with the web module, Nicola became hooked, using it for web surveys and also to diversify her business into more conventional data collection using it for CATI over the web.

She explains: “My background is consumer science and I have a lot of colleagues in the same field who were now part time or at home and interested in getting back into interviewing.” Silver Dialogue now has a network of ten such people who can log into Snap web surveys from home and conduct quant or qualiquant interviews on the phone, with results immediately available to Nicola for checking and analysis. She notes: “With all the scripting capabilities, you can turn it into a very highly personalised interview, which makes it more engaging for respondents.”

She has also found Snap integrates well with other companies’ tools. The web panel companies she works with, who provide completed interviews, are able to send the data as a triple-s file to import ready for analysis, and she has been able to provide triple-s and SPSS formatted data for her clients, as well as providing some results online, using the Snap e-results option.

Nicola has seen Snap 9 and is most impressed. Saving of incomplete interviews and improvements in monitoring work in progress are major attractions, along with support for multiple languages. Her verdict: “It’s good. The exciting thing for me now is to be able to expand my interviewer network internationally.”

Published in Research, the magazine of the Market Research Society, March 2006, Issue 478

© Copyright Meaning Ltd 2006. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission.

Integrated survey data collection and analysis tool with improved support for online survey management and reporting. Offers a very broad range of functionality for researchers who want to set up and analyse their own surveys.

Ease of use
Cross-platform compatibility
? ? ? ? ? Value for money

Not announced at time of writing.