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Keypoint 4 reviewed

It's elegant, easy-to-use and very affordable. However, Tim Macer sounds a strong note of caution.

Research software tends to be complex, and pricey, especially for the smaller operator. Yet there are a few niche players that have realised not everyone needs complex agency functionality.

Cambridge Software Publishing introduced Keypoint in 2000, essentially a relaunch of its paper-based questionnaire tool Pinpoint. Web interviewing and a nice new graphical interface were welcome innovations at the time. But expectations move on, and this month sees the launch of Keypoint 4, which, according to the mores of the time, has gone multi-modal.

The product is still is not something that will appeal to the research agency, but for in-house researchers and independent consultants wanting to do their own quant, you get a lot for an affordable outlay: £495 for the base system which includes paper questionnaires; £995 for paper, web and email, and a bit more to add scanning.

Keypoint is quick and easy to install, and when you open it up, it immediately wants to step you through the process of designing a survey with a series of wizards, though these can be turned off once they start to grate.

Three tabs at the top of the screen take you into the three main functional areas: design, response and presentation. Response is concerned with both data collection and analysis. The data entry and web data collection both support questionnarie logic, so you could even use Keypoint to do some single-user CATI.

The questionnaire design tool is refreshingly different from the cascading folders model pioneered by In2quest that has become the norm. Questions and answers are put together by using a pallette of options to drag and drop objects on the questionanire sheet, arrange them into separate pages and even drag items from one page to another. It gives it more the feel of a desktop publishing tool or web page tool like Frontpage.

Better still, Keypoint lets you have multiple views of the same questionnaire. The appearance, order of questions, routing and even question texts can vary from one version to another. You could create a web version and a paper version, or different variations for different respondent groups, and omit certain questions from one or the other. Yet it is the same survey, and all the data will reside in the same results database. It is a powerful feature that only a handful of its costlier rivals tackle and rarely with such elegance.

The greatest improvements are in the area of internet interviewing, making this a very respectable web survey vehicle. Templating relieves the questionnaire writer of having to take page design decisions, as these can be applied from a series of styles. You can add your own, to a certain extent. However, you are stuck with Keypoint’s limited choice of buttons and progress bars - it is not possible to add your own.

The tool comes into its own when you are ready to publish a web survey. A very easy-to-use invitation wizard lets you create personalised email invites which include unique links. These will ensure your survey is only open to those invited. Many of the high-cost programs expect you to sort this out yourself.

You can choose to host your survey on your own server, and can use Microsoft or Apache servers, and use Perl or PHP gateways. If you would rather leave these kinds of technical matters to someone else, £1000 buys you unlimited use of Keypoint’s dedicated hosting service for 12 months. With an active account, you can manage all of the set-up and running of your survey from the web tab of the same tool. With a high speed link, you are not even aware that you are using the internet as direct program-to-server communications using web services to avoid any lumpen web-browser interfaces.

From the respondent perspective, interviews look good and are easy to navigate. The interface is let down by some ill-judged error messages, which need improvement if they are not to tempt your respondents to terminate in droves. Unfortunately, there is no way to alter them or turn them off in this version. An add-on module offers scanning from any scanner with a Twain interface, which nearly all the consumer scanners do. Good, tight integration is based on the Abbyy scanning engine from Germany. It makes it almost as simple to scan as it is to publish a survey on the web.

Beyond that, under the Presentation tab is a decent range of cross tab and charting tools sufficient for most everyday needs, and a much more comprehensive range of stats than you find most places, from sig tests and ANOVA to factor and cluster.

It’s a good all round program and the late beta we used seemed stable and robust. The only issue I have is of a more technical nature. Keypoint does not apply codes to the data (1 for ‘strongly agree’ etc.) but plonks the actual text in the database as if it was a verbatim response. This means that if you change a label, the data you collect for that variable will not be consistent. Fine for a simple one-off job, but a disaster in the making for continuous work. This also limits exports to CSV, as there is no metadata to speak of - so you’d better like the analysis tools it comes with.

Published in Research, the magazine of the Market Research Society, April 2004, Issue 455.

© Copyright Tim Macer/Market Research Society 2004. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission.

Budget survey design and analysis tool for paper based questionnaires and web surveys, with integrated OCR scanning as an add-on.

£495 for the base system which includes paper questionnaires; £995 for paper, web and emai.