How to read software websites

A fortune teller's crystal ballI regularly visit the websites of the market research software companies.  They all have the most “powerful”, “flexible”, “easy-to-use”, and “open” software solutions. If you are looking for some new kit, especially if it is something they all offer, like Web interviewing, CATI software or analysis and reporting tools, the choice can seem overwhelmingly daunting. So, how do you step out of the marketing fog and compare them a little more objectively? Obviously, you are not going to be able to make a final choice by looking at websites alone, but it would be nice to use websites to narrow the field a little – by looking at exactly what they do say, and sometimes by looking at what they don’t say.

Even creating a ‘longlist’ is difficult. (And I do truly know because at meaning we often help companies do exactly this). One of the key differentiators, cost of ownership, is never on websites! Although I guess the software companies would argue that it is not how much it costs but how much money it makes you that counts…. and that is never on websites either!

There are probably several hundred Web interviewing systems on the market now and over a dozen significant ones. It seems doubtful that each of these products has been tried and tested in a wide range of situations by a large number of companies, which means there is bound to be software that is lacking in certain areas, and those areas may be just the ones you need. So, three of the key questions I ask when looking at a manufacturer’s website: is what evidence is there that real customers are using this product?  Are these customers doing the kind of things that I want to do? And thirdly, do these customers have similar kinds of operations and are they doing projects of a similar levels of complexity?

Beyond that, I’d ask What about the software company itself? Am I likely to need consulting and support? If so, are they at least in a similar time zone to me?

Of course this is just a start and you will need to consider at least one or two more factors that are ‘must haves’ for your business. All this may help you reduce hundreds to something slightly more manageable.

Sheila Wilson

Sheila is an international marketing specialist with particular experience in the market research software marketplace. She has worked for over ten years in high-tech multinational organizations – including SPSS, Toshiba and Xerox. Sheila has been a meaning associate since 2003.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.